Rob Buckingham's Blog

Beating Flus and Winter Blues

Welcome to winter! It’s a wonderful season in many ways but one of the downsides is the increase of sickness and sadness. SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder and is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons, especially when it’s cold and there’s less sunshine. So how do we beat flus and winter blues? Read on for some practical tips.

Recent studies show that the number one way to prevent getting the flu is by having an annual flu vaccine, which reduces the risk of flu illness by about 50-60%. Last year was the first year I didn’t get a flu jab (ironically because my doctor was sick on the day I was booked in to get one) and I ended up getting the worst flu and being off work for 2 weeks (and feeling pretty average for about 6 weeks). Needless to say this year we had a family outing to the doctor and we all got jabbed J. You can’t catch the flu from the vaccine – that’s just a myth. You’ll also need to avoid contact with people who have the flu, wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face (some viruses can live on surfaces for hours. Regular hand washing is your best strategy to keep them from getting inside your body).

Other ways to beat flus and winter blues include healthy eating and exercise. Plant foods (especially those high in vitamin C like broccoli, kiwi and citrus fruits) contain natural disease fighting compounds that can improve your immune system, so eat lots of vegetables and fruits as well as healthy fats and lean protein, dairy, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Include ginger, garlic, olive leaf extract and green tea in your diet. Don’t “starve a fever”. Make sure you drink plenty of fresh water too. Regular, sensible exercise will stimulate the fighting T cells into doing their job – attacking foreign invaders like germs and viruses. Spending time outside during the day is very important in beating the winter blues (SAD) because of the benefits of sunlight. Taking a vitamin D supplement is important too – and other supplements in addition to a healthy diet. Also get plenty of rest and minimise stress where possible.

If you smoke it’s time to give up! Not only is it bad for your health it’s also bad for your wallet. It’s likely that a packet of 25 cigarettes will cost $40 in Australia by 2020. That’s almost $15,000 a year up in smoke (if you have a packet a day). Smoking is known to worsen the effects of flu and colds as it causes the body to overreact to a virus.

Finally, make sure you don’t change your routine too much in the winter. The temptation for those who live in a colder climate is to hibernate, but this can be ultimately detrimental. A big contributor towards our physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing is being an active part of a community of people. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself. We’re not meant to live life alone – we’ve been created for community. Join a church, make friends, get involved and volunteer. Being with people and singing together pays huge dividends. A Time Magazine article states, Researchers are beginning to discover that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.” And of all the musical genres, Gospel music is the one that is particularly effective at lifting a person’s mood.

Wherever possible do the some of the above recommendations together – eat healthily with friends, exercise with others, play board games together and pray with others. Making sure all of these ingredients are in your life will not only reduce your risk of the flus and winter blues, they will also lead you to living the happiest and healthiest life possible.

(Please be sure to always talk with your health care provider if your symptoms persist; before taking any herbal, vitamin, or mineral supplement, or engaging in any strenuous exercise.)

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