Stay Healthy this Holiday Season

By Dr. Joyce Cortes

The holidays are upon us and, while for many this is truly “the most wonderful time of the year,” it can also be the most stressful. Shopping; cooking; decorating; work, school and family obligations – even when these things are fun, they still represent schedules thrown up in the air and, just generally, chaos. No matter how you celebrate, take a moment now to seriously think about how you can keep yourself and your family healthy – and happy! – during this season.

Say when.

We get it: there are so many parties in so little time! You’re baking constantly and finding treats everywhere you turn. “All the delicious traditions and indulgences of the holiday season make it memorable and fun, but overdoing it will only make you miserable,” reminds Florida Hospital Medical Group’s Dr. Joyce Cortes, an internal medicine physician in Apopka. “Stay mindful and keep it to one… okay, maybe two, cookies. You’ll thank yourself, later.”

Keep moving.

Even amidst the hectic swirl of activity, your fitness routine can stay, well, routine! “If you can’t maintain a rigid gym schedule during the holidays, you can still try to carve out 30 minutes twice a day to get in some brisk walking,” Dr. Cortes says. “It does wonders to sharpen your mind and keep your energy elevated so that you can take care of everything else on your To Do list.”  

Be smart.

When was the last time you had the flu? Not a head cold or a mild fever – the real, actual flu? “Getting the flu as an adult is no joke,” Dr. Cortes cautions. “It doesn’t feel like a common cold or something you can shake off in a couple of days. It’s serious, and many people end up very, very sick and even hospitalized every year because they’ve decided against getting a flu shot.” The flu shot protects you and others from spreading a highly contagious and nasty illness. And, before you ask: though the flu shot is not a 100 percent guarantee that you won’t come down with the flu, you cannot contract the flu from the shot. Dr. Cortes: “That is dangerous misinformation that can lead to unnecessary suffering during what is supposed to be a fun time. Everyone who can should get a flu shot.”

Be safe.

While the flu shot might prevent you from getting the flu, only you can prevent yourself from making some serious mistakes during the holiday season. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 40 percent of traffic-related deaths during the holidays are caused by drunk drivers, compared to 28 percent during the rest of the year. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, more than 25,000 people will be hurt in traffic incidents caused by alcohol. These injuries and deaths are completely preventable. When going to a function where you know alcohol will be served, plan ahead. And, if you’re driving, don’t drink.  

Make your spirit bright.

Are you grieving or alone during the holidays? Reach out to friends and tell them how you feel or find camaraderie in local organizations or churches. “Plenty of people find themselves alone at the holidays and it can be a depressing time,” Dr. Cortes says. “I encourage my patients to engage in the holiday spirit in their communities as much as possible.”

Reflect and breathe.

Every religious holiday celebrated during this time of year has a few things in common: this should be a period of reflection, of gratitude and peace.  “Anxiety over every last little thing is not what the holidays should be about,” Dr. Cortes says. “If you feel yourself getting overly worked up, stop and think about what is really important to you; you will enjoy your time with your family more and they will, too.”

Dr. Joyce Cortes is board certified in internal medicine. She is a recipient of the American Medical Women’s Association Glasgow-Rubin Certificate of Commendation for Academic Achievement, presented to women who graduate in the top ten percent of their medical school graduating classes. Dr. Cortes practices in Apopka and is fluent in English and Spanish. To schedule an appointment, call (407) 889-1953 or visit

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