The winter months are often associated with coughs, colds and various bugs but winter needn’t be the unhealthiest time of the year. With this in mind we have created a short guide on how to stay well over the next few months.
The Sleep Council recommends seven to nine hours sleep each night and yet the average adult only manages six and a half. With winter bringing darker afternoons and mornings, it is perfectly natural to want to adopt hibernating habits and sleep for longer; however research has shown that sleeping too much can leave you feeling even sleepier during the day. With this in mind try and aim for around eight hours sleep each night, maintain a regular bedtime and de-clutter your bedroom of any distractions (yes that means leaving your phone alone!)
Regular exercise helps boost your immune system which is vital when trying to battle the numerous bugs we face each winter. Exercise in the afternoon may also help to reduce early- evening fatigue and improve sleep. Whilst the cold weather may deter you from exercising outside, try not to let this be the reason to stop exercising entirely and instead swap your usual activity for a session in the gym or swimming pool.
Cold homes have a significant impact on people’s health. Keeping warm over the winter months can help prevent coughs, colds, flu and more serious conditions such as pneumonia. If you are tempted to turn your thermostats down, in a bid to tame your energy bills, ensure that you consume hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day and layer up in warm clothing.
Flu is a common infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes, and typically lasts around a week. Whilst you can catch flu all year round, it is particularly common during the winter months. If you are at risk of complications from flu make sure you have your annual flu vaccination which is available on the NHS. The vaccine is available to anyone aged 65 and over, mums-to-be at any stage of pregnancy and children/adults with a long-term health condition. Children are also eligible for the vaccination, although the criteria is not as clear cut as it is for adults.
I think I have flu- what should I do?
If you are otherwise fit and healthy the best remedy for flu is to rest at home, keep warm and stay hydrated. Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can be taken to lower a temperature and relieve aches if necessary. You should however consider visiting your GP if;
- you’re 65 years of age or over
- you’re pregnant
- you have a long-term medical condition – such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease or a neurological disease
- you have a weakened immune system – for example, because you’re having chemotherapy or have HIV
- you develop chest pain, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or start coughing up blood
- your symptoms are getting worse over time or haven’t improved after a week
For further information visit the NHS Flu webpages.
By now many of you will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of Christmas and who can blame you. What with decorating the tree, eating copious amounts of food, spending quality time with loved ones, the extended Christmas break and presents galore, it is certainly the highlight of the year for many. It can however prove to be a particularly difficult time for some individuals and with this in mind here are our top five tips to help those that struggle over the Christmas period.
Get in contact
Research has shown that direct interaction with others can improve one’s wellbeing. With this in mind, Christmas is the perfect time to reach out to those you may have lost contact with. Don’t forget that even if you are someone that prefers quiet nights in over attending a social
gathering, you can still connect with loved ones via Christmas cards and phone calls.
For those of you that may be spending Christmas alone, it is important to remember that many of the mental health and talking support services will be available over the holiday period. The Samaritans talking service is open 360 days of the year and recognises that Christmas can be a hard time for many. Last year they received 198,000 calls over the festival period and they will be on hand again to help those that may be struggling. If you or someone close to you is in need of a non-judgemental ear this winter please call 116 123. If you are in need of urgent support, outside of the Samaritans service remit, then we recommend that you contact NHS 111 Option 2. Further details about the NHS 111 service please click here.
Limit your alcohol consumption
It is all too easy to increase your alcohol intake over the festive period and excuse it as taking part in the ‘festive spirit’. Alcohol, in moderation, is relatively harmless however it is important to remember that alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate pre-existing symptoms of depression and anxiety. With this in mind try to include a few ’alcohol-free’ days over the festive period and limit your alcohol consumption to the recommended daily allowance.
Try To Relax
The worry of catering for everyone’s specific food requests and making the rounds to ensure you see all your loved ones can be stressful to say the least. With this in mind it is important to take some time for yourself. Stress and the feeling of pressure can often lead to anxiety and difficulty sleeping which when prolonged can have long-term implications. During the busy Christmas period try to set aside some time for yourself, whether that is going to the gym, reading a book or practicing mindfulness.
It’s all too easy to over indulge at Christmas and let’s face it who doesn’t eat one too many mince pies and regrets it later! Maintaining a healthy diet can positively impact on your mood and reduce the chances of lethargy & irritability. NHS-UK recommends that we eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day so really when you factor in those Brussel Sprouts and roast parsnips you’re almost half way there!
Having a well-established routine is essential requirement for many of us. Routines can often require adjustments over the Christmas period and with this in mind it is a case of knowing your limits in terms of what structures you need in place to keep you grounded. It is important to remember that it is a balancing act between what you need and what you want so if you are feeling slightly overwhelmed by all the extra Christmas demands just take a minute to evaluate the situation and settle on a plan that you feel comfortable with.