With the weather changing into an extreme cold, almost all of us fall ill. The air is crisp and cool, the temperature is constantly dipping, and days are becoming shorter and darker.
To deal with the cold weather, we usually load up on immune-supporting diets or break out the winter wardrobe, and we often focus on these external seasonal cues to prepare our body for the months ahead.
But, our physical health is only one big piece of the puzzle that we cannot solve beforehand. Also, we should not forget about our mental health during colder weather. Covid-19 and winter wellness is also a point that needs to be discussed.
Tips to Stay Healthy in Winter
There are several effective measures to keep yourself healthy in winter, but the motivation one needs to step out of bed is quite rare. You may try the following health tips to keep yourself healthy during winter:
Make sunlight your friend
While the availability of sunlight is limited during this time of the year, it is crucial to spend some time outside for little sun rays, even when it is cold. Sunlight has been known to help improve your mood by boosting the release of serotonin hormone in the body.
Exposure to sunlight is essential to those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that arises in people belonging to places that have less sunlight during a specific time of the year. The usual symptoms of SAD include fatigue, hopelessness, depression, and social withdrawal.
Thirty percent of people in the northern part of the United States struggle with the winter blues every year. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the most common health condition they usually experience.
If you find yourself getting more and more irritated as winter progresses, or are lacking in energy, oversleeping, feeling down, or craving carbohydrates, talk with your medical healthcare provider. Light therapy or proper exposure to sunlight may help, as many exercises and get outside more.
Maintain good Health by Exercising
Thumbs Up if your new year resolution also has a goal to exercise more. Are you stopping yourself because of the cold weather? Don’t begrudge yourself if things are not happening as per your plan.
We know that staying motivated for physical exercise can be challenging when it is cold outside and the days are shorter. Leaving the blanket can be a big challenge for almost all of us.
So, you can choose a gym close to your home or workplace or find some yoga class or local fitness group that fits your life. Buy some appropriate clothes to wear that can support both your exercise and cold weather needs and schedule workouts as vital as you would an appointment.
You can also download a mobile application such as Fitness Buddy to chart your fitness in this digital world. If you try, you can make the most of a beautiful sunny winter’s day by dressing warmly and running in the cold.
Choose nutritious food items
Eating during winter does not have to be vitamin deficient and dull. You can keep carbohydrate-enriched foods such as pasta and white bread to a minimum and fill the plate with winter squash, dark leafy greens, pomegranate, and citrus, which thrive in the chill of winter.
The fruits and vegetables enriched with nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, increase your energy levels and help keep the winter weight away. They may also help reduce the risk of cancer or other cancerous health conditions. Even if you feel like eating such food items, eat for your immunity.
Role of Vitamin D: Our mood and immune system rely on vitamin D because it is made in our system after exposure to the sun. Several people become vitamin D deficient during the winter months due to the lack of sunlight exposure. Vitamin D also ensures that our bodies absorb and retain phosphorus and calcium for building bone.
Sleep had become a challenge for several people. In fact, one out of three Americans is sleep-deprived. This cold weather is a time to become a total pro at all things sleep. Since our circadian rhythms get into a loop with the darkening of days, it is time to support great sleep habits, such as:
- Set a bedtime, and stick to it
- Unplug for at least an hour before bedtime
- Wake up at the exact time each day
- Get some sunlight exposure within an hour of waking up, if you can
- Have a proper bedtime routine, including a warm shower before bedtime (it signals your brain that it’s time to go for sleep), or sipping some tea, or pen down your feelings to get the picture
Our sleep cycle is regulated by melatonin, a hormone that releases in response to light. Exposure to excessive light at night, such as that emitted from TV screens, computer desktops, and other electronic devices, inhibits the release of this hormone which decreases your sleep quality and quantity. Not getting enough sleep can also make you feel sluggish and tired the next day.
So, wake up and go to bed at the exact time of day regardless of the season. Restrict computer use and avoid watching TV at night. If you have trouble sleeping, your medical healthcare professional may recommend you a melatonin supplement.
Communicate for your Mental Health
The cold weather appeals to you to stay inside but does not isolate yourself. You should communicate and establish a social hygiene routine. Part of your mental health hygiene consists of social life and staying in touch with your loved ones.
Our relationships significantly impact our physical and psychological health, and winter can make us feel particularly lonely. So, get ahead of the game, and consider packing your calendar with some healthy social engagements that can make you feel spiritually and emotionally nourished.
You may feel the warmth of words by phone, calling your loved ones and having a conversation on any topic, or simply telling about how your day went. So, what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone (probably in your hand already) and call your loved ones.
Get a Flu Shot and reduce the spread
The seasonal flu, primarily due to cold weather, sickens millions and causes thousands of hospitalizations each year. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone from six months and older. Flu vaccines are updated every year to gain the best protection against new strains of the flu virus.
Covid-19 and Winter wellness: To help reduce the spread of Covid-19, and other flu, cold, and viruses, we suggest you:
- Wash your hand more often as it is the best step to protect yourself from catching illnesses
- Keep a safe distance from individuals who are sick
- Wipe down surfaces that you frequently touch with a sanitizing cleaner
- Stay hydrated so that you can flush out toxins from your body
- Avoid frequently touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Get enough quality sleep to keep your immune system strong
It is common to fall ill during winter, but you can consider taking the measures mentioned above to keep yourself fit during this weather. Also, keep some natural remedies at home to use at the first sign of cold or flu occurs. Olive leaf, vitamin C, echinacea, garlic, elderberry, and zinc may help boost immunity and increase resistance to the nasty winter viruses.