Winter Health

The mention of winter evokes images of sparkling snowflakes and skaters gracefully gliding across the ice. Taking a proactive approach to caring for yourself this holiday season—and throughout the year—can really make a difference in your physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. It’s easy to get out of balance when things get hectic, and things have the potential to get truly hectic during the holiday season. While the needs of the body, mind, and spirit can overlap. Holidays, stress, post-holidays, even more stress — who has time for taking care of ourselves?

But winter can also be a time of illness and injury, if people fail to take adequate health and safety precautions. More than 100 viruses can cause colds, the world’s most common illness, so few people escape being exposed to at least one of them. In the United States, most people average about three colds every year. Once it enters the body through the nose or throat, the cold virus begins to multiply, causing any of a number of symptoms: sore throat, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, aches and pains, mild fever, nasal congestion and coughing. A cold usually lasts a week or two.

While there is no vaccine to protect you from catching a cold, there are ways to lessen your chances of coming down with the illness. Keep up your natural resistance through good nutrition and getting enough sleep and exercise. Turn your thermostat down and keep the humidity up in your home. Dry air dries out the mucous membranes in your nose and throat and causes them to crack, creating a place where cold viruses can enter your body. Avoid direct contact with those who have colds and wash your hands frequently.

While you are trimming tinsel and getting that last-minute shopping done, it’s always important that you pack a high-protein snack. If you don’t have these type of snacks handy, try a handful of almonds, or a cup of low-fat yogurt with mixed fruit. Both of these options make for a delightfully healthy snack. Before you attend those holiday parties or host one for yourself, plan ahead and think about the food you will be serving. When it comes to holiday cocktails, wine or light beer is preferable, just don’t have more than one glass. If you are hosting a party of your own, following healthier holiday cocktail recipes like these can help.

Because influenza vaccine is only effective for one year and viruses vary from year to year, it is necessary to get a flu shot every year. In Illinois, the flu season usually begins in November and lasts until around the middle of April. If you plan to get a flu shot do so early since it takes about two weeks to develop full immunity. However, even a shot in January may protect against a late winter outbreak.

Whichever healthy steps you take this year — eating better and exercising. Even if you aren’t just trying to lose weight, but trying to stay healthy during the holiday season, always be aware of your surroundings. Bank a little more sleep this year. Set aside stressful differences. Stock a healthier pantry. Salt away … a little less salt. It’s your body — and your future!

Celeste Botonakis

On the Nursing Assistant Guides blog, certified medical assistant Celeste Botonakis explores the daily life of a CMA. She'll keep you up-to-date with the latest on what’s happening in the field, and provides tips for those who are interested in becoming a medical or nursing assistant. Celeste has served in the medical field for over six years, and is passionate about helping people. She currently works at CSR Primary Care in Skokie, Illinois. Click here to learn more about Celeste Botonakis and