The onset of winter can bring with it a whole raft of germs and nasties that have the power to throw a dampener on your plans, not to mention leaving you feeling sniffly, sleepy and sore.
The good news is that there are things you can do to stay well as the seasons change. While nothing is guaranteed, these winter wellness tips will help you to put your best foot forward when the winter germs attack.
Eat for health
With the cooler weather, the temptation to turn to comfort foods is strong. Nobody is going to deny you your favourite winter treats, but don’t forget to eat foods that are packed with all of the nutrients your body needs to stay well. The Australian Dietary Guidelines are a helpful reference to know how many serves of each food group you should eat every day to meet your nutritional needs.
There are plenty of vitamin and mineral rich seasonal fruits and vegetables you can add to your plate. The added benefit of eating food that is in season is that the price is generally lower than produce that is out of season.
Over the cooler months, citrus fruits such as oranges, mandarins and grapefruit are in season. Citrus is high in vitamin C, as are strawberries, kiwifruit and broccoli, which are also in season. Another important mineral for our bodies is iron, which can be found in lentils and beans.
A great way to up your intake of these foods is by cooking soups and stews. You can add extra veggies or lentils and beans to create a delicious and healthy winter warmer. You could also add a serve of fruit to your breakfast – perhaps a banana with your porridge or even a fruit smoothie. Spinach is in season through winter and is a surprisingly good addition to smoothies for a dose of iron, folate and vitamin C (among many other benefits). The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet website has some delicious, healthy winter warmer recipes to add to your dinner meal plans.
Drink enough water
We often associate hydration with summer, but it’s equally important to stay hydrated when the temperature drops. Air conditioning and other heating can be quite drying to your skin, so you need to up your water intake to combat it.
Dehydration can affect you in a number of ways. It can cause dry and itchy skin and also affect your energy levels and your ability to focus.
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends drinking “plenty of water”. The amount of water you need to drink can vary greatly based on a number of factors. However, other sources suggest that adult men require 2.6L (about 10 cups) of water a day, while adult women need 2.1L (about 8 cups) a day.
An easy solution is to carry a reusable water bottle with you every day. This makes it simple to track how much water you’re drinking throughout the day so you drink enough to feel hydrated and well.
Prioritise your sleep
Although it might be enticing to embrace your inner bear and hibernate through winter, staying in bed for too long can actually have a negative impact on your internal body clock, otherwise known as your circadian rhythm.
According to Health Direct, “in winter, the body produces less of the hormones melatonin and serotonin, which affect sleep and mood.” Our internal clock is set naturally based on the rhythm of the day. By staying in bed all day or not following a natural sleeping and waking routine, you can throw your circadian rhythm off.
These changes in circadian rhythm and hormone production have also been linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). People who suffer from SAD may develop a type of depression over the winter months. The symptoms may include low energy levels and excessive sleeping, among others.
The reality is, sleep plays an important role in not only winter wellness, but your wellbeing all year round. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you should prioritise a healthy sleep routine. It will help to boost your energy levels and focus throughout the day. If you are getting too much sleep due to a condition such as SAD, it’s best to speak to your health practitioner for advice.
Exercising and moving your body is another way you can stay well all year round. During winter, when we do tend to spend more time indoors, getting outside to go for a walk or run can have more benefits than just fitness.
Spending time in the great outdoors, even if it is just a walk around the block, can ensure you get a daily dose of vitamin D from the sun and help you to improve your energy levels and potentially even reduce your stress levels. It’s amazing what fresh air and nature can do!
The Australian physical activity guidelines recommend that adults are active on most, if not all, days of the week, with between 2.5 – 5 hours of moderate activity or 1.25 – 2.5 hours of vigorous activity every week. We are fortunate to have mild winters in Australia so you can get outside during the day and enjoy the sunshine while also fitting in some exercise.
At the end of the day, even if you can’t walk for 30 minutes, any movement is a good thing. You will find endless workout videos on YouTube or simply dance around the living room! Also remember to take regular breaks from long periods of sitting at a desk while studying and working. While not specifically related to winter wellness, stretching is something you should be doing all year round to prevent injury or muscle pain.
Practise good hygiene
It goes without saying that 2020 was a big lesson for us all in the role of good hygiene in preventing illness. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water before and after meals, and after touching surfaces like door knobs or railings. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
It’s also a good idea to regularly wipe down your desk area and other surfaces with an antibacterial surface cleaner to prevent any germs hanging about. WeWork has some good tips on keeping work areas clean and sanitised.
If you do fall sick over the winter months, it’s important to stay home so you don’t pass your germs onto colleagues or peers. It’s also important to rest and give yourself the time to recover and recuperate.
Hopefully these wellness tips help you stay healthy for an enjoyable winter ahead.