Winter is just around the corner, my friends, and it’s skipping hand-in-hand with its two best friends: the cold and the flu viruses. Tagging along closely behind: stress, holiday burnout, the exhaustion twins (physical and mental). If you want to stand up to the winter bullies, you’ll need to adopt some healthy habits before they make it to your front door! Read on for 10 things you can start doing now to stay healthier this winter!
I have a love/hate relationship with winter. On the one hand, I love the holidays, the first snow fall, and the fact that it gets dark out earlier (yeah, I know, I’m weird). On the other hand, I hate the frigid temps, shoveling my driveway after that first snowfall (and all the others that follow), and the non-stop onslaught of cold viruses that leave me feeling stuffy and sickly for weeks on end.
Let’s get real for a second: it’s almost impossible to completely avoid cold viruses. I suppose you could stockpile food and hermetically seal your family inside your home for the entire season, but that’s not exactly rational or feasible for most of us!
While you can’t completely avoid colds and the flu, there are healthy habits that you can adopt to help lessen their impact! These good habits will also help you avoid the other pitfalls of winter, like overwhelming stress and holiday burnout. Check them out!
10 Great Habits for a Healthier and Less Stressful Winter
Heads up: this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I’ll earn a tiny commission at no extra charge to you. I also received some of the products mentioned in this post for free. As always, I’m not a doctor, and this is not medical advice.
Colds and stress are close companions, and one often brings the other. Some of these habits will help you combat stress, some may help prevent colds, and a few will do both! I arranged these tips into a sort of timeline or daily routine so they are easy to follow.
Healthy Morning Habits to Kick-Start Your Day
1. Get enough sleep!
If you adopt just one of these healthy habits, make it this one. Never underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep. At 2015 study sprayed the cold virus up people’s noses (yuck, right?), then monitored their sleep habits. They found that the less sleep participants got, the more likely they were to get sick. Those who slept just 5-6 hours a night were four times more likely to get sick than those who slept at least 7 hours. Getting enough sleep also helps you stave off stress!
2. Start your day with a positive attitude
It sounds trite, but a sunny outlook can go a long way towards making a gloomy day brighter! When you’re grumpy, every minor inconvenience becomes a catastrophic event. I know we can’t be all sunshine and rainbows all of the time. Things tick me off throughout the day that wear on my good mood and I often find myself feeling grouchy by the time 5PM rolls around.
Still, each day is a new chance for something great to happen.It’s all about self-fulfilling prophecies, my friends. Roll out of bed thinking “today’s going to be a great day” and there’s a much higher chance that it will be. If you roll out thinking “today is going to suck,” then it will.
3. Work out the kinks & get your blood flowing
Look, I’m not saying you have to run a mile or spend an hour working out first thing in the morning, unless that’s your thing. If, like me, it’s just not, a few simply stretches can go a long way to working out the kinks and getting your blood flowing.
I really like this video because it only takes about 5 minutes to do these stretches. If you have back pain or other health issues, ask your doctor to give you a sheet of exercises that will help kick-start your day.
4. Get something healthy into your stomach
Good news, breakfast skippers: studies have shown that skipping breakfast is not the downfall of a healthy diet the way we’ve believed for decades. Still, it’s a good idea to get something healthy into your body first thing in the morning, whether it’s a hot meal or an ice-cold smoothie.
While it may be a myth that eating breakfast boosts your metabolism, it does help you get through the morning hours without feeling like you’re going to keel over from starvation, which can go a long way to warding off stress.
5. Set a reminder to take your vitamins!
While studies have shown that taking Vitamin C cannot actually cure or prevent the cold, they have found that those who regularly take it may not suffer quite as much as those who aren’t getting enough. In an ideal world, we would get all of our vitamin C and other nutrients from a healthy diet.
Personally, I do not live in an ideal world by a long shot. Both my son and I are extremely picky eaters, so vitamins are an important part of our morning routine. The problem? We forget to take them for weeks on end! The solution: setting a reminder on our phones.
6. Get the right vitamins!
As far as which vitamins to get, less is more in my opinion, especially for kids. We have a couple of favorites. Right now, Jacob really loves his Simply Natural Kid’s Complete Multivitamin Gummy Bears. He loves the strawberry, cherry and orange flavors. I love that they’re non-GMO and made with premium ingredients. They’re also free of artificial colors, flavors, and all the top allergens. Plus, they’re vegan-friendly.
While we’re not vegan and don’t really have food allergies, like I said, less is more. Vitamins should be about what they need, not loaded with extra stuff that they don’t. While they do have a tiny bit of sugar in them to sweeten them a smidge (1 gram), it’s organic cane sugar.
While it gives kids 100+% of their DV for two essential B vitamins, it doesn’t go overboard on the others. Taking too much of one vitamin is as bad as not getting enough. Simply Natural vitamins gives kids a great nutrient boost while leaving room for them to get the rest of their daily value from their diet.
Smart habits to adopt in your daily “out and about” routine
Here’s one I never thought of before that I saw in an article on Prevention’s website: bring your own pens! Think about how many people touch that pen attached to the chain at your bank! Even grosser: how many people absent-mindedly put that pen in their mouth while filling out forms at the doctor’s office.
8. Don’t set your purse or bag down on your table
A couple of years ago, my aunt (an RN) got everyone these awesome purse hooks after reading about how many germs our purses collect throughout the day. Back in 2013, a story came out about how purses may contain more bacteria than the average toilet flush. We set our purses and bags down on some of the dirtiest surfaces: bathroom sinks, the floor, and so on. Then, we come home and set them on our table!
Instead, get everyone into the habit of either hanging up their bags or setting them down somewhere else in your house. A chair, for example, is a lot healthier than the middle of your dining room table.
9. Clean the “hot zones” regularly
I don’t believe that we need to disinfect every single surface of our house every day during cold season. In fact, an over-sterilized house can actually cause more harm than good! Rather than going nuts with cleaning products every time someone sneezes, just stick to cleaning the hot zones: areas that people either touch frequently or that tend to collect the most germs. These include things like your kitchen and bathroom faucets, your door mat, your credit card and your cell phone (get these cleaning wipes for your phone).
10. Don’t go bonkers with the hand sanitizer
Over the last decade or so, we’ve gotten a little crazy with hand sanitizer. Now, instead of preventing the spread of germs, we’ve creating super bugs! When I was in nursing school, we learned that plain old soap and plenty of friction was much more efficient for getting rid of germs than just spritzing our hands with sanitizer and rubbing them together for a second.
If you can’t give up the sanitizer, a NYT article recommends using alcohol-based hand cleaner, versus a cleaner with an antimicrobial agent. Also, if possible, use a disposable paper towel to dry your hands. Those hand dryers are NOT more sanitary, despite the claim on the front of them. In fact, my nursing instructor told us that if we HAVE to use them, it’s still more sanitary to just dry out hands on our pants!
Look, you’re not going to be able to avoid every cold and flu germ out there. At some point, you will be exposed. You’ll probably end up with at least one bug this season. It’s a fact of life. These tips can help you cut down on your risk and just maybe lessen the impact of a virus. Yes, you could still end up sick, but since they’re in the “it doesn’t hurt to try” category, well, it doesn’t hurt to try!
What do you do to help prevent colds and lessen your stress during the winter?