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5 Tips for Taking Care of Your Health in Winter

By Sheryl Kraft

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With winter on the horizon, it's time to start thinking ahead about sprucing up around your home: cleaning out closets, tuning up your heating system, weather-proofing your garden, gathering firewood, clearing your roof and gutters of debris, caulking around windows and doors, and more.

But just as important is sprucing up your health.

Here are five easy things to get you prepped for the upcoming winter months, so you can keep your mind—and body—in the best shape possible.

1. Get plenty of light. As the days become shorter and sunlight more scarce, many people feel sad—and suffer from SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can make you feel lethargic and depressed. As spring emerges and light becomes more plentiful, moods usually brighten.

But why wait out the winter months in sadness? Instead, fight back—with light. Norman E. Rosenthal, MD, author of Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder, says that light therapy is a particularly effective antidote to the feelings of fatigue and sadness that often come with winter. He suggests some fixes: take a walk outdoors on a bright day, bring more lamps into your home, put your bedside lamp on a timer, or use a dawn simulator, which gradually wakes you to simulated sunrise.

2. Ease your pain. For many of us, aches and pains are more common in the winter months for any number of reasons. In the cold, joints may be less elastic and take more time to warm up (that's why it can be tough to get moving when you first get out of bed in the morning). You may be more sedentary during the colder months and, as a result, feel stiffer and less limber. And when the temperatures plummet, your muscles may tense up and get stiff. Shoveling snow can also put stress on your back, shoulders and chest.


Ease your pain with massage. Hot or cold, your pick!

Take matters into your own hands and treat your muscle tension and soreness with a home massage. A product like Wahl's Hot/Cold Massager covers all the bases with its dual settings. Heat helps increase blood flow and loosen muscles, while cold helps reduce muscle swelling and inflammation.

3. Improve your sleep. Earlier sunsets and less sunlight might make you sleepier than normal and you may yearn to hunker down and hibernate. That's why getting a good night's sleep to restore your lost energy is especially important. The National Sleep Foundation offers these tips for a restful night: Stick to a consistent sleep/wake schedule (even on weekends); practice a relaxing bedtime ritual like a warm bath or some gentle stretches; get daily exercise; avoid naps if you have trouble sleeping (especially afternoon naps); keep bedroom temperatures at a cool 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit; and make sure your mattress and pillows are as comfy as possible.

4. Stay hydrated. You may tote around your water bottle all summer, but it's just as important to stay hydrated in the colder months. That's because our body loses water in the winter, just as it does in warm weather, through regular body processes like breathing, sweating and urinating. Although not everyone is good at sensing their hydration needs, look out for signs of dehydration like fatigue, light-headedness, trouble focusing, dry skin and mouth and, of course, thirst. And it's not just what you drink that counts: Soups and certain foods like cucumbers, watermelon, iceberg lettuce, celery and apples all score high in water content.

5. Replace the moisture. When the thermometer dips, so does the humidity. That's because warmer air holds onto moisture better than cold air. The fallout? Dry skin, chapped lips, itchy eyes, irritated sinuses and throats. Dry nostrils can lead to nosebleeds, too—which can also make you more vulnerable to colds, sinus infections and the flu. And if you're prone to asthma, the cold and dry air can narrow your breathing passages and trigger an attack.

A humidifier can add moisture back into the air, and using a thick oil-based moisturizer can add it back into your skin. Drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated, and trade in your long, hot showers for shorter, warm ones to prevent your skin from becoming dry and prune-like (and make sure to use a mild, gentle soap, like Dove's White Beauty Bar.

This post originally appeared on mysocalledmidlife.net.

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