The weather has turned cool (or cold if you live in the southern states), and the skies have changed from blissful blue to a gloomy grey.
Days are short and deadlines are shorter. Yet around the country, work-at-home freelancers are smugly rejoicing that they can work in their pyjamas and slippers, while their employed counterparts dodge the winter showers, along with colleagues who insist on coming to work when they’re sick.
It’s a long winter
While the prospect of hibernating at your desk with the heater cranked up and an unlimited supply of hot chocolate sounds wonderful, many people who work at home find themselves falling in a heap half-way through the winter season.
Despite working alone in their office, they still fall victim to the common cold, or even the flu. Their energy levels are zapped, and they begin to feel a little down in the dumps. Motivation wanes, and they take to their beds, or the couch and binge-watch Netflix, while eating chocolate and donuts for the remainder of the season, desperately wishing for the warmer weather to come around again. The trouble is, when Spring finally arrives they discover they’ve put on a few kilos, and the need to hide indoors is even stronger than it was before.
You can stay happy and well this winter
If this sounds familiar, rest assured this doesn’t have to be the norm. As a health writer, I’ve come across lots of tips, tricks and scientific research that you can put into practice, to make this winter season your healthiest and most productive yet.
Get vaccinated — Obviously, this is a personal choice, but getting vaccinated against the seasonal flu and making sure your Covid booster is up-to-date will help protect you from some nasty illness. Chat to your doctor or pharmacist to check if vaccination is recommended for you.
Eat well — What we put into our bodies has a profound effect on how well they perform. Eating well not only keeps the excess winter kilos at bay (yay!), but can improve your immune system, help your brain function, improve your mood, and increase your energy levels. So, save the chocolate for an occasional treat, and instead focus on eating lots of fresh fruit and veggies, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, and lean protein. (And no, crisps don’t count as a vegetable!)
Exercise — Sorry to say but walking from the couch to the pantry to grab that packet of Tim Tams doesn’t count as exercise. But you don’t have to go all ‘boot-camp’ either. Research has shown that walking for as little as 20-30 minutes each day can prevent depression in all age groups, meaning you’re less likely to fall victim to the miseries of winter. Exercise also boosts productivity and creativity, which is great for your business. It will also help you avoid putting on the usual 2-5kg that most Australians gain over winter. WIN!
Get some fresh air — Yes, you may need to grab a beanie, coat and scarf, but heading outdoors will do wonders for your health. Not only will it clear the cobwebs and get the blood moving (thereby helping you stay warm!), research shows that it significantly reduces the risk of feeling down during the colder months. You may have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and wondered if it’s a thing. It is. It’s a biological condition where your body produces depression-like symptoms as a result of decreased exposure to sunlight and low levels of vitamin D. Spending just a short amount of time outside even on cloudy days can improve your mood, so grab your coat, and go!
Watch your drinks — This doesn’t mean counting them. It means limiting the number of sugary drinks (including hot chocolate), and even caffeinated ones. Indoor heating can leave you terribly dehydrated, resulting in headaches, dry skin and poor performance, so drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. You can still enjoy moderate amounts of coffee, but you may want to consider switching to green tea, as research has shown that flavonoids (found in green tea) can significantly reduce your risk of a cold. Thankfully, flavonoids are also present in red wine, so you can still enjoy that by the fire (in moderation) without the guilt. Phew!
Stay connected — It might be tempting to hide under the covers during the winter months, or sit behind your keyboard meeting deadlines, but making an effort to stay connected with others will improve your physical and mental well-being. Feeling lonely and disconnected can disrupt your sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase stress levels, suppress your immune system and increase your risk of depression. So change out of your pyjamas, brush your hair and catch up with a buddy. Even if you leave the house to work, just sitting in a café with other people can help you feel that you’re not alone.
Add a touch of summer — Personally, I love winter. But even I have days when I find it all just dreary and miserable. One of my favourite things to do is to add a pop of colour on my desk by buying the brightest most colourful flowers I can find. I also cook some of my favourite summery meals, listen to music that makes me feel happy, or diffuse uplifting oils.
Love it or hate it, there’s nothing much you can do about the arrival of the cold weather. However, it’s up to you whether you emerge from your winter hibernation as a grumpy old grizzly bear, or a happy little hedgehog.
If you have any winter wellness tips of your own, please let me know.
Cheers to a healthy winter