Autumn can unleash a spectacular selection of illnesses as the temperature change causes new bugs and viruses to breed. Other changes, like length of sunlight in the day, changing your wardrobe around and finding everything smells like cupboard… getting caught in a storm wearing flips flops and a summer dress… those things all place a strain on the immune system and stress levels as one’s body starts to adjust, and this is when the little bugs try and attack.
Without spending a fortune at your health store or pharmacy, having to go into hibernation, or having to fly to warmer climes like a bird – there are many things in our daily lives that we can keep an eye on to ensure we stay in tip-top form during a season-change.
Eat what’s in season – Isn’t it amazing that citrus season falls from Autumn to Spring, giving us a much-needed (and tasty) dose of vitamin C during the time of the year when our immune systems may take the biggest knock? Nature is a clever thing (and very thoughtful too!). You’ll get a lot of what you need just by eating what’s in season. (You’ll save money too).
Curry – On that note, it’s not only nature giving us clever seasonal immune-boosting delights. People who played around with food and spices and things a long time ago, gave us things like curry. Apart from the heart-warming comfort the flavours give, the ingredients and spices are full of immune boosting (and sinus-clearing) things. One of the things I enjoy about the cooler weather!
Heating / aircon – I always feel my body is stronger if it is allowed to adjust (and compensate on it’s own) to any outside temperatures. We already have our own amazing internal thermostat, which needs to be exercised to stay efficient (and for us to stay well). There definitely is a time and place for everything, in balance, so do indulge when necessary – but if you find, for example, your office environment is always too heated in the cooler weather, and your head feels stuffy from lack of oxygen, make some time to take a break and go for a walk to get some fresh air, and to let your body understand what the outside environment feels like. If nothing else, you’re taking a break, and getting some exercise!
Don’t ditch the exercise – It really is so tempting to hole oneself up on a warm comfy couch, especially when it’s freezing out, and Cape Town is dishing out it’s famous horizontal rain…. It’s also dark in the mornings, and early evenings when you may have usually been out running, so you skip that too… Autumn is not great for motivation, but regular exercise boosts the immune system, and will also help with those ‘feel-good’ hormones if the lack of sunlight and warmth on your skin gets to you. Try some indoor classes – yoga, luckily, is always available, and a heated class can be blissful too (well, until you have to leave the studio and get changed afterwards, eek!!)
Get enough natural light – We’re pretty lucky we don’t live far up North. I know I wouldn’t enjoy the long hours of darkness. I struggle as it is in the Cape, leaving home in the dark, and arriving back again in the dark during the week. It’s hard not to feel like a mole, and lots of studies have been done about the effect natural light has on one’s mood. Try as much as you can to let yourself see some during the day. Whether it’s a quick break outside, or being able to work near a window, we need regular doses of sunlight to keep happy, healthy (and sane!).
Things to look forward to – A healthy body, and a healthy mind need a healthy mood as fuel. This can be tricky when one gets a case of the blues. What really helps me is to plan some things to look forward to. You don’t need to have a big budget to make plans like jetting off overseas (but well done if you can!). Rather plan some time with loved ones – dinners / coffees, even a Skype chat during the day – just make sure your time is filled with things you really look forward to, to keep your winter mood buoyant.
Sickness etiquette – Last, but not least, it is sometimes impossible to avoid the odd sniffle (or worse) at times. When it comes to lurgies, sharing is NOT caring, and it may be useful to keep the following things in mind if you are not well:-
- Try and steer clear of old people, kids and people that don’t look strong – be considerate that some ages and stages of life bring compromised immune systems and some people will get far sicker from the same bug than you.
- Batten down the hatches – sneezing and coughing cannot always be controlled, but they can be contained. Always cover your mouth / nose, or turn away when you need to, and wash your hands after to avoid spreading the love.
- Don’t be a martyr – If you have something contagious, don’t drag yourself to work. Stay at home. Most of the time other people are more worried about catching what you have then they are about your unbroken sick-leave record.
If you do find yourself under the weather, despite all these tips, remember to be kind to yourself, and treat yourself – you’ll feel a lot better a lot quicker with some of your own TLC. And remember just like taxes, summer comes back without fail every year, so hang in there!