Tips for staying healthy over the winter

Christmas is just around the corner and that means the winter weather is not far behind. Sickness is not something anyone wants to deal with, especially around the holidays. Winter is a time to be around loved ones and no one wants to spend this precious time miserable and sick. After years of dealing with too many colds to count, I have compiled a list of tips for ways to stay healthy over the winter.

Wash your hands
Washing your hands is very important, especially in the winter when everyone seems to be sneezing on every visible surface. Your hands come into contact with so many surfaces you don’t even think about. Always wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs, but be careful about over washing. Washing your hands too much can cause dry and cracked skin, which can be very painful in the bitter cold wind. If you do get sick, remember to wash your bed sheets after your illness has passed to prevent germs from sticking around.

Sleep
Have you ever wondered why students seem to get sick all of the time? Not getting enough sleep has been shown to lower the immune system’s strength over time. Add in the number of people who get sick over the winter for other reasons and you have a recipe for your immune system’s worst nightmare. Not getting enough sleep doesn’t just lower your immune system, it can cause weight gain, lower levels of production, and even symptoms of depression over a period of time. Being busy is no excuse; according to the National Sleep Foundation, young adults between the ages of 18 – 25 are recommended to get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Pulling an all-nighter is the worst thing you can do for your body. Plan your work and get enough sleep or you will be struggling all through the winter.

Relax
Stress is another reason why students seem to get sick all of the time. Stress can lower your immune system and winter is one stressful time of year. With a mass of holidays and shopping for loved ones, it’s sometimes hard to see the winter as the most wonderful time of the year. No matter how stressed you are, find at least 10-15 minutes each day for yourself. Whether it’s yoga, reading, watching tv, singing or talking with family and friends, find something that makes you relaxed and content and then do it. You won’t be totally stress free, but it will lower your stress enough that your immune system won’t keel over immediately.

Stay Hydrated
Because of the constant cold temperatures, it is very common for people to feel as though they don’t need water, because they’re not thirsty. This can be very dangerous and can lead to dehydration. Remember to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses, or roughly half a gallon, of water per day to keep dehydration at bay.

Eat Healthy & Exercise
The winter weather is doing everything in its power to keep your body run down, so it’s up to you to give your body what it needs. Eating healthy and exercising go hand in hand all throughout the year, but it’s especially important during the winter. Don’t use the cold as an excuse to not exercise; stay inside and do some yoga. Look up workout videos that you can do in your living room or bedroom. Eating healthy is also a great way to keep your immune system fighting fit. That doesn’t mean you have to stay away from sweets completely (and with Christmas, there’s a good chance you probably won’t anyways) so just make sure you use portion control with any sweet foods. Along with eating healthy, if you have certain vitamins you have to take, remember to take them. The winter is not time for slacking off when it comes to your health, so make a point to remember to take any medication prescribed by your doctor.

Dress Appropriately
Mother Natures likes to change her mind from time to time, even during the winter. It can be snowing one day, sunny the next, and then raining for a week straight. Keep an eye on the news and watch the weather report. Plan your wardrobe accordingly, and if you’re going away, always pack at least one outfit for all types of weather, just in case. If you’re going somewhere and have to look nice, wear warm clothes and change when you arrive. It’s better to be warm and healthy than nice looking and sick.

Get a Flu Shot
I know a lot of people who really hate needles, but unless you have a petrifying fear of them or you’re allergic, it’s best to suck it up and get a flu shot. While the flu shots will not fully prevent you from getting the flu, it will lessen the symptoms and shorten the time you have the flu. While a cold is annoying but manageable, the flu more or less incapacitates you until it gets out of your system, which could be anywhere from several hours to several days, depending on the severity. Don’t be stuck inside sick with the flu; go to your doctor’s office or your local pharmacy where flu shots are provided and get one.

Anticipate Illness and Act Accordingly
Sometimes, no matter what you do or how hard you try, you’re going to get sick. In this case, it’s best to get what you need and just ride it out. Picking up medicine from your local pharmacy before you get sick is a smart move and your future sick self will thank you. Getting a small cache of food that is good for you and easy to prepare is also key, as you’re not going to be making fancy food if you’re not feeling well. The biggest thing to do is stay home (if you can) and just rest. Don’t make plans if you can avoid it so you don’t get others sick. If you have no choice but to go out, then make sure you wear a facemask of some kind and keep your distance from others. No need to spread the sorrow this holiday season.

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