Wintering Out Your Health
“Healthy” and “winter” aren’t always the most synonymous words when it comes to living in a relatively cold part of the world. I’ve almost gotten sick twice over these past few months, and the long nights and icy wind don’t necessarily help me to feel upbeat, energetic, or really just myself. So, for those who’ve felt the brunt of winter lethargy and dry sinuses, here’s a short list of things you should try to help yourself out:
1. Get a humidifier
The air isn’t just cold—it’s really dry too. This is especially true indoors, where most homes rely on gas furnaces for heating, thereby further removing the moisture from the air.
This can not only lead to dry skin and eyes, but also contribute to an irritated nose, sinusitis, colds, the flu, and asthma. You could get a hygrometer to measure the humidity which, according to some sites, should be between 30% and 50%. If you find your air at home is more arid than prescribed, a humidifier can help to get your air back up to snuff.
2. Stay active
Okay, we all know exercise that is supposed to be good for you, but for a good number of people, below-zero temperatures are a real factor in influencing our decision to not lift a muscle beyond what’s absolutely necessary.
Skating and winter hiking are always options for outdoors and winter lovers. I am lucky enough to have a gym in my apartment, but you could always find a fitness centre near you. If you have enough space at home, there are plenty of online tutorials that you can easily watch (and repeat) to guide you through a complete workout session.
3. Stay up-to-date with your vaccines
Other than tetanus and diphtheria vaccines which you need to take every 10 years, you might want to get your yearly flu shot. This should be done ideally in the fall, but if you didn’t this year there’s always the next. In 2016, getting the flu shot meant a 42% reduction in the risk of getting the flu, and that should be reason enough to go get your dose of the vaccine.
4. Get out of the house
As students, we are often pretty busy with studies, extracurriculars, and sometimes part-time jobs. Going out in this weather might not only seem tedious with all the layers you have to put on, but trust me—it’s going to help to get through the last half of winter without going stir-crazy.
While the long nights can definitely get to you, a good dose of sunshine can give you a quick jolt of energy, waking up your brain. Even better, it’s been shown that getting some sunlight right after you wake up helps restart your daily sleep-wake cycle (a.k.a. your circadian rhythm), which of course helps with your mental and emotional states of being. A lack of sunlight has been said to disrupt this cycle and reduce levels of both serotonin (a key mood regulator) and melatonin (a sleep and mood regulator). This, in turn, is linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder. We also all know—or should know—that sunlight is important in the body’s production of Vitamin D, a key catalyst in bone growth and the reduction of symptoms like inflammation and diseases such as colon cancer. Sometimes we might just need a change of scenery. Try hitting up a friend to see if they’d be willing to go out to eat, have a drink, or even just chill at their place. Alternatively, treat yourself to lunch and a matinee!
While this list certainly isn’t comprehensive, it offers a few key pointers that have helped me get through the winter blues both physiologically and psychologically. So this winter, stay strong and keep working on your physical, mental, and social health!