December Health and Wellness

Melissa Martin, Certified Pilates Instructor |

Winter Wellness

Is it just me, or does it seem like we have officially entered cold and flu season? It always happens where one or two people you know start feeling under the weather, and then all of a sudden half of your work or children’s school is calling out sick. We are also exposed to more people during the holidays as we gather with friends and family to spend time together. You’re lucky if you make it out unscathed, because you are bound to come into contact with multiple people carrying germs on many occasions. But instead of barricading yourself inside your home avoiding as many people as possible, there are many things you can do to protect yourself and immunity during this vulnerable time of year. We will discuss a few practical things you can do right now to place the odds in your favor.

For starters, the holiday season is usually our busiest time of the year. In one month, we redecorate our homes, bake, shop, wrap gifts, host and cook elaborate meals, and attend sometimes multiple office Christmas parties. Winter was traditionally a time of slowing down and reflection to enjoy the fruits of our labor and look forward to the following year. Protecting your time and energy is of utmost importance during this next month. What things can be delegated, outsourced, or even eliminated from your schedule? Maybe you take on fewer responsibilities, such as hosting an entire family dinner yourself. Perhaps you can recruit your family or co-workers to pitch in and make it more of a team effort. Practice saying “no” and setting limits to protect your sanity.

Something else that goes hand-in-hand with a busier schedule and tying up loose ends by the year’s end is an increase of stress and lack of sleep. Stress and sleep affect your immunity more than we have previously realized or given credit to. Do you ever notice you start to feel run down and even come down with an illness during these times of stress? And if we are not properly rejuvenating ourselves with quality rest each night, it creates a recipe for disaster. Poor sleep quality in turn leads to more stress, even less sleep, poor concentration, less productivity, and less than ideal food choices to act as a pick me up during the day. This creates more stress within your body, in addition to the outside factors.

Communicating and giving others a “heads up” prior to a gathering that someone is feeling under the weather may feel slightly awkward in the moment for some, but so worth it in the long run. If you are sick, please stay home and not spread germs even further. If you know ahead of time (ask!) that your Aunt Mary is coming to the family dinner and still has that lingering cold, consider staying home. It’s not worth it. I cannot tell you how many times I have become very sick by well-meaning people who insist they aren’t sick or contagious, yet are visibly showing symptoms. And as silly as it may feel, wear a mask if you cannot avoid being around someone who is sick. As soon as you leave the grocery store or office, wash and disinfect your hands immediately- especially prior to eating anything or touching or face. Carry hand sanitizer with you at all times and use your sleeve or a napkin to open doors or push elevator buttons.

Keep moving! If weather doesn’t permit outdoor activity, hit the gym for indoor exercise. Even if you are just walking on a treadmill, keep your body moving this winter. Not only will it alleviate cold weather stiffness, but it will help keep your immune system strong and give you more energy.

Focus on warm, homemade, and nutrient-dense foods to find balance with the holiday cookies and cocktails. These foods will nourish your body and provide one of your best chances for staying well. I love making cozy winter soups and stews and finding new tasty recipes to try. And who doesn’t love a warm stew from the crockpot on a chilly winter day?

Keep yourself hydrated. It may feel counter intuitive to drink plenty of water when its pouring rain outside, but this is one of the most important things you can do for yourself this winter. If this is a challenge for you, try drinking hot lemon water in the morning and herbal tea throughout the day. In addition to this, make sure to supplement with extra vitamin C and D as a staple this winter, especially since we tend to be deficient during this season.

Let’s aim to really slow down and remember that our health is wealth. In the midst of our holiday season, don’t forget to invest in your greatest asset- you! Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and a fresh new year ahead full of abundance and health.