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  • Writer's pictureGabby Pavlovic

Winter Wellness Tips to Beat Colds, Flus, & Blues

Updated: Jun 5


Here in Melbourne, it’s the middle of winter and boy is it COLD! I lived and worked in Canada for a winter season in the past, but I feel like there’s something uniquely unpleasant about Melbourne winters – perhaps it’s a humidity thing? I don’t know – whatever it is, that icy cold breeze can really pack a punch to the system.


For many of us, winter makes us want to retreat inside and enter a sort of hibernation state while we wait eagerly for the cold to subside and the warmth to return. So whether you’re here because you want to avoid colds in winter, beat the winter blues, or just generally keep well in winter, keep reading because I’m about to share some of my favourite winter wellness tips with you.


Dressed for cold weather


Winter wellness tip #1 – Eat warming foods


Stews, soups, and slow-cooked dishes are excellent for nourishing your body in winter, as they are easier to digest at a time when your digestive fire may need a little helping hand[1]. Avoid raw, cold foods, and be sure to add warming herbs and spices to your meals such as cinnamon, ginger, chilli, and rosemary which in addition to tasting delicious are great for encouraging blood circulation.


I highly recommend the book Food for the seasons by Professor Lun Wong as an excellent resource on what kinds of foods and cooking methods align with our bodies through the different seasons.



Winter wellness tip #2 – Prioritise sleep


Aside from wanting to stay under the cosy covers when it’s a chilly morning, we have a natural tendency to sleep more in the cooler seasons[2]. This is unsurprising, as winter is a time of conserving energy more so than expending energy.


Sleep is important all year around, but it is exceptionally important during winter because our sleep quality affects our immune function and vice versa. While poor sleep quality can reduce the efficiency of our immune system, an already compromised immune system can disrupt our sleep cycle[3], so it goes both ways. Additionally, our mood and energy levels are greatly impacted by the quality of our sleep, which is important to note given low mood and low energy can tend to creep in during the winter months.


Having a regular sleep routine, reducing exposure to artificial light and stimulating activities 90 – 120 minutes before bed, and getting exposure to daylight in the early part of the day are just a few ways you can work towards optimising your sleep quality.


In the cold months specifically, I highly recommend having a relaxing hot bath before bed - you can make this part of your wind-down routine at the end of the day, adding your personal touches like a lit candle, some magnesium bath salts with relaxing essential oils like lavender. If you don't have a bath, try a foot spa! Park yourself on the couch with a good book and submerge your feet in the luxurious warm water and warm yourself from the ground up. You'll feel relaxed and ready to snooze in no time.



Winter wellness tip #3 – Maintain your fluid intake


It can be really easy to forget to drink enough fluids during the colder months, often because we aren’t sweating as much, or in a lot of cases, not expending as much physical energy. Nonetheless, our fluid balance within and around the cells of all tissues in our body is very tightly regulated to make sure everything functions as its meant to.


You may be aware that drinking enough fluids every day is crucial to keep hydrated, but if we are not consciously monitoring our fluid intake throughout the day, it can be very easy to forget to drink enough. If it gets to the point of becoming dehydrated, this can negatively affect concentrations of white blood cells[4] whose job it is to be on the lookout for potential threats in our system, so this is important to be aware of to try to avoid colds in winter.


Generally speaking, it can be helpful to aim for somewhere between 2.5 – 3.5 litres of water daily[5], however if your intake is well below this, I often recommend people increase their intake incrementally, for example by upping their intake by 500mL each week until they get to around 2.5L or thereabouts.


Caffeinated beverages do not count – sorry! These are dehydrating, but a great substitute is herbal tea blends. Herbal teas are also a great way to get some medicinal benefit, whether it is to give your immune system a helping hand, lift your mood, or boost your circulation if you tend to get cold extremities. Some of my favourite herbs to incorporate into winter tea blends include liquorice, ginger, cinnamon, echinacea, marshmallow, mullein, and white horehound, but of course your naturopath or herbalist can craft a personalised blend for your individual needs.



Winter wellness tip #4 – Manage stress


We all know that good stress management can help you to deal with life’s challenges, but did you know that helping your mind and body to respond to stress better can help keep your immune system to function at its best?


Chronic stress in particular – the kind of stress we all experience because of living in the modern, fast-paced world – actually suppresses our immune system functioning[6], which is definitely not something you want during winter! You can read more in this blog post about how our bodies are built to respond to stress, and how modern living affects our ability to respond well to stress.


So to keep well this winter, ensure you have some stress management strategies in place. What works for one person might not work for you, but here are some simple suggestions:

  • Start the day right, maintaining a morning routine (a good start is not checking you phone first thing in the morning)

  • Schedule regular breaks throughout the day, especially for meal times

  • Meditation – apps like Insight Timer are a great place to start if you’re new to meditating or prefer guided sessions

  • Rhythmic breathing – I like using the Breathwrk app

  • Get outside for a walk in nature – this also is great to get your circulation pumping, some fresh air, and sunlight (when it decides to come out!)

  • Use a tool like Emotion Release Technique (ERT) to process underlying emotions contributing to poor stress tolerance


If you check out this page you can also access a video and 1-page handout demonstrating my favourite strategies for managing everyday stress.


Winter wellness tip #5 – Do not overcommit yourself


Energetically, winter is a time to go inward, to reflect, and to take stock of where we are and what we are doing. Although we tend to be more receptive during this time to what our bodies need, we can often still override that to keep up with work, social commitments, and so on.


This is your friendly reminder to really check in with yourself when making the decision to attend that dinner, register for that event, or whatever invitation presents itself… you can say no if that is what you truly need.


Sometimes, you just need to say, “I won’t be able to make it this time, but thank you”, and then book your evening session in the bath followed by a Disney classic on the couch.


Look after yourself this winter


There are so many ways you can look after yourself throughout the colder months of the year, but the ones we’ve explored here today are a good start.


The information in this brief blog article is general in nature, so of course if you would like to seek health advice that is personalised for you, consider booking in for an Acute Consultation to help address your current situation.


Acute Consultations are brief and to the point, focusing on a specific issue, whether that’s something like a cold, or you’re going through a particularly stressful period. If you’re wanting more of a deep-dive into your overall health, book in for a quick chat with me to see if you and I are a good fit for collaboratively supporting you on a deeper level.




References

1. Wong, L. (2012). Food for the seasons: eat well and stay healthy the traditional Chinese way. Red Dog Books.

2. Dunster, G. P., Hua, I., Grahe, A., Fleischer, J. G., Panda, S., Wright Jr, K. P., ... & de la Iglesia, H. O. (2023). Daytime light exposure is a strong predictor of seasonal variation in sleep and circadian timing of university students. Journal of Pineal Research, 74(2), e12843.

3. Bland, J. S. (2022). Clinical understanding of the sleep-immune connection. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal, 21(1), 12.

4. Penkman, M. A., Field, C. J., Sellar, C. M., Harber, V. J., & Bell, G. J. (2008). Effect of hydration status on high-intensity rowing performance and immune function. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 3(4), 531-546.

5. Perrier, E. T., Armstrong, L. E., Bottin, J. H., Clark, W. F., Dolci, A., Guelinckx, I., ... & Péronnet, F. (2021). Hydration for health hypothesis: a narrative review of supporting evidence. European journal of nutrition, 60, 1167-1180.

6. Dhabhar, F. S. (2014). Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunologic research, 58, 193-210.

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