Taking care of your physical and mental health is important all year. But, winter can create some extra health concerns that deserve your attention.
Some researchers believe that colder temperatures can weaken your immune system. You might be less active during the winter, eat more “comfort foods,” and have a different sleep cycle than normal thanks to fewer hours of daylight. Some people have more respiratory issues in the winter. Others deal with dry, cracking skin.
Throw the stress from the holidays in there, and it’s no wonder winter can potentially wreak havoc on your mental and physical well-being.
Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to ward off some common winter health concerns and stay feeling good all season long.
Boost Your Immune System
Thanks to a lack of Vitamin D and a blast of cold, your immune system can take a beating during the winter. While cold weather doesn’t cause the common cold, it can make you more susceptible to illnesses. Some of the most prominent during the winter months include:
- Sore throat/strep throat
One of the best ways to fight back is to give your immune system a boost. There are several ways to improve your natural immunity, but the easiest place to start is with your diet.
You’ve heard the saying “you are what you eat,” and this rings true when it comes to immune system health. Added sugars, salty foods, and processed meats can all weaken your immune system. Foods rich in Vitamins A, C, E, D, and B will make your immune system stronger. Lean meats, leafy greens, and other fruits and vegetables will also boost your immune system. So, while it can be tempting to cave into salty or sugary winter comfort food, making smarter nutritional choices will keep you healthier.
If you’re still worried about getting sick this winter, make an appointment with your physician. Getting a flu vaccine can protect you, and your doctor may have other ideas on how to prevent common illnesses.
Protect Your Skin
Statistics show that over 81 million people experience dry, itchy skin between November and March. When the air is cold and dry, your skin suffers. It’s always important to keep in mind that healthy skin is more than just a vanity issue. It protects you from bacteria and helps to regulate body temperature. Taking care of it should be a top priority.
To protect your skin from blistering cold temperatures and dry air this winter, try some of these simple tips:
- Keep your skin protected with face coverings, gloves, and scarves
- Use a rich moisturizer daily
- Stay hydrated to moisturize from the inside out
- Run a humidifier in your bedroom at night
It’s also just as important to protect your skin against sun damage during the wintertime as you do during the summertime. Most days might seem dark and gloomy, but the sun is still there, and it could easily cause UV damage.
If you live in an area that doesn’t experience a lot of cold weather, it’s always important to protect your skin with sunscreen, wear the proper clothing, and limit your exposure to the sun throughout the day. No matter what the weather is like where you live, a healthy skincare routine and protective measures will always be important.
Mental Health Issues
It’s estimated that about 5% of adults in the U.S. experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Mood swings
- Sleep deprivation
Many of those symptoms can cause even bigger mental health issues and create a vicious cycle throughout the winter that will become hard to escape from on your own. If you’re someone who struggles with feelings of sadness and/or loneliness through the winter, start finding ways to combat those feelings now, before the cold weather sets in. Waking up earlier to enjoy more daylight hours is a good start. Setting a regular sleep schedule can also help.
Exercising and staying active can be a huge help with everything from anxiety and depression to stress levels. Things like yoga can reduce your feelings of worry and stress while providing physical benefits, as well. Creating a workout plan can also help you stay consistent, especially on days when you’re less motivated to lace up your running shoes or hit the weights.
Spending time outside is another great way to fight back against seasonal depression and other mental health issues. Nature is an inherent mood booster, and you can enjoy some of the unique activities the season has to offer, like sledding, skiing, and snowshoeing.
You don’t have to completely change your routine during the winter months. But, making a few adjustments in your eating habits, sleeping patterns, skincare regimen, and activity levels can all make a big difference. If you’re already thinking about winter health concerns, now is the time to be proactive and start adjusting some of your habits for a healthier, happier season.
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