Wintertime Tips for Taking Care of Your Body and Mind
By Kate Melton, Student Health & Wellness/ MindBody Connection and Rachel Pierce, Counseling Center/MindBody Connection
While the start of a new school year often brings fresh excitement and energy, the second semester sometimes lacks that same allure. The bright sunshine and warmer temperatures of spring can seem very far away, and the shorter days and cold weather can impact our health, both physically and emotionally. Here are 10 tips for taking care of your holistic health this winter.
1. Take a Deep Breath
Deep breathing exercises can reduce stress and supercharge your brain. A little stress is okay, but too much stress can be bad news. Stress hormones can interfere with thinking, learning, and memory. In addition, research has shown that too much stress can make you sick. Deep breathing increases the circulation of blood and oxygen to the brain which can help you think more clearly.
2. Take the Steps to Keep Yourself Well
Getting sick can make it difficult for you to stay up on your academics. Take the necessary steps to keep yourself well by washing your hands often with soap and water, clean and disinfect surfaces, and take the time to get a flu vaccine. You can get your flu vaccine on campus at Student Health and Wellness.
3. Talk with a Friend
Even your brain needs a friend. Social support is important for coping with stress. In fact, research has shown that loneliness can make you sick. In addition to the healthful benefits of socializing, some people find they learn better while interacting with others (collaborative learning).
4. Keep Your Brain Fed
Studies have shown that skipping meals can make you slower and less accurate in solving problems. Good nutrition helps keep your body healthy which helps you ward off stress and illness. Remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water every day.
5. Get Good ZZZZs
A sleep-deprived brain doesn’t work at its full potential. Sleep is restorative and important for health and learning. Research has shown that “sleep is critical for firming up the learning that took place during the day – a process known as memory consolidation” (American Psychological Association Monitor, 2001, vol. 32, #9). Don’t short yourself the 6-8 hours a night that almost everyone needs, but don’t rely on naps to catch up, either. Naps tend to disrupt healthy sleep patterns and can become a vicious cycle.
6. Stay Home When You Are Sick
If you are sick, especially when running a fever, stay home from work, school, and other errands if possible. If you are around others, make sure you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and/or sneezing. Don’t have a tissue? Sneeze or cough into the bend of your arm to prevent germs from spreading. These steps will not only help others from getting sick but will also help you to get healthier faster.
7. Get Organized
De-clutter your space and your mind. Take time clear out clutter in your living spaces to help clear your mind and allow you to focus on what’s important. Take a realistic look at what you have to do and develop a plan to get it done. Prioritize projects and start on the tasks that will require the most time and effort. Make a to-do list and cross things off as you get them accomplished.
8. Stay Clean
Don’t dope up your brain with caffeine, nicotine, or recreational drugs. Caffeine and diet pills can make you jittery and distractible. It can take several days for the effects of alcohol on your brain to wear off. Research has shown that marijuana’s impact on memory and learning can last for days or weeks and THC can be detected in your system for up to a month. In addition, all of these drugs interfere with the REM sleep your brain needs to rejuvenate itself.
9. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Your brain controls your behavior so negative thinking can hurt your performance. If you believe you will fail, you may not try as hard or you may be so nervous that you can’t think straight. Fear is contagious so surround yourself with positive people.
10. Get Moving and Go Toward the Light
Exercise is good for your brain. Vigorous exercise releases endorphins which can increase feelings of wellbeing, decrease pain, and enhance the immune system. Endorphins also reduce the impact of stress. Even taking a brisk walk can have calming and invigorating effects. By finding an activity you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. The shorter winter days and staying inside in cold weather can limit sun exposure, which is important for mood and sleep regulation. Try to spend some time every day outside or need a window to fend off the winter blues.
By making small adjustments in your normal routine, you can stay healthy and happy this winter. If you need further help or information, visit the MindBody Connection in the Atterbury Student Success Center or Student Health & Wellness or the Counseling Center.