With the colder weather, gloomy days, and holiday gatherings, it’s easy to overlook our health needs as we find ourselves socializing more, indulging on sweets, and working out less. As the seasons change, it’s important to take note of our mental and physical health needs and adapt them accordingly.
We’ve put together some tips for staying grounded, healthy, and active throughout the holiday season.
It can be pretty challenging to step outside when the temperature seems less than ideal, but mustering up the energy to get outdoors to soak in some sunlight can go a long way in keeping you your health in check. Catching rays increases our serotonin levels, which elevates your mood and helps control our circadian rhythm (better known as your body clock) which is tied to our quality of sleep.
If you’re concerned about the frigid temperatures, layer up accordingly! Check out this helpful guide on how to dress smart during the wintertime.
Get enough Zzzs
The cold, flu, and other respiratory illnesses are more prevalent in the wintertime, and a lack of sleep heightens this risk. According to research, people who had less than 6 hours of sleep for one week were 4x more likely to catch a cold than those who had 7+ hours of sleep.
As mentioned earlier, energy levels also decrease in the wintertime due to the lack of sunlight. This makes it increasingly important to prioritize sleep by creating a schedule that accounts for at least 7+ hours of quality sleep to avoid feeling symptoms of sluggishness, fatigue, and brain fog.
"10-20% of Americans suffer from mild mood swings as a result of the change in seasons, getting yourself to move can elevate endorphins and reduce your risks of mood swings and anxiety."
Going into hibernation mode can actually do more harm than good as it impacts our mental and physical health. Approximately 10-20% of Americans suffer from mild mood swings as a result of the change in seasons. Getting yourself to move can elevate endorphins and reduce your risks of mood swings and anxiety.
Taking advantage of the winter season by partaking in winter activities like ice skating or snowshoeing are great ways to get some movement in. Just 30 minutes of physical activity 3x a week can make an impact on both your mental and physical wellbeing.
And if being outside isn’t for you, join a local fitness center that is close to home or work. You can also download some great fitness apps and/or invest in some home equipment to keep you moving from the comfort of your own home.
Treat yourself to your favorite treats the season has to offer, it’s the holidays! Despite what the latest health fad tells us, we shouldn’t restrict ourselves to certain foods because they’re considered “bad”. Restricting ourselves from the foods we crave can lead to unhealthy binging. Instead, practice balance and allow yourself that piece of pecan pie and some egg nog.
Just remember to prioritize your daily intake of healthy, nutritious fruits and veggies to help elevate your energy levels. From winter squash to citrus to brussels sprouts to cabbage (and more!), take advantage of the winter produce the season has to offer. Consuming complex carbs and nutrient-rich foods not only help your energy levels but boosts your immune system in a season where you’re more susceptible to catching the cold or flu.
It’s not uncommon to feel a lack of motivation during the wintertime. If you find yourself feeling anxious, irritable, and lethargic, light therapy might be for you. Light therapy mimics natural outdoor light which alleviates symptoms of the winter blues and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) by increasing serotonin levels and regulating our body clocks. If you’re interested in light therapy, check out some recommended options here.
Don’t overlook the sunshine vitamin
Maintaining strong bones, a healthy immune system, and a positive mood rely heavily on vitamin D. Because of the lack of sun exposure in the wintertime, it’s quite common for us to experience a deficiency in this essential vitamin. About 41% of adults don’t get enough vitamin D according to a study, which can put us at increased risk of bone disorders, hypertension, cancer, and other serious illnesses.
Consuming foods like fatty fish, eggs, cheese, orange juice, and more can help us in maintaining necessary levels. Additionally, spending just 15- 30 minutes a day outdoors about 3 times a week can also help us get a healthy dose of the vitamin.
If you think you may be experiencing a vitamin D deficiency, it’s recommended to see a doctor to check your levels. From there, your doctor can provide you with a recommended dosage. Common systems of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, bone pain, joint pain, muscle weakness, lower energy, anxiety, and frequent sickness.
Don’t forget me time
From Thanksgiving through New Year, it can feel as though the winter festivities are non-stop. On top of reuniting with friends & family, planning/attending parties, and checking off that Christmas shopping list, it can be an overwhelming and stressful time for many. Whether it’s blocking out 30 minutes every day in your calendar or designating a day to yourself every week, remember to take some time to recharge and do something for yourself to avoid feeling burnt out.
Wintertime, especially in a time during the pandemic, can often have us feeling isolated. Giving back by volunteering in your local community’s coat drive or participating in an activity like sewing face masks or knitting warm winterwear can help us make a positive impact on others and also lift our spirits knowing that we’re helping those in need. Research shows that there are many physical and mental health benefits associated with volunteering, including lower blood pressure, lower stresses levels, increased happiness, and even a longer life expectancy. If you’re interested in helping out in your local community, check out some resources here.