When heaters go on, sniffles come out. Everyone's reaching for tissues and calling in sick, and as much as we all love an excuse to stay in bed and watch TV, being sick is no fun. Luckily, there are some easy routines that can help slash your risk that most people just aren't doing well. Use these tips on sleep, stress, nutrition, and activity to save your sick days...for playing hooky. (Shh, we won't tell.)
1. Eat warm foods.
Let me guess: When you want to eat healthy, you make a salad. Yes, salads can be incredibly nutritious, but they’re not necessarily the best meal during cold season. During winter, focus instead on warm foods. Roasted root vegetables, hearty soup, and a hot rice dish feed the body in a way that chopped romaine just doesn’t when it’s cold. On a more biological level, the heat in soup or tea helps produce mucus, which—despite its ick factor—actually helps the body rid itself of pathogens. Cue the runny nose. So not only are you keeping warm when it’s frosty out, you’re also aiding your body in its healing process. Vegetable pot pie, anyone?
2. Skip milk in your tea or coffee.
Dairy tends to divide the nutrition community into two camps: unnecessary animal product, or protein powerhouse. Regardless of your views, it’s wise to omit dairy when you’re feeling cold symptoms because it can thicken that aforementioned mucus. That means more snot (again, sorry about the ick factor) and a sore throat instead of actually clearing your sinuses. Try oatmeal instead of yogurt for breakfast, kombucha instead of kefir for a refreshment, and hot tea or water instead of milk with dessert.
3. Get outside.
The couch is at its all-time most tempting when the thermometer drops, but unfortunately, now is not the time to hibernate. Even if you have a cold, give your body the gift of fresh air and low-impact physical activity. Staying indoors is cozy, but fast-forward three days and you’re just breathing recycled air in your wrinkled pajamas that are in serious need of a wash. Take a hot shower (trust me, it’ll give you life—and clear those gosh-darned nasal passageways), bundle up in layers, and walk around the neighborhood.
4. Go easy on the heater.
Logic should have it that to fight a cold, you have to keep warm. Although that is sound advice, it doesn’t mean you need to crank the heater up and keep it running until April. The concentrated air of the heater can blow out dust from air vents and keep circulating indoor air around—not exactly health-boosting. Incorporate simple and natural ways to stay warm throughout winter and leave the heater as a lower priority.
5. Actually get those eight hours—or more.
Considering how hard it is to get out of bed in the morning, you’d think it would be incredibly easy to get in to bed at night. We should be looking forward to it all day, right? And yet, it happens all too often that we’re distracted by TV, or Instagram, or (ideally) a really good book, and don’t shut off the light until well past our bedtime. Sleep is absolutely crucial to staying strong during cold season, so make it non-negotiable. The universe is working in your favor, with the sun setting earlier, so embrace it.
6. De-stress your shopping list.
The holidays have a few characteristic qualities, like peppermint mochas, low temperatures, and really long shopping lists. Why is it that we have to buy so many dang presents every year? Family members, significant others, coworkers, gag gift exchanges…(Deep breath.) Take a moment, then, to think about all those names on your list. How lucky are you that you have so many people in your life? And what a nice opportunity to show someone that you care. Think of your (albeit never-ending) shopping list as a gratitude journal in disguise. Instead of stressing over your credit card statement, or insisting on going to a different store for every person, think about this month of celebrating relationships and act accordingly. Stress can have adverse effects on your well-being, so by crushing negative energy and boosting up the love factor, you’re setting the foundation for wellness.
7. Expand beyond vitamin C.
Raise your hand if your first move after a sniffle is to bust out the Emergen-C or Airborne. We need vitamin C, so why not drink 10,000% of our recommended daily value at a time, right? Well, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so whatever your body doesn’t need will just be excreted. Focus on amping up your intake of all vitamins and minerals, like iron, magnesium, and vitamin D. Technically, that’s what we should be doing every day, but it’s especially impactful when the world becomes the germfest of cold season. Try eggs (with the yolks), lentils, brown rice, rainbow chard, and nutritional yeast.
Now, take your fully loaded arsenal of health and embrace the season!