Protecting yourself against COVID-19 this winter

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Health Assured team

29 September 2021

As the temperature creeps down and the rainy days draw closer, our predisposition to coughs, colds and flu-like symptoms increases. The dark months of winter can be difficult. Days are shorter, nights are longer.  People who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (a type of seasonal depression) know this all too well. Motivation takes a hit and mental and physical health conditions can decline.

There’s also an extra worry this year. As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, it’s hard to know what the winter holds. This uncertainty can add weight to this already taxing time of year.

That said, you do still have the power to make your physical—and mental health—a priority. You can reduce your chances of illness (including COVID-19) and boost your mental health in the process. Here are our top tips for protecting yourself against COVID-19 this winter.

Physical health

We tend to take our physical health for granted when everything is running smoothly. It’s only when we don’t feel too well that we take a closer look at what the body needs. But these needs are always there. And they aren't ignored. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Smoking: Stoptober is coming up, making it the perfect time to kick the smoking habit. Smoking can have a range of adverse health issues. It can weaken the lungs and make it hard to breathe. Stopping smoking will also protect you from any potential side effects of COVID-19.
  • Exercise: can reduce the risk of major illnesses like heart disease, cancer, depression, dementia, and type 2 diabetes¹. Getting the blood pumping and the body moving is all it takes.
  • Diet: our bodies need nutrients, vitamins and minerals to function properly. If we aren’t getting enough vitamin A, B, C, E, zinc or iron, issues can arise². Food is the primary method for us to receive these nutrients. That’s why we must eat a balanced, well-rounded and nutritious diet.

Prioritise personal hygiene

Protect yourself against COVID-19 and other viruses by keeping tabs on your hygiene. The habit of carrying hand sanitiser might not be one to ditch after all. When you touch contaminated surfaces, you put yourself at risk of becoming infected. That’s why the handwashing message has hit so strongly throughout the pandemic. It's one of your first lines of defence against any unwanted illnesses.

Consider wearing a face covering

Viruses like COVID-19 spread when someone who has the illness breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes³. If you find yourself in a crowded space, a face covering will protect you from breathing in or releasing any harmful infections. Carrying one spare in case of emergency is a good way to prepare for any unexpected crowds.

Take care of your mental health

Having a mental health condition can make you vulnerable to the effects of cold weather⁴. The uncertainty of the pandemic could pose an extra risk too. So it's wise to take a preventative approach to mental health. Nurture your mental health with these self-care tips:

Meditation: practising meditation or mindfulness can help you to regain power lost to negative states. It can move your attention into the now and help you relax amidst intense emotion.

Talk to others: they say a problem shared is a problem halved. Sharing thoughts and feelings with others can often offer new perspectives on old problems. It can also boost your mood and increase connection in the process.

Routine: sticking to a regular daily routine can help you keep your mental health in good shape. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Have your morning cuppa. Go outside for some fresh air at lunchtime. These little rituals will help you to find stability when times are tough.

Take it easy

It’s easy to forget the trials and tribulations that the pandemic brought to our world since the first lockdown over 18 months ago. But the unforgiving implications have taken their toll on everyone. Take time to acknowledge your feelings and reach out for help if you think you need it. You aren’t alone.

 

References

¹ NHS. 2021. [online] <https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/> [Accessed 29 September 2021].

² Nhsinform.scot. 2020. Health benefits of eating well. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/food-and-nutrition/eating-well/health-benefits-of-eating-well> [Accessed 29 September 2021].

³ NHS. 2021. How to avoid catching and spreading coronavirus (COVID-19). [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/how-to-avoid-catching-and-spreading-coronavirus-covid-19/> [Accessed 29 September 2021].

⁴ NHS. 2019. How to stay well in winter. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/keep-warm-keep-well/> [Accessed 29 September 2021].

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