The holidays are over, you’ve made it through what feels like the longest month of the year, and somehow February is already upon us. Typically, this is the month that people will let their healthy habits and resolutions slide a bit and fall into routines they don’t really want to be in. Now more than ever, it is so important to refocus and take control of your physical and mental health. Here are a few ways to invest in your health this winter.
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This can be a hard one, especially if you live in a place that’s so cold you don’t even want to leave your house for groceries (thank you, grocery delivery services, for helping us through that dreaded task). When it’s cold and gray outside during these winter months, the last thing you want to do is get out of your comfortable lounging clothes and hop into a workout. That being said, have you ever finished a workout and thought, “I wish I didn’t do that”? Probably not!
Setting aside time to move your body, even if it’s just 30 minutes, can make a big impact. Whether you’re looking for a quick stretch, a yoga flow, or a 10-minute pilates routine, everything is available at your fingertips after a quick search! You can even join live fitness classes via streaming if you’re missing the “in-person” feel of going to the gym or a studio. There’s also nothing like paying for an app to hold you accountable!
Don’t skip your doctor’s appointments
Have you ever left a doctor’s appointment and they had you schedule your next yearly checkup, as if you know what your life is going to look like in a year? Chances are high that when you check your calendar and see an appointment you scheduled months ago, or get a call reminding you of the appointment you knew nothing about, you’re going to cancel it. It’s okay to admit it, we’ve all been there. During the summer when you’re bringing your kids to and from camps or their friends’ houses, the last thing you want to add to your never ending list of things to do is your yearly checkup—especially when you feel fine.
I’m sure many people are weary of going into doctor’s offices right now, but the slow winter months are actually a great time to schedule all of those appointments you’ve been neglecting. Even if it feels like you are as healthy as can be with no life threatening problems, checking in with your primary care physician at least once a year is imperative. While you’re at it, you can book other appointments that will help you kick off the year on a high note—like looking into a therapist to keep your mental health in check or checking your eyeglasses prescription to ensure you’re seeing clearly..
Eye and vision problems have a tendency to get overlooked (no pun intended). Changes to your eyes can happen ever so slowly, until you realize your vision isn’t as sharp as it was before. If you’re worried about going into an office during such trying times but interested in checking your eyes or updating your current eyewear, an online prescription check is a good place to start. Not only will you be able to check your vision from the comfort of your own home, you can order glasses and contacts in the same place. If this vision check indicates that you need a more comprehensive eye exam, plan ahead to schedule an appointment with an opthamologist when you feel comfortable. Eye problems tend to become more prevalent as you get older, but taking proper care of your vision health while you’re young can make an impact in the long run, and there’s no better time to start than now.
Get enough vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium and bone growth. If there isn’t enough vitamin D circulating through the bloodstream, the body cannot properly absorb the amount of calcium it needs. A vitamin D deficiency isn’t something you likely worry about too much in the summer months considering we’re able to be outside more where the sunlight triggers vitamin D production. Being in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s now more important than ever to make sure our bodies can absorb calcium and build immunity.
I touched on this in a recent post, but I am a firm believer that food is medicine. One way to combat the lack of sunlight during winter months is to include foods in your diet that are high in vitamin D such as fatty fish, seafood, mushrooms or egg yolk. Research suggests the recommended daily value is 800 IU, however without daily sunlight, your intake should be closer to 1000 IU. To put that into perspective, a serving of salmon, which is considered a fatty fish, contains 526 IU of vitamin D. It’s not easy to get enough vitamin D soley through the food you eat, but it does make a difference during gloomy winters when the sun can’t find its way through the clouds!
Prioritize your mental health
Not only does sunlight have an affect on the production of vitamin D in our bodies, it also has a massive impact on our mental health. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is related to changes in seasons, most often during the winter months. SAD can lead to feelings of depression, lack of motivation, low energy, troubles with sleeping, and many other related symptoms. SAD is nothing to be ashamed of, and if you think you may be experiencing it, you are not alone. After I talked about my experience on Facebook, I received hundreds of messages from people going through similar struggles.
Taking steps to overcome the winter blues is an essential habit to include in your daily routine. Maybe that means starting off the day listing things you’re grateful for, meditating before you go to bed at night, or maybe investing in a UV lamp that will help boost your mood and overall energy. Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood or sleep, easing SAD symptoms. To be effective, light must enter your eyes indirectly, so simply placing the light near you while you’re eating breakfast for getting work done will be sufficient. With a little time and consistency, you may notice your mood begin to change! Whichever method you choose, you should never let your mental health take the back burner, especially during the winter when our bodies are prone to those sluggish and unmotivated feelings.
Simply put, although winter poses certain health challenges, it also provides us the time to take special considerations and prioritize our well-being during these cold months.
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