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How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Submitted by Nest Bend on

KAREN: Hi, welcome to House Talk. I am so excited on this chilly day to welcome Caren Raisin – not only my dear friend, but she’s helped me get myself healthy. Caren is a licensed registered nurse and a lifestyle coach and consultant. She has years of experience studying the effects of disease and diet.

Caren, welcome to the program, especially during this holiday season when I can even feel a cough coming on. Tell us a little bit about yourself, and then what would you like to share with the listeners?

CAREN: First, Karen, thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about health and wellness and how we can get our homes, our beautiful homes, really set up through the holidays to keep us healthy and well. As most of us know, the flu season hasn’t really hit yet. We’re looking at a national average of about 4% of the flu hitting, which isn’t very high.


CAREN: Yeah, that’s not very high. So the flu is lurking and it hasn’t hit. What I’d love to do is just talk about our homes and how we can really keep our homes somewhat bacteria-free – thinking about the little things versus the big things.

The first thing is handwashing. The number one thing that we know from medical research that stops the flu, colds, and viruses in their path is really good handwashing. A really good hand wash is lots of soap and singing “Happy Birthday” while you’re washing your hands and really getting into in between the fingers and the nooks and crannies and really doing diligent handwashing.

So first thing you should do when you come in your beautiful home is wash your hands, and then move through, if you are out in public wash your hands.

And then really thinking about those little places in the house that if someone is sick – your doorknobs, the levers on your toilet seats, the levers on your faucets, and then the TV remotes. Anything that people touch.

KAREN: Oh yeah, I don’t think about that. I think about my phone.

CAREN: Right, wiping down your phone is important. So think about all those little places in your home where you touch or someone comes in and touches.

Also, dirty Kleenexes. If someone’s been in your house and they’ve been blowing their nose – and of course, we want to clean our garbage cans – wear gloves when you’re emptying out the garbage can or you’re picking up those dirty Kleenexes. Those are big carriers of viruses.

KAREN: So it’s really just going back to the basics.

CAREN: For your house, it’s really going back to the basics.

A lot of people, I think especially in Bend, we tend to be more conscious of the environment and not using high intensity, toxic products like Clorox and Clorox wipes. You can use tea tree oil. I know that there’s a lot of companies – like doTerra has a really nice cleanser. There’s a couple companies that have really good, natural antibacterial cleansers that you can use.

KAREN: What are the most toxic cleansers that you seem to find in people’s homes? Clorox is obviously one.

CAREN: Yeah, and I think the Clorox wipes. We know now that a lot of the products – I mean, we just watched what happened with fertilizer, with Roundup, the information that’s come to the forefront. We know that the Clorox wipes, the really high chemical-y products are probably not that good for us.

KAREN: That’s simplifying it. [laughs]

CAREN: Yeah.

KAREN: So with only 4% of the flu here, when is it expected to hit? Is it impossible to predict?

CAREN: I think it’s pretty hard to predict. What we look at during the holidays, though, is times that our immune systems are down or high-stress times. People are getting their homes decorated, they may be traveling, they have house guests coming.

One of the things I really recommend is not only that house cleaning and really making sure that you’re doing good house handwashing, but also really good self-care. Are you getting to yoga or exercise? How’s your diet? We tend to eat out a lot during the holidays.

KAREN: Or eat a Christmas cookie, sugary stuff.

CAREN: I really believe in the 80/20 rule. I think it’s okay to let yourself indulge and enjoy the holidays, but I think that maintaining the ability to care for yourself as well as caring for others always should be at the top of your Christmas list.

KAREN: It is difficult when you have people coming in, like family, and then trying to make it to maybe that yoga class that you want to make it to. But then you’ve got all these extra kids or their significant others, and “When’s dinner?” or “When’s this?” and “How are we going to entertain them?” It is hard to stay on schedule. Somewhat of a schedule.

CAREN: It’s really hard, yeah. I think we’ve had the luck here this year of having a pretty mild winter. It’s so beautiful today with the snow.

KAREN: Gorgeous.

CAREN: Go for a walk. Take the kids to the park and walk the circular area. Pull up a yoga class on YouTube and throw your mat out in the living room. 20 minutes is all we need to do. 20 minutes of aerobic exercise has really been shown to increase our white blood cells, to decrease our cortisol, to increase our parasympathetic nervous system, decrease our sympathetic nervous system… [laughs]

KAREN: We’re going to take a break and we’ll be back, and maybe we can learn what the parasympathetic nervous system is. We’ll be back with Caren Raisin in just a moment.

KAREN: Hi. Welcome back to House Talk. This is Karen Malanga, Principal Broker at RE/MAX Key Properties. Again, I’ve got Caren Raisin on. In the first segment, she was – I’m sorry that I’m chuckling, but it’s like, what is a parasympathetic nervous system? We were talking about ways to help keep your house healthy, and therefore the people in it during this holiday season. Strong emphasis on washing hands and some of the basics that we all know, but that we all forget.

Caren, when we took the break – tell us what that is, the parasympathetic. What is that? [laughs]

CAREN: The parasympathetic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that calms us down. It reduces that “fight or flight” response that most people are aware of. We tend to spend most of the holidays in fight or flight for various reasons – the pressure, the stress.

Between juggling, like we talked about earlier, the house, house guests, children, grandchildren, family members, and even just getting ready for Hanukkah or Christmas or Kwanzaa or any number of the upcoming holidays, it can create challenges for our body.

I know from working with you, Karen, and purchasing homes from you, how amazing you are and wonderful you are as a realtor – both supporting people through the process, finding them the best value, but also supporting us, particularly, the client. I know John and I felt very emotionally supported during our home purchases with you.

When you look at the home, we look at our physical home, but we need to look at our body as our home as well. Just like keeping our home clean, from our TV remote to our front doorknobs and the doorknobs in the house, it’s also our home within our body. One of the things I say to my lifestyle clients is, which body part does the heart pump blood to first? Most people are like, “It pumps blood to the brain” or “It pumps blood to the fingers and toes.”

The reality is, the heart pumps blood to itself first, because it knows it has to take care of itself as an organ for the body to function properly.

KAREN: That’s a good metaphor.

CAREN: It is. It’s a really good metaphor. That’s what I was talking about earlier in terms of the body has chemicals that it produces, both when we’re stressed and when we’re working to defuse the stress. As we are more stressed, our cortisol level goes up, which usually engages the sympathetic nervous symptom, which again is that fight or flight.

There’s tricks that you can use. Breathing through your nose slowly and calmly will engage the parasympathetic nervous system that will help you calm down. And breathing in general. We tend to, during this time of year and most times of stress, hold our breath. So just breathing, and creating for yourself in your home a place that is quiet and that you have the opportunity to catch your breath. To sit.

KAREN: And maybe just have a cup of tea.

CAREN: Right.

KAREN: I think those little rituals – I know I have this new ritual, and it’s going to seem crazy, but I was at the gym and I’ve been increasing my cardio because I don’t get enough cardio. I’m in and out of the car showing homes, but I’m not doing steady – and the Stairmaster was getting more and more boring for me.

But I found The British Baking Show – which seems so counterproductive. [laughs] But I’m watching these people bake things like upside-down cake, and I can tell you, I got two miles on that Stairmaster. I’m so engrossed with how to make a rum baba – which I will never make, by the way – but I’ve found my little way to get through this whole thing.

CAREN: [laughs] That’s great.

KAREN: It’s The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. That thing is awesome. [laughs]

CAREN: That’s wonderful.

KAREN: 20 minutes and it’s like, “Oh my God, I’m done!” It’s awesome. But I think all of us probably have the capability, if we’re thinking about ourselves, to figure out what we can do that we’re comfortable with that can get us through the thing that we feel we need to be in best shape physically or mentally.

CAREN: Right. I think, again, we go back to living in Bend and being really in an environment that is unique with the mountains and the snow and the water and the desert.

KAREN: Beauty.

CAREN: Yeah. Get outside, even if it’s just open the back door and take a deep breath. Take in that really amazing mountain air that we have here that we’re so lucky to have.

KAREN: I agree. When you are walking or you’re walking along the river, or even just taking a simple stroll through Drake Park, just the way it smells is so fabulous. A lot of times you forget about it unless you travel elsewhere and then you come back, and then you take a deep breath and you think, wow. You can feel the pine and all that in the air, which is so lovely.

CAREN: It’s so wonderful. I went for a walk yesterday with a girlfriend of mine. She has two children, and when I walked in there were breakfast dishes out, and the house looked like people lived there. She’s like, “Oh my God, my house is such a mess.” I burst out laughing and I said, “We live in our homes, and somehow we have the expectation that when someone comes over, our house needs to look like a hotel room when you first walk in.” That’s just not the reality.

So especially this time of year, try to let that go. Certainly clutter can create stress for us, but also be gentle with yourself and really acknowledge that, yeah, you know what? The breakfast dishes can stay on the counter, in the sink. It’s really more important for me to engage with people, to feel supported and loved by the people around me, than to worry about whether or not there’s a bowl of cereal sitting on the counter.

KAREN: Yeah, that stuff doesn’t really matter.

CAREN: It doesn’t matter.

KAREN: Also, the holiday décor – sometimes I’ll just take a string of lights and just toss them up on the porch, and “oh, that looks good.” [laughs]

CAREN: That’s good enough.

KAREN: And then other years it’ll be meticulous. Anyway, it’s time to take another short break. Thanks, Caren. We’ll be back with you shortly.

KAREN: Hi, welcome back to House Talk. This is Karen Malanga, Principal Broker at RE/MAX Key Properties and We’ve been visiting with my good friend and lifestyle consultant, Caren Raisin.

We were just touching on some ways to maybe make the holidays a little less stressful, like don’t worry about the dishes. Be more focused on what’s important. You know, Caren, this did remind me of something that happened at yoga one morning.

A mutual friend of ours was instructing the class, and before we started she said that she’d awakened in the middle of the night and gone downstairs, and her husband had left the gallon of milk on the counter. Her first reaction was, “Ugh, not again.” But then she sat back and she said, “Me too.” It just made her release that whole thing. So now when I see something that drives me crazy, I sit back and I just go, “Me too.”

CAREN: That’s great.

KAREN: Yeah, I think that’s a good way to think about it.

CAREN: Yeah. Oftentimes I find when I’m being hard on someone else, it’s usually just a reflection back to me of something within myself that I’m struggling with. So it is true. Take a breath and really think about, does it really matter that your loved one didn’t put the milk away?

KAREN: Because maybe you didn’t put it away at one time in your life.

CAREN: Exactly.

KAREN: That’s the whole “me too” part.

CAREN: It’s great, yeah. That’s wonderful. The other thing I wanted to talk about a little bit are some ways that, if you are getting on an airplane and you are traveling or you’re going into an area that’s a really high crowd area, some of the things that we recommend from a medical standpoint to do.

Travel with Neosporin and put a little bit in your nose before you travel. That’ll really guard against those colds and flu viruses actually being able to come into your nose. There’s a product called Nozin you can get on Amazon.

KAREN: I’ve never seen that.

CAREN: Oh my God, I love it. You can put a few drops in your hands. I use it to clean my hands when I travel, and then also it goes in your nostrils to prevent colds and flus as well.

We talked about the 80/20 rule; keeping yourself well-hydrated. We live in the high desert, so making sure that you’re getting plenty of water. And making sure that you enjoy the holidays and you enjoy the meals out, but that when you are home, you’re really taking care of the body nutritionally. Lots of fruits and vegetables and whole foods.

I always say to people – and you and I have talked about this – if there’s more than three ingredients on a package, or if there’s ingredients that you can’t pronounce, probably not something you should eat.

KAREN: Yeah. I used to do that with my children, too. I remember that. When they learned to read and if we were in the market and they saw that there was no way they could even phonetically understand what the word was, then they just didn’t throw that in the cart.

CAREN: That’s awesome. That’s a great way to teach them.

KAREN: It is. What are a few last-minute tips that you can give our listeners before we have to sign off here?

CAREN: I think just reiterating handwashing. I think it’s really important to make sure that your hands are washed any time you’re out in public. I think we underestimate the benefit of really good handwashing.

I think really taking care of yourself – exercising during the holidays, finding time to just sit and breathe. Like you said, have a cup of tea. And I think enjoying our homes. Spending time at home, where you have some downtime, where you’re not rushing from one thing to the next. Even if you have to schedule it in your day to day calendar, “I’m going to go home, I’m going to be in my house, I’m going to enjoy all the work that I’ve done decorating and be still.” Find that stillness.

KAREN: I think I try to look for that almost every day.

CAREN: That’s great.

KAREN: I’ve also been incorporating a few more herbs and spices into my daily meals, which I really love in the winter. You come home and you’ve got that smell of rosemary or cinnamon or just something that’s permeating throughout the home, and it smells so good.

CAREN: There’s also really good medical evidence that putting cinnamon on food really helps stabilize your blood sugar. Eating cloves is a really good probiotic. There’s a lot of amazing properties in the foods and the spices. Turmeric and ginger, garlic, onions, the Allium family are really good anti-inflammatories. So you’re on the right track. [laughs]

KAREN: I’d just like to add that I’ve been – I guess we’ve been friends ever since we went house hunting, and then Caren’s been kind enough to be giving me advice on my supplements, my diet, and reminding me about yoga and exercise for maybe 5 years or more. It’s made such a difference in my life, especially the supplementation. If any of you would like to contact Caren, what would be the best way to find you?

CAREN: I am listed actually on DaoCloud, which is a wellness website. I just want to say that, as Karen will tell you, she’s not on a lot of supplements. I’m not big on having people take a lot of expensive supplements. What I say then is you just really have expensive urine. I really love to work with people to get what they need from their nutrients.

But since we’re on this, Karen will tell you I’m a really strong proponent of Vitamin D. They did a lot of research on Vitamin D. The p53 progenitor cell that is the cell in our body that eats up cancer cells and is a really good worker bee in our body for immune functioning is Vitamin D, and most of us are low in Vitamin D.

KAREN: Thank you again, Caren, for being here.

CAREN: Thank you for having me.

KAREN: Happy holidays.