With the ever increasing pressure on NHS services, making sure you are comfortable and confident with your health over the winter period is major priority. There are a lot of really simple steps you can take to make sure you’re looking after your physical and mental health over this period. Self-care, and an awareness of where the most appropriate place to go for your care will help you avoid the queues at GP surgeries and A&E, and remain independent for longer.
- One of the easiest ways you can ensure you stay well this winter is to get the flu vaccine. Anyone can get the flu but it is more serious in people aged 65 or over, if you’re pregnant or if you have a serious medical condition. Remember you don’t have to go to the GP to get the vaccine (although for children under two you may still need to) your local pharmacists can provide it for you.
- Remain active. Don’t use the weather as an excuse to stay indoors, try and get out. A nice walk on a cold winter day doesn’t just help you remain active, it helps control your weight and is a great way of looking after your mental health. Exercise is one of the best ways of dealing with stress, depression and anxiety.
- Try to eat well. A good breakfast like porridge is one of the best ways of setting you up for the day. The extra fiber and starch well help you feel fuller for longer, release energy steadily throughout the day and provide you with great vital vitamins and minerals. Try adding some dried or frozen fruits for a sweet treat!
- Keep warm. Keeping warm as the weather gets colder is a great way of combating colds and can also help prevent more serious conditions like pneumonia, depression, heart attacks and stroke. Try to keep your house at around 18C, especially your bedroom over night and your living room during the day.
- Look after your mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - sometimes referred to as the winter blues - is a specific type of depression. The shorter days over winter mean less sunlight which results in a lack of melatonin. The body uses melatonin to help wake us up and people who suffer from SAD produce too much of the hormone, causing lethargy and symptoms of depression. Your GP can offer more information, including things like a light box to help you get more light.
- As well as this, the festive season can also be a very stressful time. Anxieties about money, and loneliness, especially in the elderly can make this period of year a very difficult one. Exercise, a healthy diet, making sure you get enough sunlight and making time to do things you enjoy will all help keep you mentally well over the winter.