Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine today encouraged residents to take steps to have a healthy, enjoyable holiday season by remembering to stay active, eat healthy and take steps to maintain stress levels.

“December is a wonderful time of the year to celebrate the holiday season and enjoy time with friends and family, but it also can be a time for unhealthy behaviors,” Dr. Levine said. “It is important, even with the colder weather, to remain active during the winter and take steps to eat healthy, balanced meals. It is also essential to be aware of your stress levels and have activities or outlets to release stress, if needed.”Being active during the holiday season has a number of health benefits. A few ways to be active include taking fitness classes with friends or family, walking or working out at home.

When it comes to eating, it is important to remember balance and moderation. Parties and large family meals may make it more difficult to follow healthy eating habits. Allow yourself to have your favorite holiday foods but balance them with healthier options as well. It is important to limit fats, salt, sugary foods and drinks, and alcohol.

The holidays are often an exciting time, but they can also be stressful for many people. Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping or eating can all be normal reactions to stress. It is important to remember that it is okay to not be okay. Healthy ways to cope with stress include:

Taking care of yourself by eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep and giving yourself breaks;

Talking to others about how you feel;

Avoiding drugs and alcohol;

Taking breaks from items causing you stress, such as the news and social media; and

Recognizing when you need professional help.

In addition, it is also important that you wash your hands frequently during the holiday season as you spend time around other people and take steps to protect yourself from illnesses, such as the flu. Illnesses can spread quickly when people are gathered together.

For more information on staying healthy, visit www.health.pa.gov or follow the Department of Health on Facebook and Twitter.