Winter Wellness Tips & Tidbits
By Natalie Decker
The change of season from fall to winter prompts us to make modifications to our lifestyle that affect us both professionally and personally. These tips and tidbits will help you stay safe, keep strong, and seize your day.
We can’t change the weather, but we can certainly help prepare ourselves for the unexpected by stocking basic items in our vehicles. These include a telescopic snow shovel, a flashlight, a blanket, extra hats and mitts, a bag of sand or kitty litter to use for tire traction, granola bars, a can of nuts or dried fruit, and bottles of water. Always inform someone of your destination and expected arrival time, and turn on headlights for highway driving, even during daylight.
Home emergency kit
When stormy weather results in power outages, it is important to have enough essentials to last for a 72-hour period. Stock the following items—two litres of water per person, canned foods, a manual can opener, a wind-up or battery-operated radio and flashlight, plus extra batteries. Place battery-operated LED candles about rooms, with LED string battery lights on hallway floors and wrapped around stairway railings. Ensure there is a first aid kit, ample prescription medications, and basic over-the-counter meds like anti-nauseants and anti-inflammatories. It’s also a great idea to invest in a power block for charging electronics you may need for work, for entertainment, and or for staying connected with others. Don’t forget extra pet supplies for your furry family.
If you are a business owner responsible for an office building, you already know that adequate lighting with snow- and ice-free exterior areas are routine musts. Inside entryways, any mats you place should be non-slip, absorbent, and long enough to allow a person to take four to six steps before they walk off the mat.
Being active strengthens and tones our muscles, increases our cardiovascular health, and helps joints stay mobile. The ideal goal is 150 minutes of purposeful movement per week. Partake in fun and invigorating outdoor winter activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country or downhill skiing, and skating. When it is icy underfoot, walking like a penguin with your feet at 10 and 2, your arms out to your sides for balance, and taking small steps or shuffling can keep you upright. If it is dark, wear reflective markings. The cold air makes us feel chilled because it narrows our blood vessels, pulling them away from our skin. This vasoconstriction can increase the risk of a heart attack; therefore, it is key to dress warmly, in appropriate layers, when you’re venturing outside. The inner layer should be a moisture-wicking material, not cotton; the middle layer can be fleece or wool; and the outer layer should be wind- and water-resistant. Mitts keep hands toastier than gloves. Approximately 40 percent of body heat is lost through your head, so put up a hood or wear a toque. Be aware of signs of hypothermia, which include shivering, decreased hand coordination, drowsiness, and confusion. If you suspect frostbite—signs include visibly white fingers and toes that are painful or feel numb—gradually warm hands and feet; do not immerse them in hot water.
If you prefer to work out indoors, head to a gym, go bowling, swimming, or try something newer, like pickleball. You have exercise options at home too, using a yoga mat, with stretch bands and hand weights, or following online virtual exercise classes. Pick something that genuinely interests you and you actually enjoy doing. Getting started is often the hardest part, but push yourself and the endorphins your body releases during exercise will give you a natural high: you’ll feel more energized afterward than when you started.
Wearing sunglasses and slapping on sunscreen are typically associated with summer. But snow reflects 80 percent of the sun, almost doubling the exposure, first directly from the rays, then secondly from the reflection. Therefore, eye protection is important year-round to prevent macular degeneration, a form of vision loss that doesn’t become apparent until later years, when the damage is already done and irreversible. Although less skin is exposed in winter, wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more plus an SPF lip balm is still necessary.
As the number of daylight hours goes down, so can our mood. The sun increases our levels of serotonin, our “happy chemical,” which transports messages from our brain to our body about breathing, blood flow, sleep, and digestion. With fewer daylight hours, your body may feel out of sorts. For sleep, a great tip is to avoid using electronic devices such as iPads and cellphones for two hours before going to bed, as they emit a blue light that blocks the hormone melatonin, which makes you drowsy. Some individuals may be more affected than others and experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly known as SAD. Reach out for supports and don’t hesitate to consult with a health-care provider if necessary.
Since the pandemic, handwashing has become second nature in our day-to-day activities. However, now with fewer people wearing masks and everyone spending more time indoors, we can expect more individuals to experience symptoms, whether from COVID-19, influenza, or a cold. Getting a flu shot is important, not just for your protection but also to prevent transmission to others around you who may not do as well as you if they get sick. The same applies to maximizing your immunity against COVID-19 by availing yourself of booster vaccines. Good nutrition is also paramount, and foods like garlic, kiwi, berries, oranges, spinach, and avocados can assist your bug-fighting system. Although access to fresh fruits and vegetables may be decreased, canned and frozen versions can be equally good for providing those needed antioxidants that protect body cells.
Incorporating these tips and tidbits will set you up to embrace the seasonal changes and enthusiastically say, Hello Winter!
Natalie is a subject matter expert on occupational health and wellness and the owner of Decker Consulting-Occupational Health, Safety & Wellness. She holds a nationally recognized OHS designation as a certified occupational health nurse (COHN), as well as an OHS certification from the College of the North Atlantic. She also has a master’s in employment relations (MER) from Memorial University of Newfoundland.
With 27 years of diverse experience and expertise, Natalie provides a comprehensive list of services, including risk mitigation, health promotion, mental health first aid training, medical surveillance, injury and illness management, bio-screening clinics, ergonomics, and disability management.