BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE….
but that’s no excuse to let your body or your health go down the drain. Statistics show that, on average, once the temperature dips below 50 degrees, we Americans tend to stay home more, eat more, even watch TV more. In fact, according to the latest Nielsen Report, TV usage is much higher in the winter, when 290 million viewers in the U.S. spend a whopping average of 141 hours in front of the tube.
You don’t need a doctor to tell you that this is not health-wise. Your skin, your immune system, just about everything can take a beating in these chilly weeks, so this time around, why not resist the urge to surrender. Instead, put your boxing gloves on and fight back. At the very least, you’ll get your exercise in!
Burn, Baby, Burn
The winter is no time to be lackadaisical. Nonetheless, when it turns cold outside many of us lose our ambition to get outdoors for a run or a bike ride or to just take a brisk walk around the block. The key? Just get into something you can really stick with long-term and through the seasonal changes. Adding an indoor activity to your regimen, getting a friend to buddy up with you, even updating your iPod play list with exercise-friendly beats will keep it fun and help you stay on track.
Did you know that gargling with warm water and salt can help ward off a sore throat?
The ions released can help kill off germs and viruses.
No offense-Just defense!
One of the best natural germ killers is garlic. Relax! Swallowing it whole helps quell the smell.
Colds: The Viral Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
In the U.S., most of us average about three colds a year. This common virus causes everything from a sore throat and runny nose to aches and pains, fever, sneezing, and coughing. Trust the tried and true old school adage: the best way to treat a cold is to get as much bed rest as possible and drink plenty of fluids. Same goes for the flu, with more severe symptoms than those of a cold that usually develop suddenly, about three days after you’ve been exposed to the virus. Again, bed rest, an over-the-counter pain reliever, and staying hydrated are the golden standards. Vaccines, while not always effective in preventing the flu, do reduce the severity of the symptoms and protect against potential complications.
Taking the Hype Out of Hypothermia
A drop in body temperature to 95 degrees or less can be dangerous, if not detected promptly and treated. According to the Department of Public Health, about 700 deaths occur in the U.S. each year from hypothermia. When the body temperature drops, the blood vessels near the skin’s surface narrow to reduce heat loss, while muscles begin to tighten in a ditch attempt to make heat. What to look for? Signs of hypothermia include forgetfulness, drowsiness, slurred speech, a slow heartbeat, and shallow breathing.
Frostbite the Snowman
The parts of the body most affected by frostbite are exposed areas of the face, the ears, wrists, hands, and feet. Frostbitten skin is whitish and stiff and feels numb rather than painful. When spending time outdoors during cold weather, be alert for these signs and, if you notice any, take immediate action: Warm the affected part of the body gradually by wrapping the area in blankets, sweaters, coats, even a big human hug ala body heat! Seek medical attention.
Singing the Winter Blues
Winter. It’s a happy time of year for some but, for others, not so much. The days get shorter and the next thing you know, the winter blues have set in. You don’t have to let the season ruin your mood. According to the National Organization for Seasonal Affective Disorder (NOSAD), SAD is a type of winter depression that affects millions of people each year. If you think that you may suffer from this, try to get out in the daylight sun as much as possible. If this is not an option, consider light-box therapy. Finally, resist the temptation to hibernate. At first, it may not seem like a big deal, but it can become isolating in no time and contribute to depression.
Don’t forget to laugh
Laughter is one of nature’s chief stress relievers. Read the comics, watch your favorite comedy show, swap a with friends—all good
strategies for not taking the winter or life in general too seriously.
Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever!
1. Less Couch Potato, More Sweet Potato
Eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Hearty homemade vegetable soups are great for cold days. This not only provides vitamins that aid the immune system, but these foods are also rich in anti-oxidants. Some foods even provide heat to the body! Root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes and hearty winter greens like kale and cabbage tend to keep you warm. Certain spices such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, cumin, coriander, fennel, anise seed, mustard seeds, and peppercorn can do the same.
2. Taking Stock Out of the Crockpot
Your slow cooker can double as a punch bowl! Make soothing hot winter drinks and sip away by the fire. Try concocting the SugarPlum Kiss. Combine 4 cups of peach nectar, 2 cups of prune juice, 2 ½ cups of sweet white wine, ¼ cup of brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and cardamom pods to taste. Cook on low for 3 hours and serve in sugar rimmed glasses. Yum.
3. “Jewish Penicillin,” The Quintessential Cure-All
Researchers at the University of Nebraska found that homemade chicken soup really does make sick people feel better. How so? It reduces congestion and inflammation by limiting movement of white blood cells that produce infection-related mucus. The result: fewer sniffles. Now, go have some.
4. Pre-Holiday Detox
Forget your early morning cup of Joe. Instead, try warm water with fresh lemon. It helps to stimulate digestion and balance out the body. Cut out dairy products for a week; dairy is mucus-forming and can be difficult to digest. Feeling ambitious? Why not make a detox broth? Just simmer green vegetables and potatoes for a couple of hours, strain the liquid and drink!
5. Don’t Throw Away the Ginger with the Bath Water
There’s nothing like a hot bath in the winter to warm you up…especially if you suffer from poor circulation. Ginger and cayenne have been used for centuries to boost circulation, so dice some up and throw it in.
6. Immune Boosting Foods
Echinacea will help you combat and recover from colds and flu. Zinc is supposed to be good for the immune system and it’s as simple as throwing sunflower and pumpkin seeds into salads. Probiotics balance something called microflora in your gut, so eat yogurt with the words ‘bio-live’ on it or something similar. This helps to promote a healthy immune response to infection.
The Perfect Fire for The Perfect Storm!
Whether it’s at a wintry wilderness campsite or your living room hearth, there’s nothing like a crackling fire to warm the soul. You want a fire that’s easy to build, quick to take and long-lasting. Here’s a handy refresher on starting a dependable flame. The only materials needed for fire are tinder, kindling and fuel.
Start with newspaper topped by kindling. The amount of paper depends on the dryness of the kindling on hand. The drier the kindling, the less paper needed.
Pin the paper down with a dozen or so pieces of kindling. Ideally, kindling should be placed on and behind the newspaper so that the air reaches it quickly where it’s lit.
When the flames from the kindling begin to subside, add several larger pieces of firewood in a teepee formation, which doesn’t smother the flames.
Lub a Dub Dub—Being Heart Smart
What does sipping hot chocolate, snuggling under blankets, and heart attacks have in common? They are all more common during the cold winter months.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1,200 Americans die annually from a heart attack after a big snowstorm, and shoveling is often the trigger.
The following are some tips for safe snow removal:
Don’t try to lift too much snow at one time.
Dress appropriately and remember to wear a scarf to protect your face and neck. Breathing in freezing air can force your heart to exert all the more, thus stressing your cardio system out unnecessarily.
Just walking through heavy, wet snow can strain your heart by forcing you into a highly intensive cardio workout mode without the benefit of a warm up period. Be sure to pace yourself.
Ear Muff Headphones
Get yourself a headset that combines layers of all-weather protection with a pair of mini-speakers, allowing you to enjoy your iPod without exposing your ears to the cold. (Hammacher Schlemmer makes a good one!)
Creams & Potions, Perfumes & Lotions
Our skin inevitably suffers from the harsh weather. With low humidity and cold winds outside but high heat indoors, sometimes it seems like no amount of water can replenish our systems. Colder temperatures, stronger winds and cranked-up indoor heating all lead to increased water loss and chapped, flaky skin.
With so many items out there offering to cure distressed skin and hair, you have your pick and choice. You should constantly be moisturizing your body head to toe, but keep in mind that there are specific creams for specific parts of your body. P.S.: Don’t forget your lips. Too much sun exposure can lead to dry, cracked lips. Accordingly, the balm should be SPF 15 or higher.
1. Keep your face protected by using heavier moisturizers, especially if you have dry skin. Don’t neglect the rest of your skin and use body washes instead of harsh soaps. Use lukewarm water and keep hot water off your face and body –
apply moisturizer after showering, while you skin is still damp so that the residual shower water can remain saturated into your skin.
2. During the winter, the UV rays reflecting off the snow have an added ability to damage delicate skin so remember to wear a SPF of 15 or more. UV rays can harm your eyes as well, so keep them protected with sunglasses. Choose a pair that protects you from 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB light; look for those labeled “UV 400.”
3. Winter is the hardest time of year to keep nails in good shape. To avoid brittle nails, moisturize your cuticles before going to bed. (Olive oil works wonders!)
One trick to reduce flakiness: Use only a dime-size dollop of cleanser to avoid over-stripping your skin of vital moisture, suggests Dr. Neal Schultz, host of dermtv.com. Damage already done? He recommends treating chapped skin with a product geared toward restoring your skin’s pH balance. For example, certain botanicals benefit specific complexions for ideal lipid-to-moisture balance, so get to know your skin type. As a rule, normal skin does not feel dry or oily to the touch, dry skin tends to have a papery thin texture and sensitive skin is easily irritated.
Examine your own skin and find your compatible cleanser from there.
Most products will specify their claim to fame ingredients on their packages so read carefully and be mindful of your own skin care challenges.
Finally… looking forward to spring can help you bear a tough winter.
Plan a new you, new goals, and some enjoyable activities ready to go at the first sign of a thaw. As the author Albert Camus once said:
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”