When you think of Australia, you may think of sunshine, warm weather and beautiful beaches. What you may not realise, is that winter in Australia can get pretty chilly and we typically see an increase in cases of the common cold and flu. That’s why it’s important to keep yourself healthy, safe and happy during the winter season. Here are our health hacks to help get you through winter.
1. Prevent cold and flu
To prevent getting the flu, you might want to consider getting a flu shot. Most universities offer this to students for free, or at a low cost. Otherwise you can get a flu shot at your local GP/doctor.
To avoid getting the common cold, practise healthy habits such as avoiding close contact with others who may be sick and keeping your hands clean with frequent hand washing with soap and water. You could also use an alcohol-based hand rub before and after touching shared surfaces.
Good hand hygiene is extremely important, and it can help to prevent the spread of infections such as colds and flu. Try to wash your hands with warm soapy water and rub them together for at least 20 seconds. Cover all surfaces, including the backs of your hands and in between your fingers, and then rinse well.
If you do end up getting sick, the best thing you can do is stay home. Going out and exerting yourself when all your body needs is to rest will significantly increase your recovery time. Plus, you’ll risk making other people sick.
Visit your GP or local pharmacist for advice on what to do when you’re feeling unwell. Check out Medibank’s Pocket Guide to the Aussie Heath System for more information on when to see a GP and when to go to hospital.
2. Eat well
During winter, it’s common for us to want to reach for junk food or takeaway. Instead of opting for food with low nutritional value, set your sights on comfort food that’s loaded with fresh fruit or vegetables or try some new healthy snacks.
Aim to eat regularly and select foods from the five food groups. Planning your meals and snacks will also help you to avoid giving into the temptations of sugary or high fat foods.
Medibank’s Dr Sue Abhary says, in the long-term, eating healthily can reduce your risk of diet-related conditions, such as high-cholesterol, high-blood pressure and obesity, as well as reducing your risk of other chronic conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
You might also like to try mindful eating. Mindful eating is the practice of bringing awareness to food and your body’s cues for hunger and fullness.
3. Drink water
Although winter in Australia tends to bring more rain (unless you’re in the north, where it’s the dry season), the colder temperatures can often leave you dehydrated.
It’s important that you aim to drink the recommended amount of water per day (which varies depending on your age, gender, lifestyle and several other factors). Largely, it’s recommended that adults drink at least 2 litres of water per day. Doing so brings many benefits, such as:
- Helping to regulate your body temperature
- Preventing tooth decay
- Helping to absorb nutrients from food
- Preventing constipation and helping to flush out waste products
- Supporting cell growth and reproduction, and carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells
- Lubricating and cushioning your joints and moisturising your skin
To help you drink more water, aim to carry a water bottle around with you, set yourself little ‘drink water’ reminders or swap out other drinks, like coffee or juice for water. You might also like to treat yourself to a nice reusable bottle rather than constantly repurchasing disposable plastic bottles.
4. Get enough sleep
Sleep is basically the foundation of good health – if you’re not getting enough, your physical and mental health can suffer. Take this time to improve your sleep routine by adopting a few good habits. Avoid your phone and computer late at night, don’t drink coffee in the afternoon or evening, limit your alcohol intake, keep your waking and sleeping times consistent, and get regular exercise (but not right before bed).
You may want to practise an unwinding bedtime ritual, such as light stretching, reading a book, writing in your journal, listening to calming music or trying a sleep meditation.
And, while you might be craving warm and cosy sleeping quarters over winter, you’re actually better off maintaining a cool or cold temperature in the bedroom to enhance your sleep.
5. Take care of your mental health
Seasonal affective disorder (also known as the ‘winter blues’) affects many of us. Symptoms can include having less energy, oversleeping, and appetite changes.
Always know that there are support and self-help services available if you feel like the winter months are getting you down. Visit your university’s counselling service or download a free mental health app like Headspace.
If you’re a student with Medibank OSHC, you can call the 24/7 Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283 at any time, day or night. They’ll offer you advice and over the phone counselling as part of your cover. They also have an interpreter service, so you can speak to someone in your own language.