It seems that no matter how well I plan to take it easy during the holidays, I still end up feeling exhausted when they’re over. Even though I try to avoid malls and holiday traffic all together, it seems that even the cooking and laughing and staying up late are enough to leave me feeling drained.
The cold temperatures and lack of sunshine that occur during the winter have a considerable impact on our well-being, particularly since Jack Frost brings unwanted presents with him: the flu and dampened moods.
But winter doesn’t have to zap your energy or pit you against this season’s new hard-to-beat bug. Stay well all winter long by following the action points below, suggested by health and well-being blogger, Alicia Benjamin.
Thankfully, for those of us who feel like we’ll never have the motivation to get back to our normal routine, these small actions only take a few minutes, or seconds, to do.
1. Eat one dark green vegetable every day. Dark green veggies contain minerals like iron and vitamins like A, C, K, and folate that your body needs to stay healthy. Instead of sticking with spinach, try something different like sautéed dandelion greens added to a stir-fry, or kale or Swiss chard added to a favorite stew or soup recipe.
2. Call a friend. Instead of hunkering down with Love Actually again during a snowstorm, give someone you haven’t seen in a while a call. Hearing a friend’s voice can boost your mood and socializing helps you feel connected to the people who matter most to you.
3. Take five. To combat feeling overwhelmed and rundown during the busy holiday season, take five minutes to close your eyes. Clear your mind of your to-do list (it can wait) and, instead, focus solely on your breathing. Rest your hands over your heart. Repeat in your mind or aloud a calming word, like “blue” or “ocean,” to help ease tension throughout your body. Try picturing yourself on a sunny beach; listen to the waves crash upon shore. Even though it’s not an actual vacation or a real respite from the freezing temps, visualization exercises can be very effective in promoting relaxation and boosting your mood.
4. Hide the remote. When the cold weather sets in, you may be tempted to curl up with a blanket and watch television. Instead, hide the remote so you’re forced to get up to change channels or adjust the volume. You can also challenge yourself by doing jumping jacks during commercial breaks. Little bursts of movement during your down time will ensure you’re getting much-needed activity during the hibernation months.
5. Bake your fruit. Chances are you won’t be craving watermelon when temps drop. So instead, bake fruit for a healthy after-dinner dessert or oatmeal topping for breakfast. Put apple slices and cranberries in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and add a sprinkle of cinnamon—a powerful antioxidant—on top to add both health benefits and flavor.
6. Go green. It’s tempting to reach for soda or coffee when we’re feeling sleepy during the winter. Instead, enjoy a cup of green tea. It’s loaded with antioxidants. Plus, green tea extract may also boost metabolism and help burn fat—an added bonus during a time in which we usually indulge. Want the benefits of other hues? Wear yellow or red during the bleakest of winter days to help boost your mood and energy level, or choose green or blue to bring a sense of calm to your busy holiday-planning days.
7. Get more D. We’re often bundled up inside during the winter months, which means we don’t get as much vitamin D as in summer months. There are lots of ways to get vegan and animal sources of vitamin D; supplement your diet with cod liver oil high in EPA/DHA; and add Sockeye salmon, sardines, shrimp, and tuna to your cold-weather menu. Vitamin D can help build strong bones (as it helps the body use calcium) and boost our immune systems for the flu season ahead. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D daily for adults younger than 50, and 800 to 1,000 IU for adults 50 and older.
8. Disinfect your desk and phone. Your phone receiver and desk surface at work can harbor germs that are spreading around the office. Wipe down your space at least once a week with an antibacterial spray. Method and Seventh Generation make great ones. Also, slip a hand sanitizer in your purse to kill bacteria wherever you go.
9. Keep your bedroom at no more than 68-72 degrees F. Holding the heat will help promote a sound sleep to ensure you’re feeling well rested and refreshed to take on the winter days. Also, aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Want to fall asleep more quickly? Wear socks to bed.
10. Get moving. Temps in the teens make it rather hard to pull yourself out from underneath a pile of blankets. But during the cold weather, nudge yourself to get moving because exercise helps boosts mood and your immune system. Not a fan of outdoor activities like snow shoeing? Hit the mall to walk laps; keep an eye out for gyms offering free trials or classes; look into the costs of joining a local community center like the YMCA; or simply add a few at-home exercises like squats, lunges, and wall push-ups to your daily routine.
A health and well-being blogger, Alicia Benjamin is currently enrolled at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a certified health counselor. Alicia works as the Social Media Manager at MeYou Health, a Boston-based social well-being company that provides web and mobile apps to promote healthy living. Alicia tweets about well-being at @AliciaGetsFit and is a regular contributor to the MeYou Health blog.