5 Things Not to Ignore this Winter
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Winter can be a wonderful time of year, but for many people, it can mean several months of misery if they live in a part of the world that experiences severe cold weather during the winter months. These are the 5 Things Not to Ignore this Winter.
We can try to be a winter Olympian, or we become a winter bear and hibernate until the spring thaw comes.
The truth is, becoming inactive during winter can be one of the worst things you can do for your health. It might seem tough to enjoy the short days and long nights of winter, but spending time outside during each winter’s day offers several health benefits.
Cold and Flu Fighters
Being cooped up indoors leaves you more prone to colds and flu since you will be surrounded by other people coughing and sneezing. Especially if you have little ones like I do who think you make a great tissue for their runny noses.
One of the most confusing things about becoming sick with an upper respiratory illness such as a cold or the flu is that they begin similarly. However, each requires a different treatment to limit the illness and get over it as quickly as possible.
A cold is caused by becoming infected with a rhinovirus. Like many viruses, it mutates. There are hundreds of strains of the common cold virus, and any cold virus can be around at any time. New strains can form all the time, making it difficult to build up immunity to them.
Viruses have no cure, but you can treat the symptoms as best you can to make you or your loved ones more comfortable if they come down with a cold.
Typical symptoms of a cold include:
- Congestion (head and/or chest)
- Runny nose (stuffiness from swollen sinuses)
- Watery eyes
- Coughing-it can be a dry cough or one that is productive, that is, produces phlegm to get congestion out of your body)
- Itchy nose, eyes, and throat
- Fever (more common in children)
- Sore throat
The flu is caused by becoming infected with one of the strains of the influenza virus.
The flu generally comes on more quickly than a cold. The symptoms seem to hit all at once, and will usually be more severe than when you catch a cold.
The typical symptoms of flu include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Headaches and/or body aches
- Fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
- Fatigue, lack of energy
- Nausea, vomiting
- Diarrhea (most common in children)
While the first four symptoms are common to both flu and colds, they are likely to be more intense when you have the flu.
Flu symptoms are strong right from the onset, and they usually run their course in about a week. Colds usually only last a few days.
Since colds and flu are both viruses, antibiotics will not affect.
An over the counter cold remedy will help dry up the nasal congestion but try to avoid products with a lot of alcohol or caffeine in them.
Look for a product that does all that you need in one pill or bottle. You’ll save money and also be able to avoid accidental overdose. For example, acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is a common component in an array of cold remedies but taking too much can lead to liver damage.
Every year my family and I make Elderberry syrup like my Great Grandma used to make. Every day, we all get a teaspoon full to keep us healthy, and if we do get sick, we double that by taking it twice a day.
The best way to prevent colds and flu is to wash your hands often and not share personal items like cutlery, towels, and so on. Avoid contact with those who are ill. Stay at home when you are sick. Keep the communal areas of your house clean, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Taking these precautions may keep you from getting sick at all or can highly minimize your chances so you can have an enjoyable winter season.
For other natural ways to prevent getting sick, I would go with Vitamin C, Zinc, Echinacea, and Vitamin D, which you can get from going outside every day. If the weather isn’t too cold, I will open a window or two to let in the fresh air. People in the coldest countries in the world even do this with their babies.
Just because it is cold doesn’t mean you stop moving
Exercise boosts energy levels and mood. It also helps you burn calories, which is very useful if you tend to gain weight around the end of year holidays in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s only natural to want to hibernate until spring, but there’s no excuse for not staying active during the winter months when there are so many ways to work out so you will be fit instead of fat when the spring rolls around.
Here are a few ways to stay motivated even when the temperature plunges.
Schedule It on Your Calendar
We write down important things on our calendars, such as doctor’s appointments. Set aside at least ten and up to 30 minutes every day for working out and treat it as seriously as a trip to the doctor, because it may help prevent you from needing to go to see the doctor.
The current recommendations are 30 minutes of activity per day. They can be cardio, which burns fat or strength training. Strength training should be done 2 to 3 days apart to help the muscles heal after a session. Plan out which days you will do.
When it comes to tracking my activity, sleep, and heart rate, my Fitbit is my best friend. I bought mine a couple of years ago, and it only leaves my arm to charge when I am sitting at my desk to work. Every day, I know how many steps I have taken, and how much sleep I had and if it was good to sleep. I would recommend one to anyone who wants to take the movement seriously and is worried about their sleep.
Try Winter Related Activities
There are many winter workouts you can enjoy, including:
- Cross-country skiing
- Ice skating
- Downhill skiing
In most cases, you will still be able to go out for a walk or a hike in nature. Plan a route around the neighborhood that is close to home in case you have to hurry indoors to get warm.
You can also walk in a mall (leave the credit cards home!) or a well-lit covered parking lot.
Try the YMCA
Many Ys have a pool, which gives a great whole-body workout and can be done by anyone at any age. If you can’t swim laps, don’t worry. Many Ys have “water-walking” and water aerobics as well.
Most Ys also offer a range of classes. Try aerobics, spinning, Zumba, and more. Are you intimidated by the weights room? Ask for a tour and introductory lesson. It’s free, and your instructor can give you some good individualized workout tips.
Hire a Personal Trainer
A personal trainer may sound expensive, but they can be worth their weight in gold if they come up with a workout plan you enjoy and which gets real results without you getting injured. You will share your goals with them, and they will hold you accountable. They will often offer package deals, which will bring down the price. And chances are you will be more motivated because you want to get your money’s worth.
Find a Workout Buddy
They can be in addition to the personal trainer or a substitute for them if they are the type of person who will hold you accountable. Ask around to see if anyone in your area or at work wants to get fit. Set your goals and start taking walks at lunchtime, share tips on how to stay focused, and more.
Try New Things
Workout DVDs can give you real variety if you are looking for something new to do. From yoga to the Brazilian butt workout to belly dancing, they are all designed to get you up and to move.
One of my favorite things is to use online programs. I started walking with a YouTube program and then moved to an online app that you have with a membership. While the online App costs money, it is cheaper than going to the gym and hiring a trainer, but then you don’t have someone right there with you every step of the way.
Work Out with The Family
If you’re like most families, you are probably spending too much time indoors in front of a screen. Try a hike, touch football, or just a 30-minute walk when the sun is shining.
Our family loves Just Dance for the Switch. We don’t have enough Switch JoyCons for everyone, but they still love to dance. Not only is it good for us, but some of the dances are so silly we laugh through them. The best part is when my youngest ones who don’t understand all the lyrics make up their own.
For the song Rave in the Grave, one of my boys says Brain in the Grave. We die laughing every time.
Sunlight saves the day
Vitamin D is a hormone our body produces as a result of exposure to the sun. We can take supplements, but 30 minutes of sunshine per day (wearing sunscreen, of course) can give us all the D we need to not only heal us but to keep us well.
Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Winter can cause many to feel the blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects millions of people around the world. It is caused by the lack of daylight during the short winter days, especially when there is bad weather.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects millions of people around the world. It is a form of depression caused by the lack of daylight during the short winter days, especially when there is bad weather. Those who live above the Arctic Circle are particularly prone to it due to them not seeing any sunlight for weeks at a time once the sun dips below the horizon.
SAD can trigger depression, illness, and weight gain. With colds and also the dreaded flu making their rounds, many people fall ill during the winter and lose time at work or during the holidays because they are not feeling well in body, mind, and spirit.
The Effects of Depression
Depression tends to lead to poor self-care. Some people don’t eat. Others try to cheer themselves up with food. When the holidays come, they overeat but are often too listless to exercise.
They end up in the worst physical condition they have been in all year and then feel depressed about their body image too.
When the warm weather arrives once again, they struggle to get back into shape so they can start wearing less bulky winter clothes once more and show off their figure anew.
Everything seems an effort when you have SAD. Many people withdraw from others because they don’t want to be a “party pooper” or allow others to realize they are struggling. People with SAD will often cry uncontrollably, which can be embarrassing, so they stay at home.
So, what is a person to do if they think they have SAD?
Lights, Camera, Action
What they need is to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine a little every day. They also need companionship to avoid social isolation, which can trigger or worsen depression.
When you are outdoors with friends, be sure to take a camera along to record your good times together. Post them in prominent places, so you know you are valued and that you can have a great time in spite of the winter weather.
In addition to getting out of the house, consider taking up a winter sport like cross country skiing or snowshoeing. They can give you a great cardio workout.
Not fond of snow? Rent or stream some fitness DVDs and try a range of interesting workout routines. You’re sure to find some you love.
In some cases, these actions might not be enough to lift your SAD. In that case, the doctor may recommend phototherapy, commonly referred to as light therapy.
Light therapy uses an instrument called a lightbox. You sit a few feet away from its first thing in the morning. The light imitates natural sunlight, which appears to trigger a change in the brain chemicals linked to mood and helps ease depression.
Light therapy should ideally be started in the autumn before the days start to get short. It is also the best time to start because it can take from days or weeks to start working.
If you think you have SAD, speak to your doctor and see if a lightbox might be right for you.
SAD can trigger depression, illness, and weight gain. Colds and flu can make people (and their immune systems) even more depressed. Getting out in the sun is the best way to combat SAD and live life to the full each winter.
Are you preparing for hibernation?
Many people pack on the pounds in the winter. They crave hot “comfort foods” to warm up on a cold day. The holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas in the US can be a diet disaster. Eating more and working out less, if at all, because of the cold weather, is a recipe for weight gain and getting out of shape. By the time spring rolls around, you’ll be a couch potato and look like a spud in your swimsuit if you’re not careful.
Winter is the perfect time to nourish your body. Soup is one of the best ways to do that. Honestly, it is one of my favorite times of the year because I LOVE soup. If you are looking for a new soup to try, why not check out 15 Soups You Really Should Try. I bet you might find a new favorite. I know I did.
Along with the soup, you could try out a new vegetable that is in season. My family uses Misfits Market, where we get an 18-22 lb. box of organic produce delivered to our door every two weeks.
If you click on my affiliate link above, you can et a 25% discount on your first box. I get a discount on my next box that costs nothing to you. It is their way of thanking me for sharing this with you.
If you are bored with your usual recipes and struggling to get your family to the table, then check out my new book Meet Me at the Table. With the book, you also receive 64 new recipes to try.
Skin and Hair Issues in Winter
Winter weather is a lot colder and drier than summer weather, which means it takes its toll on your skin. This past winter was so much easier for me once I changed my skincare routine. My skin stayed hydrated all day long, and I didn’t have my usual problems with chapped cheeks. If you are looking to change up your skincare routine I recommend The Face Shop Rice Water Face Set. The Mizon All in One Face Cream has become my go-to for both day and night.
Your hair might start to look dry and brittle like straw. When that happens, you need to be ready with hair treatment. My go-to has been Hydrating Argan Oil Hair Mask. By paying attention to moisturizing your hair, face and skin can keep you looking and feeling great.
Taking the time to take extra care of your skin and hair during the winter will pay off. It is better to prevent damage than to have to repair it.
Dressing for Safety in Winter
Last, but not least, you need to dress for safety in winter. Cold kills. A hat, scarf, gloves, and proper footwear to match the weather conditions are all essential.
It’s good to get outdoors into the sunlight for some fresh air and natural Vitamin D production, but frostbite is one winter wellness challenge you and your entire family can’t afford to ignore.
On my oldest girl’s Christmas list is the Ororo Women’s Slim Fit Heated Jacket. She is cold natured and starts dressing for winter weather in the fall. When she saw the heated jacket, she immediately told us she wanted it. I guess Santa will have to get it for her.
What is Frostbite?
Frostbite occurs when the skin freezes. Spending too much time outdoors in the cold and wind without being protected sufficiently from the elements is the main cause. Children are more prone than adults because of their more sensitive skin.
Frostbite can be dangerous if not treated quickly, leading to permanent tissue damage and even loss. Due to the skin freezing, blood is no longer able to flow to, for example, the tips of the fingers of someone who isn’t wearing gloves or mittens. The loss of blood flow results in a loss of circulation, and the skin and underlying tissue will start to die.
If the skin is not re-warmed promptly, it can turn black and might even develop gangrene and need to be removed surgically.
Hypothermia, that is, low body temperature, might also result as well as frostbite. It is a particular risk if someone ends up falling into a cold body of water, such as a river or lake, while they are ice skating. Hypothermia is a medical emergency, as well.
In the case of both frostbite and hypothermia, the most important thing is to rewarm the skin or body. Avoid rubbing, as this can cause tissue damage. Blowing gently can help. In the case of mild frostbite, known as frostnip, going inside and warming up near a heat source (but not touching it) should be enough to help things thaw out.
For severe frostbite, the area should be soaked in warm water, not hot, until the temperature adjusts and the skin has thawed.
In the case of hypothermia, blankets and getting them to the hospital will help. There they will get a warming blanket and perhaps even an intravenous drip of warm saline to restore normal body temperature.
Pay attention to the weather reports. Use common sense. It may look sunny outside, but if it is very windy, don’t stay out too long. Wind chill can make temperatures feel much colder than they are.
Bundle up as warmly as possible. A hat and/or hood will help protect your head and reduce the loss of body heat from the cold. A scarf will protect your throat and chest and also your face if needed.
Gloves or mittens will keep fingers frost-bite free. Be careful playing with wet snow, as your fingers can start to freeze through wet woolly gloves if you are out for a long time.
If it is a really cold day, a face mask or balaclava can help.
The bottom line is this, practice common sense. If your children are cold, go inside. While it is great to be outside, it is more important to stay safe.
Winter weather can happen anytime
In May, my daughter and I went to an outdoor concert in Chicago. You would think May would be warm enough to wear jeans, a jacket and be comfortable. NO! It ended up being 42 F, and we were freezing. At least we were dressed that much the other people wore less expecting it to be warm, and I felt so bad for the performers who the next day the temperature was lower, and it was pouring down rain.
It took us a good two hours to get back to a normal body temperature. I don’t know if we had frostbite, but there were parts of us that we couldn’t feel anymore.
5 Things Not to Ignore this Winter
That’s it. Those are the 5 Things Not to Ignore this Winter. Winter can be a harsh beauty that enjoyed in moderation, and with safety in mind can be the most wonderful time of the year to create beautiful memories. Use the winter to your advantage and come out even healthier when Spring comes.