5 Ways to Stay Well This Winter
If the sniffles sneak up on you during cold and flu season, rest assured that you can promote your body’s own healing powers with a few natural and simple strategies. From taking time out so that your body can rest and recuperate to supporting the healing process in the comfort of your own home, there’s a wealth of natural options you can use to help you to feel better.
1. Get sleep
Like eating or breathing, getting a good night’s sleep is fundamental toward supporting a healthy immune system. The majority of the body’s healing happens while we sleep. Tissues are repaired, new cells are created, and the body takes some needed time out from walking, talking, and digesting so that it can turn its focus inward and replenish energy stores.
Learn more about the importance of sleep and how to sleep peacefully with our Guide to Better Sleep.
2. Avoid stress
Stress bears a curious relationship to illness. People who are ill are more likely to suffer from depression and people with depression or chronic stress are more susceptible to getting sick. Understanding this relationship can go a long way toward avoiding infection during cold and flu season.
For many people the holiday season in particular is a time of increased stress. Travel, changes in routine, and even celebrating with in-laws can lead to elevated stress levels. An easy way to assess your stress level is to take a moment to tune into your body and take inventory:
- How do you rank in the moment? On a level of 1 to 10, where 1 is feeling totally carefree and 10 is feeling paralyzed by stress, rank your current stress level.
- Do the muscles between your shoulders and neck feel tight? Take a moment to release these muscles by rolling your shoulders forward and back and rocking your head from side to side (ear to shoulder).
- Are you breathing shallowly? Taking deep, slow breaths (five seconds in, five seconds out) can help to increase feelings of calm and relaxation.
3. Stay hydrated
Most of us do not consume the recommended 64 ounces of water each day and this means we are chronically dehydrated. This becomes a problem during cold and flu season because the tissue of our nasal passages and lungs are lined with fine hairs that constantly pulse upward towards our mouth and nose, pushing out bacteria and viruses that may enter through breathing. When you’re dehydrated, these tissues and hairs can’t function as well—and you run the risk of these bugs taking residence in your respiratory tract instead of being flushed out of your system.
Besides drinking more water when you’re feeling ill, you might want to also drink more herbal tea. From chamomile to mint, herbal teas possess a range of beneficial compounds that can help relieve congestion, soothe the stomach, and help you sleep better.
4. Eat healthfully
Regardless of whether you’re a vegetarian, omnivore, or flexitarian, avoiding animal products while feeling sick can help support your body as it fights off infection. Animal protein is especially challenging for your body to break down and the digestive process requires a lot of energy. Vegetarian protein sources such as tofu, beans, and nuts are easier on your body and still supply the protein it needs to make immune cells.
In addition to avoiding meat, many health practitioners also suggest avoiding dairy when you’re sick as it may increase congestion. For many of us one of the most annoying aspects of a cold or flu is a runny, drippy nose. Avoiding cheese and milk—along with the resulting congestion—may be one way to minimize this symptom a bit as your body works to overcome the infection.
5. Take a bath
There’s nothing like a warm soothing bath to ease the aches and pains of a cold or flu. However, a bath provides more benefits than just relaxation. Known as a hyperthermia treatment, warm water baths are used by naturopathic physicians to artificially induce a slight fever that can make your immune cells work faster and more efficiently, putting the body’s systems into overdrive. In addition to this, many bacteria and viruses are highly sensitive to changes in temperature. A change of just one degree may be enough to kill off the infection. See more about how to Take a Bath to Feel Better.
From sleep to nutrition and the mind-body connection, the trick to keeping colds and flu at bay is to implement some simple yet powerful practices into your daily lifestyle. If you do get sick this season, don’t despair, just re-focus on behaviors that support your body and mind and give your system the support it needs to heal quickly and return to health.