Winter doesn’t officially begin until the solstice on December 21st, but frosty weather and short days are already upon us and it’s a good idea to get prepared for the days looming ahead. While 2020 going into 2021 will be a winter season that presents a number of novel and unique challenges, for many this time of year is already not an easy one. Everyone’s experience is different, but the coming months can be particularly taxing on both your mental and your physical health.
As we hunker down going into the holiday season, here are 6 tips to help you stay healthy this winter.
1. Stay Active
When the trees start to go bare each year, the temptation to retreat under a blanket like the girlfriend from this Onion article can be overwhelming. Getting cozy indoors is one of the pleasures of frigid weather, but unfortunately humans aren’t grizzly bears and just hibernating until April isn’t an option. The cold can be forbidding, but if you layer up and find ways to get moving outdoors you’ll be glad you did. There are plenty of great winter activities like skiing or ice skating, but even going for a walk every day can be huge for keeping your body fit and healthy. With that in mind, while you’re out there, you should absolutely…
2. Be Careful
While it’s good to get outdoors and enjoy yourself, there are hazards during this time of year that don’t exist for the rest of the calendar. Watch out for icy sidewalks and driveways. It’s also critical to avoid overexertion when handling basic wintertime chores. Snow shoveling causes thousands of injuries each year, ranging from muscle strains to heart attacks. Know your limits and don’t push yourself too hard!
3. Keep Your Environment Clean
As we spend an increasing amount of time at home, it becomes that much more important to make sure that home is a healthy place to be. Air quality indoors tends to be much lower than outdoors, and allowing dirt and dust to accumulate around the house can cause health issues in the long run. Keep up with dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming your home, regularly replace your air filters, and make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector installed.
4. Don’t Forget the Cold & Flu
Cold and flu may not have gotten much of the spotlight during the year of the Covid pandemic, but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone anywhere. Cold and flu don’t take any part of the calendar off, but infections become most common during this time of year. Be mindful of your hygiene and keep washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. In the case of the flu, the best way to protect yourself and prevent the virus from spreading is by getting a flu shot. It’s covered by most insurance and, despite persistent conspiracy theories and urban myths, it is a very safe option for the majority of people.
5. Don’t Overdo it on Comfort Food
People tend to be less healthy about their eating habits during the wintertime, being more likely to overeat and reach for comfort foods that aren’t good for them. This could be the result of a number of contributing factors. Some scientists speculate that getting hungrier as the weather gets colder is a throwback impulse to a time when humans needed to load up on calories for the winter months. Winter is also the holiday season, which means lots of feasts and leftovers. It’s also important to take into account the way that the darkest portion of the year can affect your mental state – if you are feeling depressed or your sleep schedule is off, you’re more likely to consume a higher amount of carbs and sugars. This leads us to the last item on this list…
6. Be Aware of How You’re Feeling
2020 has been a brutal year in so many ways, but the winter can be a difficult time emotionally even without a pandemic piled on top of everything else. Seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD, or seasonal depression) is estimated to affect more than 20% of Americans to some degree each year. If you’re having an unusual amount of trouble getting out of bed during the winter, help is out there! Medical Offices of Manhattan offers treatment for depression and anxiety, and in the case of the wintertime blues it may be as simple as a vitamin D deficiency. We offer psychiatry services with our Psychiatrist, Dr. Sandy Lowe.
We know that this is going to be a challenging time of year for many, but we do hope that you’ll be able to enjoy yourself over the next few months. We wish you all a happy holiday season and hope that you have a fun and safe winter!