I always get sick during Nutcracker. Help! —Emily
Long days, late nights, chilly weather and overworked bodies make the perfect recipe for disaster during Nutcracker season. I'll never forget burning up with a fever backstage in my Arabian costume, or the time when a flu outbreak caused major casualties in our Snow and Flower corps. Staying well requires a combination of nutrition, hydration and sleep—not to mention preparedness and discipline.
Your meals should include a combination of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats to ensure you're receiving essential vitamins and minerals. Use your days off to stock up on groceries and prepare meals for the week to minimize late-night cooking, and keep lots of healthy snacks, like fruits and vegetables, in your bag to stay fueled throughout the day. Most importantly, hydrate. Water oxygenates the blood, flushes toxins, wards off inflammation and keeps the lymphatic system working properly—all keys to a healthy immune system. You may also want to take a daily multivitamin.
Use common-sense precautions: Wash your hands frequently, especially after partnering and after barre, and avoid sharing utensils or drinks. Consider getting a flu shot before your Nutcracker run starts.
You also need to make sleep a priority. Studies have shown that six or fewer hours of sleep a night can make you more susceptible to illness—so going out every night after performances isn't a good idea. Once you're home, eat, ice and start winding down (no Netflix binging). Use free time at the theater for the essentials: Sew shoes and take naps. On your days off, rest.
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