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Parents with young daughter enjoying outdoor winter weather, dressed in illustrated toques and gloves.

November 13, 2020 • read

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Stay healthy all winter long

This winter we’re heading into a period of hibernation. With COVID-19 numbers rising, and cold temperatures making the outside world inhospitable, we’ll be spending lots of time inside. This is especially tough on those of us who experience seasonal affective disorder. It can feel like we’re way too cooped up, even though we know it’s for the best. 

The winter season should be a time of joy, but we have to be careful to take care of ourselves for the sake of our families and communities. Check out our tips to keep up your mental and physical health all winter long.

Tackle stress

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Chronic stress can lower immune functioning, making us an easier target for diseases like the flu. Grocery delivery services are a convenient way to save some effort and hours. If you’re struggling with workload at your job, have a transparent conversation with your boss about your mental state. Most companies have COVID-19 policies in place to be compassionate to their staff’s needs. 

Get plenty of sleep. This can sound more like an item on your wish list than a real possibility but give it a try! Our bodies need seven to nine hours of sleep a night to recharge and stay healthy. If you have kids, try alternating early morning wake-ups with your partner so you each have a day to sleep in. 

Get outside

Winter can be fun if you embrace whimsical outdoor activities. A nice, socially-distanced winter hike is very clearing for the mind. If you have access to a lake, ice-skating is a picturesque Canadian staple. What about your own backyard? Challenge your family members to a snowball fight, or make a snowman together. Putting on winter gear and playing in the snow is a great way to get active.

Curb the overindulging

Excess belly fat can increase your risk of developing a host of health problems like heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Sitting around bored, surrounded by snacks is a sure-fire way to end up overeating. So, schedule a daily walk to get a break from munching and to get your limbs moving. 

Having a glass of water before you unwrap a snack can also help stop you eating too much — it will keep you from confusing thirst with hunger. And make sure you have some favourite healthy options on hand for those times when you really need a snack.

Look at your sunshine and vitamin D intake

Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” our body produces vitamin D when we are exposed to sunlight. As Canadians, we usually don’t get enough sun in the winter to make the vitamin D we need. Low levels of Vitamin D are linked to higher rates of depression and osteoporosis, so it’s worth talking to your doctor about whether you should be taking a Vitamin D supplement, especially in the winter.

Practice proper hygiene

Being cooped up indoors with family and friends is a great way to spread germs. There’s a reason colds and flu peak during the coldest months — they have their pick of hosts! It sounds simple, but practice proper hygiene by washing your hands regularly. Doing it before and after cooking and as soon as you get home helps to stop the spread of germs. And be mindful of touching communal surfaces like elevator buttons or subway poles and then touching your face.

Get your flu shot

This is a critical year to get your flu shot. You can get COVID-19 and the flu at the same time, which is a terrible combo. Plus, the seasonal flu puts many people in the hospital annually. We need to reserve some hospital beds for COVID-19 patients to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system. So, take a precautionary step in keeping yourself healthy by getting the flu shot.

Keep up COVID-19 measures

It’s been a long road so far in battling COVID-19, and it’s unfortunately not over. Many of us are looking forward to 2021 as a harbinger of better times, but the stroke of midnight on New Year’s won’t do anything for public health. We have to keep up measures to flatten the curve, such as:

  • Wearing a mask in public.
  • Isolating ourselves if we test positive to COVID-19, or have symptoms. 
  • Frequent hand washing and sanitizing.
  • Avoiding unnecessary travel. 
  • Only leaving home for essential trips. 

Click here to visit our COVID-19 resource centre.

Know when to see a doctor

Winter colds can be unpleasant, but the flu can be serious — even life-threatening for some people.

You’re not likely to have a fever or chills with a cold — those can be signs that it’s something worse like the flu. If you think you’re getting the flu, speak to a doctor within the first 48 hours of exhibiting symptoms. During that time, doctors can prescribe an antiviral like Tamiflu, which can drastically reduce your recovery time.

If you experience a high fever for more than three days or chest pain or shortness of breath with the flu, you should seek urgent medical advice. Flu can be more dangerous in little ones. If your child has the flu and isn’t eating or drinking or isn’t waking up easily, contact a doctor immediately.

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