Jan 23, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
The winter months are here, in all their cold and dark glory. With the cold weather, the winter sweets, and the wild spread of illnesses, this is a time in which many students find their health dropping. Here are some tips from Stamps Health Services (SHS) senior director, Dr. Ben Holton, Health Initiatives (HI) senior director, Stacy Connell and HI dietitians Amber Johnson and Leah Galante to keep yourself healthy until the sun comes back around.
Get enough sleep.
During the winter months, your body is using much more energy than normal just to stay warm. On top of that, the changes in daylight can disrupt your circadian rhythms and make you feel more sluggish in general. It is more important than ever to maintain a consistent sleep schedule during the winter. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time over the weekend to keep your internal clock ticking and stave off that winter lethargy.
Continue to eat a balanced variety of food.
Choose a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to enjoy. They are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals to keep you energized and feeling well. Fuel your day with fiber-rich carbohydrates. Eating adequate fiber, particularly whole grains, fruits and vegetables, stabilizes your blood glucose levels and helps you feel full. Be sure to include calcium-rich foods to support bone health. Stay hydrated, primarily with water. Particularly during the winter months, forgetting to drink adequately is common. Try drinking herbal teas to both hydrate and stay warm. Maintain your energy and focus by eating every few hours throughout the day. Enjoy snacks in between meals. By being mindful of your hunger and fullness cues, you can be more attuned to physical vs emotional hunger.
The freezing days and long nights can make it tempting to just curl up in bed and not leave your dorm until spring. To continue exercising regularly, plan workouts ahead of time so they’re harder to skip out on. If you’d rather not go out in the cold, the Campus Recreation Complex (CRC) is a great resource available for students and staff.
Take care of your mental health.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more commonly known as seasonal depression, is a real issue for about 1 in 15 people, but it is treatable. Keeping up a healthy eating and exercising pattern can do a lot to offset the symptoms of SAD, but there is more you can do to combat your fluctuating mood. Bright light, either by getting outside in the natural light during the day, or using bright indoor lighting, improves SAD. Make sure to stay social. Visit your friends or family, or take yourself on an indoor-outing; you don’t have to give up the things you do for fun just because it’s cold out. Meditation or a visit to the CRC sauna can also be a mood booster. Remember, your mental well-being is just as important as your physical health.
Protect yourself from sickness.
Don’t make the winter blues worse by adding flu to the mix! Stay vigilant in the winter months. Remember to wash your hands frequently, and keep them away from your face. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Don’t share water bottles, drinking straws or cups, or eating utensils. Get your immunizations, especially the yearly flu shot, which you can get at Stamps Health Services. If you do get sick, prevent spreading the flu by staying home!
Sunny days and warm weather will be back before you know it. Until then, stay safe and healthy out there!