More than any other year in recent history, perhaps even on record, 2020 has seen a surge in the number of people looking for ways to strengthen their winter immune health. It makes sense: the pandemic is breathing down our necks and bringing our winter wellbeing to the forefront of our minds. Still, with all the new advice and products circulating that promise to “boost our immune systems”, the fact remains that our immune systems are incredibly complex: there is no switch that turns them off or on or supercharges them.
The best immune support is the holistic, time-tested, and scientifically-backed strategies many doctors and natural health practitioners have been recommending for decades.
This is excellent news for our bank accounts. Our winter immune health doesn’t depend on our being able to buy stock in Florida orangesor afford a slew of expensive supplements. Rather, supporting our immune health comes down to practicing simple and effective self-care that encompasses both your mind and body.
That’s what I’m going to talk about today: tips that will help heal, strengthen, and rebalance your immune system so that you can have a healthier winter.
4 Essential Self-Care Practices for Better Winter Immune Health
- Sleep Hygiene:
Sleep is your body’s time to rest and heal. Without enough sleep, your body simply doesn’t have enough time to reset. The quality of your waking hours depends on the quality of your sleep, so getting enough high quality sleep is incredibly important for your physical and mental health.
Your immune system also depends on your sleep to stay strong and keep you healthy. Even a small amount of sleep deprivation can start to affect your body’s ability to fight off infection. In fact, if you restrict yourself to 4 hours of sleep a night for less than a week, your body could be producing 50% less antibodies than normal. This means you become even more vulnerable to infection and illness, because your body doesn’t have the means to fight it off.
Although it may be difficult to achieve, it is recommended to aim for between 6 and 8 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, a sleep routine can help train your body to fall asleep and stay asleep:
- Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
- Make your bedroom a place for sleep and nothing else; avoiding watching TV, working, browsing your phone.
- Avoid screens two hours before bed.
- Don’t exercise right before bed to avoid dopamine and endorphin increases.
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom or at least on silent.
- Have a small snack 1-hour before bed to avoid blood sugar spikes in the night.
The changing seasons can wreak havoc on your sleep routine, so make sure that your habits don’t fall apart in the winter when you need them most for your immune system.
- Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise keeps us healthy and strong, there’s no doubt about it. But when winter rolls around and you need extra support for your immune system, exercise becomes even more important.
Regular exercise maintains overall good health and helps support immunity by increasing circulation in the body. The increased circulation means your immune system can work more efficiently and with a wider range throughout your body.
But one workout a day doesn’t mean your work is done. It doesn’t benefit you to exercise for 30 minutes a day but lead a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle the rest of the day.
Consciously choose an active lifestyle that includes regular movement throughout your day and activities that bring you joy and stress relief, like hiking, walking the dog, yoga, or anything else that moves your body. This is especially important when the shorter days of winter roll around and you might feel like hibernating inside.
If you do exercise intensely, make sure to resupply your body with magnesium. Magnesium is a vital nutrient for muscle recovery and cellular regeneration, which is important year-round, but maybe even more important during those hibernating winter months.
- Consume Consciously
Stress, shorter days, fatigue and anxiety can all make us turn to a few vices to get through the day, whether it’s alcohol, smoking, junk content, or junk food. But winter is the worst time to depend on these things, especially for your immune system.
The season of colds and flu is exacerbated by the negative health effects of alcohol, smoking and unhealthy food. They weaken your body’s natural defenses against illness and infection, while affecting your overall health at the same time.
During the winter, you’ll want to pay extra attention to what you’re consuming. Skip the added sugar, fried foods, and refined carbs. Instead, focus on whole foods to give your body the tools it needs to fight off invaders. Reduce the amount of alcohol you’re drinking and try to avoid smoking completely; studies show that alcohol consumption does not need to be chronic to disrupt critical immune pathways in the body.
During winter, make sure your water intake is higher than normal too. Being hydrated is an important part of immunity; dehydration affects every organ in the body and makes you more susceptible to illness.
- Stress Less
Stress is an often unavoidable part of life. But we can control how we react to stress, which in turn helps to control how it affects our health. Chronic stress can affect our health in a seemingly endless number of ways:
- Weight gain and obesity
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Chronic stress can also decrease the strength of your immune system according to research. You might find that you get sick when you’re under any pressure or duress, and that’s because your immune response is actually being suppressed by stress.
Learning how to reduce stress long term can have a significant impact on your overall health and wellness. It is impossible to understate the importance of your mental health in regards to your physical health, and underestimating that relationship will only hurt your health in the long run and prevent you from whole health mastery.
Try reducing your stress with the following tried and true methods:
- Essential oils
- Time in nature
- Time spent with friends and family
Your immunity is an incredible tool in your health arsenal. It doesn’t just prevent the common cold and flu, but also protects you from diseases and disorders. Your immune system needs your support to help it stay as strong as possible, especially when the cold and flu season hits.
These self-care tips are highly recommended leading up to and during the winter season to ensure that your immune strength is fit to fight whatever comes at it this year. When your mind and body are both in peak health and the connection between the two is strong, the common cold won’t take you down.