By Mridula Nadamuni MD~
Winter is a good time to hunker down for some cozy time with family and friends, but it also presents health challenges in the form of viral respiratory illnesses and seasonal mood changes. On top of that, COVID-19 has added a layer of uncertainty to the annual flu season.
Here are some strategies to winterproof your physical and mental well-being.
To optimize your physical health in 2020, start by building a foundation of healthful practices. Maintain excellent hygiene by frequently washing hands with warm, soapy water. Consider stocking up on fall fragrances to turn this task into a moment of relaxation.
With cooler weather just around the bend, now is a great time to build new habits. A brisk daily walk, even just for 20 minutes a day, can yield cardiovascular benefits. A quick jaunt around the block is a great way to escape and unwind from daily stress.
Consider 10 minutes of gentle conditioning each day. Plop down in front of the television with a pair of light weights to tone up while watching TV.
A full night’s rest supports the immune system. Good sleep also helps counteract the effects of cortisol released in response to stress throughout the day. Practice good sleep hygiene by turning off electronics an hour before bedtime. Find gentle ways to unwind, like reading before bed.
Getting the annual influenza vaccine is a proven way to boost immunity against the flu. For the over-65 crew, the pneumonia vaccine is a must-have. Though you may feel some mild aches or fevers after the injection, the protection afforded against the virus generally far outweighs the discomfort. Viruses like influenza, and even the common cold, can leave seniors vulnerable to secondary infections like pneumonia. Tetanus shots are due every 10 years, and a shingles vaccine is available for adults over the age of 50.
Lack of sunlight exposure in the winter can exacerbate low energy, irritability and depression, especially in the northern climes, so make sure you find ways to get your sun. Vitamin D levels can also drop during this time. Seek assistance early if symptoms like social withdrawal, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse issues develop.
Eat a varied diet of legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Winter is famous for sweet treats, so choose wisely and enjoy simple sugars in moderation.
While many winter holidays bring families together, conflicts in personal relationships can be amplified. Take time to recognize emotional triggers and practice serenity. Recognize positive influences and focus on gratitude, which will develop a strong emotional reserve for the rest of 2020.