The least magical thing about the holidays is the way that we drop like flies as the flu rolls through.
When everyone else goes to the fun New Year’s Eve party, but you stay home in bed.
When you have an earache and a headache but you still have to go stand in the cold and take family pictures, because this is the only time all year that you’ll all be together.
When it’s three days before Christmas and you still haven’t gotten all your shopping done, but the idea of taking a shower, combing your hair, and braving traffic is more than you can handle.
This year I’ve been very healthy compared to the rest of my community, but I have spent many, many holidays of my life sick in bed and missing out on stuff. So here are my tips and tricks for surviving the terrible illnesses that plague this season.
First: Beware the finger foods!
I’m convinced that finger foods are the reason the holidays are so germ-filled. People come to holiday parties sniffing and sneezing, and we all stand around gabbing, or playing games, touching all sorts of germ ridden surfaces. And then we fill our plates with finger foods, and eat them, with our hands.
How much more unsanitary can you get?
After a really really really bad holiday season two years ago, I’ve become hyper-vigilant about finger foods during the holidays. I wash my hands immediately before I eat. I try to eat fewer of the sugary snacks, because sugar weakens the immune system. I never eat anything out of a communal chip bowl, unless there are tongs. And even then I wash my hands after touching the tongs, and before eating.
Actually, sometimes I just straight-up eat my snacks with a fork.
You can call me crazy, but hey, I’m the one who didn’t get Norovirus this year. I mean, maybe eating snacks with a fork is going too far, but making a habit out of always washing your hands and/or treating them to a squirt of hand sanitizer before eating finger foods will go a long way toward keeping you healthy during the holidays.
(Oh, and I guess I should also recommend getting the flu shot every year. I’m sure that helps, but it’s hard for me to really preach that one because I rarely get around to doing it myself. Oops.)
Second: If you’re sick over the holidays it’s okay to grieve
Honestly, I’ve gotten to the place where I feel very resigned if I can’t do something special because I’m sick. “Oh well,” I think. “That’s just how the world works when you’re Emily Smucker.”
But I think maybe that’s the wrong approach. There are so many things that are special about the holidays, and if you miss out, I think it’s okay to grieve that loss. Healthy, even. Because if the holidays are special to you, and you don’t let yourself feel grief over that loss, it can turn into resentment or cynicism.
Third: Don’t be so hard on yourself
After grieving your loss, it’s time to let some things go.
It’s time to let go of the pressure to buy every acquaintance in your life a Christmas gift. You can buy them something next year.
It’s time to let go of your need to buy meaningful, unique, thoughtful gifts for your family members. Look at their wish list. Go on Amazon. Buy them exactly what they asked for. You can be more creative and thoughtful next year.
And for those who don’t have wish lists, buy them a gift card. Yep, you can be the lame-o gift card giver this year. It won’t kill you. And they will still appreciate it, I promise.
It’s okay to buy store-bought Christmas cookies. It’s okay to string a cheap garland over the window frame and call that “decorating.” The people around you don’t care about decorations and homemade cookies, they care about you taking care of yourself.
Fourth: Pamper Yourself
Stop! Don’t pig out on Christmas cookies. That’s a terrible idea. But do buy yourself cozy Christmas pajamas, and watch all the Christmas movies.
Oh, and here’s a tip: For Christmas, buy your friends and family members books that YOU want to read. Then, use your sick time to binge read them before you have to give them away.
Those are all the tips I have at the moment. How do you handle being sick over the holidays?