Take good care of your own and your family’s health this festive season with these expert tips
Of course it’s important to wash your hands frequently, but don’t forget items you use such as phones, door handles and that TV remote control either.
Free your mind
While winter can seem like a wonderland at times, getting up and going home in the dark can have an impact on how we feel. In fact, mental health charity Mind says that many of us can experience a dip during the winter months. Not surprising when you consider that our internal patterns of sleep, mood and more, all rely on natural light cycles.
To help combat this effect, GP and author Dr Rob Hicks says, ‘Over the colder months, get outdoors as much as you can in daylight hours to increase your levels of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin.’
There is a lot going on around the UK to help you get outside – to find some beautiful winter scenery and to see geese and swans migrating, visit wwt.org.uk/christmas.
You could also try using an alarm clock that slowly illuminates your bedroom as it could help you to wake up feeling more refreshed, suggests psychologist and stress expert Sue Firth (go to tesco.com/direct and type in bodyclock). ‘Anything you can do to raise your spirits a bit can help – whether it’s wearing bright or light coloured clothes, or simply seeking out people you find uplifting ,’ says Sue.
For overall emotional wellbeing, Dr Hicks suggests the following, ‘Take five minutes out every daytime hour to unwind (making tea counts!) and spend at least 30 minutes each day doing something enjoyable that’s not work related or on a to-do list.’
Dodge winter ills
‘When it comes to avoiding coughs, colds and even the dreaded flu, keeping your immune system strong remains one of the best things you can do,’ says Dr Hicks. ‘So we know that means eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise, sleeping well and taking time out to relax. If you’re having a busy period and are concerned your diet isn’t adequate, you could consider taking an all-round multivitamin,’ advises Dr Hicks.
But have you considered simply having a laugh? ‘There is some research to suggest smiling and laughing can boost your infection fighting cells,’ says Dr Hicks. And since being stressed can mean you’re more likely to succumb, unwinding with a funny movie could be just what you need.
Of course it’s important to wash your hands frequently, but don’t forget items you use such as phones, door handles and that TV remote control either. ‘The cough and cold virus can last for up to 48 hours on hard surfaces,’ says Dr Hicks. ‘One option is to disinfect such items with household cleanser as often as is possible.’
When outside, covering your nose with a scarf may help more than you think. ‘Although simply feeling cold doesn’t directly cause coughs and colds, breathing in the cold air can cool the nasal lining and weaken your defences there,’ explains Dr Hicks.
And be prepared. ‘Have a pack of tissues ready at Christmas gatherings for people to cough and sneeze into rather than spread a possible virus round the room. You could even pop one into their Christmas stockings!’ After all, the best present is good health.
If you do succumb ‘rest, drink plenty of liquid, and try over-the-counter remedies such as paracetamol or ibuprofen,’ says Dr Hicks. Hot drinks really can help soothe your throat. And don’t beat yourself up if you catch a cold – it’s called common for a reason.
Say goodbye to tummy troubles
It’s all too easy to stay put for hours, especially on Christmas Day, but combine inactivity with festive fare and your tummy won’t thank you. ‘Try to avoid eating too much, stay moderate with the alcohol, keep stress under control and move around a bit!’ says Dr Hicks.
Venturing outside will help on all kinds of levels. Visit ramblers.org.uk/winterwalks for a list of free and fun walks taking place between 22 December and 6 January 2013.
Food wise, if you’re going to have snacks around the home, Dr Hicks suggests fruit and nuts rather than chocolate, and spacing out your meals as well.
And try this tip – ‘Gently rub circles on your tummy in a clockwise motion to help move the gas which causes bloating and even get the bowels moving. It’s best to do this lying down.’
We all hope to keep fit and well over the festive period but in case of emergency, keep these numbers to hand. For 24-hour medical advice when your GP’s surgery is shut, call:
NHS Direct 0845 4647 OR Scotland NHS 08454 242 424. Most NHS walk-in centres are open 365 days a year for treatment and guidance.