Staying safe, warm and healthy this winter
Winter can be a challenging time for people's physical and mental health, with the colder temperatures and the long, dark nights.
When you factor in coronavirus and lockdown or social distancing and other restrictions, it becomes even more difficult.
Nevertheless, winter can be a productive season if you use those prolonged periods at home to recharge your batteries, have a bit of 'me time' and also develop new hobbies or interests.
It's also an opportunity to take a look at our health and to ask what we can do to improve it.
We look to health and care services for the bigger, more complex things, yet there is so much about our day-to-day physical and mental health that is within our control – and for most of us it just takes a few little adjustments to our daily lives to achieve this.
We’re sharing some messages via social media to help your winter safely. You can follow these here:
Safe and warm
Staying warm during the winter is down to a number of factors, including:
- Keeping active
- Heating your home
- Dressing for the conditions
1. Keeping active
Regular exercise or activity is good for your cardiovascular system, it helps you to manage your weight and by burning off energy it helps your body to stay warm.
'Exercise' can be anything from a full-blown workout right through to housework, such as vacuuming. If it's very cold and wet outside and you'd rather not go out, there are many exercises you can do within the safety of your own home.
2. Heating your home
It's important that you try to heat your home to at least 18 degrees (Celsius) if you're not very mobile, you're 65 or over or have a health condition. If you are unable to heat the whole house to 18 degrees, heat the one room where you spend most of your time.
Use a hot water bottle or electric blanket (not both) to keep warm in bed.
Draw curtains when it gets dark and keep internal doors closed to reduce draughts.
If you cannot afford to keep your home warm, contact your local authority to see what help may be available.
Your body creates heat as it digests food, so the simple act of eating regularly (not too much) will help you to stay warm. Foods that take longer to digest are better for this - and the good news is that many of these are better for you as well, so look for foods that contain healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
If you make at least one of the meals during the day a hot one, that will also help you to stay warm - as will having plenty of hot drinks.
4. Dressing for the conditions
Legendary polar explorer Roald Amundsen famously said:
"There's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing."
That view may be a bit extreme for some, but it's true that how you dress in winter can have a great impact on your health.
Staying warm and dry are very important factors in remaining healthy, so if you are venturing out or staying at home, you need to dress for the conditions.
Things to consider include waterproofing (both clothes and footwear), the benefits of many thinner layers as opposed to few thick layers, wearing a hat, and having shoes/boots with plenty of grip for those icy days.
A good balance
Exercising and eating well are good habits all year round both for physical and mental health reasons. You can tweak your diet according to the season if your activity levels change. The more overweight and sedentary a person is, the greater their risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and also coronavirus.
Be careful when exercising strenuously in very cold weather though.
You’re not alone
Caring for your own health and wellbeing doesn’t mean doing it all yourself. It also means working with others to keep on top of any existing health conditions you may have and managing your symptoms and your medication. Keep in touch with those who are treating you, whether that’s your GP, consultant or a therapist. Remember that pharmacists are highly-trained medical professionals so they can advise you on many minor ailments too.
How are you feeling?
Check in on yourself regularly too. You know yourself best, so you know when something’s not right. Ask yourself whether you need to get yourself checked out by a healthcare professional. Remember, the sooner you’re checked, the sooner you can either have peace of mind or you can start to receive the treatment you need. Problems can grow if you don’t act promptly.
Planning ahead is a very good way to keep on top of your health and wellbeing. By making sure you have what you need for different eventualities, for example by organising repeat prescriptions, by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet and/or first aid kit, you not only make sure you can deal with situations with less fuss, you also reduce your worries and stress.
Where do I go when ……… happens?
As part of your planning, why not learn about what local health services there are at your disposal and when to use them? If you do that now it will help you get to the right service more quickly should you ever need it. Click here to find out more about accessing services during COVID-19.
Have a healthy, safe and warm winter.