New Year Health

Are you one of those people who thinks that form early December through mid-March you should hunker down, stay indoors, sleep more and just let the cold months pass you by? Or, are you someone who looks forward to the colder months as a time to catch up on projects, get out there to play in the snow and indulge in comfort foods you don’t eat in the heat of the year?

Whatever your preference there are a few things you can be on the lookout for in order to maintain your health.

SAFETY:

  • Wear appropriate clothing for the weather
  • Stay hydrated
  • Be sure your footwear is appropriate for whatever activity you are engaging in
  • When traveling on snow or icy roads be sure to have flares a shovel, maybe some sand or cat litter, a warm jacket, gloves, hat and fluorescent vest or bright colors that will make you easily seen if you must walk or be outside your vehicle
  • In addition to the items listed above it is also advisable to have some water, snacks, a flashlight, and a charged phone in case you get stranded. Let someone know where you are going and when you can be expected to arrive.
  • In your home be sure that woodburning stoves and fireplaces have the appropriate screening and non-flammable materials as wall shields and for the hearth. Keep a small shovel handy for dealing with ashes and empty the ash can appropriately. Do not put ashes in your plastic trash cans or outdoor refuse containers.
  • Check 511 for road conditions if you plan to travel.
  • Check weather forecasts whether at home or preparing to travel so you are not caught unaware.

I could continue with more Safety tips but will move on to another topic for now.

 

MENTAL HEALTH:

          Some folks experience fatigue, lethargy, lack of interest in doing things, and even depression during the winter months. The majority of people may feel these symptoms on a cloudy or overcast day. Usually, the symptoms dissipate within a few days and don’t return.

There are people however who experience this on an annual basis and recover once the weather warms and the trees start to bud out. If that is the case the person may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD).  I’d like to focus on that for a while  since it is most prevalent in certain northern areas of the United States and Canada  during the winter months.  Once again, the symptoms include extreme fatigue, lethargy, lack of interest in doing normal activities, wanting to “hibernate” or avoid socializing, and may also include headaches, and body aches. The most telling symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder is that it returns every year when the cold and gray clouds set in and hangs around until the sunshine and warm weather return.

Here are some tips to help you get through Seasonal Affective Disorder  without overwhelming you in the process.

:

  • Add some physical activity to your day. Start an exercise routine, bundle up and take a walk, get out in nature for a few minutes ( or hours) each day), put on some motivating music and dance through your housecleaning routine, watch YouTube nature videos and walk through the forest or on the beach as they play. The activity doesn’t have to be engaged in for hours, but even short periods of movement can increase your mood.
  • Make sure you are well hydrated all day. Drink lukewarm water or herbal tea with lemon and honey to boost your immune system
  • Organize your photos for some happy memories and share with family and friends
  • Be sure to eat healthy meals regularly and get your greens. Eat the color spectrum for the full benefit of what food can do for your health
  • Reach out to family, friends or a lonely neighbor
  • Catch up on your reading, email, letter writing, phone calls
  • The National Institute of Health has several suggestions as well if your case is moderately severe:
  • Mild Antidepressant therapy is sometimes recommended by your health care provider
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an alternative approach and can be done in person with a trained counselor or accessed via You Tube or online programs
  • Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is another alternative approach that has been known to assist people in becoming more aware of the stressor they experience and how to overcome them. There are books, You Tube videos and online classes for this as well. Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the best-known leaders in this field.
  • Light therapy may be something to discuss with your healthcare provider and has shown some benefit for individuals dealing with
  • Spending time in the outdoors for a few minutes on sunny days has also been shown to be of benefit. This is thought to be because of the benefit of Vitamin D which is absorbed from sunlight into our skin, but is much decreased in the winter months due to the position of the sun in the northern hemisphere during winter months.
  • Vitamin D supplementation has also been known to benefit individuals suffering from

Please note that items 2-6 above are not scientifically proven but have shown benefit at times for certain individuals. Speak with your health care provider before engaging in anything listed above.

FINAL NOTE:

If any of the listed symptoms develop beyond moderate severity or if you, or anyone you know, are displaying signs of severe depression or suicidal ideation please get (them) help right away. They are Crisis Hotlines listed in every phone book or through a GOOGLE search in your area. The Veteran’s Administration has a wonderful program. Your health care provider or Emergency Room can also put you in touch with Crisis Interventions.

Thank you for reading through this first newsletter. I welcome your comments and suggestions. There is a separate attachment in this email with a tip sheet on Healthy Snacking provided by the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists