Short days and the colder weather mean many of us struggle with our health and wellbeing during the darker winter period. Its also a time when colds and flu are more virulent which contributes to our low energy levels and general feelings of running low.
So its important to take special care of ourselves at this time of year. IQBF has gathered some advice and tips on things you can do to keep healthy at this time of year.
If you have ever felt sleep deprived, you will know how difficult it is to focus on the most mundane of tasks which can lead to accidents. A lack of sleep will also have a detrimental effect on our immune systems which makes us more vulnerable to cold and flu viruses. When we feel stressed or anxious this can lead to a disrupted sleep pattern and can be a symptom of mental health issues.
Try to stick to a bedtime routine and try to reduce screen time of any sort before lights out. Perhaps read, listen to a story, gentle exercise, meditation, or listen to relaxing music. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and alcohol both of which can impact on sleep and the ability to ‘switch off’.
Getting outside, even just for 30 minutes, has a hugely positive effect on our mood and wellbeing. During lockdown periods, many people realised the benefits of getting out to their local parks, exploring their own environment or even just being out in their own gardens. Combined with walking it is a great way to exercise, get a top up of Vitamin D and can be a socially distanced activity with friends and family.Find a new local walk, there are plenty of websites that might help you find things on your doorstep you didn’t know was there!
The importance of a balanced diet is well reported for supporting good physical and mental health. The idea that we have 3 good meals a day that includes 5 portions of fruit and veg can be difficult to achieve every day for all sorts of reasons. Aim for a balanced diet over a week or so that less healthy days are balanced out. There is great advice on how to achieve a balanced diet on the NHS website.
The charity for better mental health, Mind, also has great advice and tips to improving your diet to improve your mood.
It is so important to keep hydrated at all times. It helps hydrate your brain, your organs, your skin, as well as flushing out any toxins and maintaining your digestive system. As a basic guide, most people need about 1.5 to 2 litres of fluid a day, which is about eight to 10 glasses.
You can get this from water and other drinks, such as milk and fruit juice. Water in food also counts – raw fruit and vegetables (for example cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, watermelon) contain lots of water. Drinks like tea and coffee can be a source of hydration but moderate your intake, particularly later in the day as the caffeine could impact your sleep. Fruit juices, sports drinks and other fizzy drinks contain sugar so should also be used in moderation.
The NHS Eatwell guide has information about staying hydrated along with other advice about maintaining a balanced diet.
We understand that excessive pressure and demands at work can cause stress. Working from home can provide advantages for many including a better work-life balance through a reduction in time spent commuting. For others the routine of going to work and mixing with colleagues is something that has been difficult to adjust to. Without steady schedules, the lines between work and personal time can get blurred and cause stress and fatigue.
Whether you have been adjusting to working from home or have returned to your usual place of work, there are plenty of resources to make sure you are working safely for both your physical and mental wellbeing.
- The HSE guide for homeworkers covers practical advice on what your home office set up should be as well as advice on managing stress and mental health.
- The Mental Health at Work website has a range of toolkits for employers
IQ members who have installed the IQ Connect app also have access to a range of resources on working safely from coronavirus guidance to mental health awareness.
Acts of kindness
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop
Receiving an act of kindness from a friend, a relative or a stranger is a wonderful thing and can make you feel appreciated and cared for. Doing an act of kindness similarly brings you positive benefits.
Throughout the pandemic many people have experienced periods of sustained isolation and Christmas may be difficult for those separated from family and friends. The Mental Health Foundation has some ideas for simple acts of kindness that can be carried out for both your own benefit and that of others.
Christmas can often be a minefield of emotion, stress and difficult family relationships. It can be a lonely time if you are on your own or can’t be with loved ones due to the pandemic.
If you find yourself alone this Christmas then try to focus on your experience not what the rest of the world is doing. Plan what you will do with your time whether it's reading, watching box sets, going for a long walk or volunteering at a local foodbank (or similar good works). Make the day count and make it one that you will enjoy.
Technology is the easiest way to make sure you connect with others. Use the time to call or text someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time, Christmas is a great ice-breaker to make contact again. Online platforms like Zoom enable you to join in with others even if you can’t be there. If you are on social media, campaigns such as comedian Sarah Millicans #JoinIn are there to encourage people to engage and possibly make new contacts. Beyond social media, being online means that there are plenty of online communities that you can join to talk to others.
- Gransnet for example is the busiest social networking site for the over 50’s.
- The Campaign to End Loneliness has some great tips and advice for staying connected.
- Call The Silver Line for a chat. It’s the only confidential, free helpline for older people across the UK that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week 0800 4 70 80 90.
Take time to connect with yourself. Cook your favourite meal, run a long bath, treat yourself to your favourite things – after all it is Christmas so make sure you have something to indulge in and spend time looking after yourself, resting and relaxing.
If you need help
We all find things overwhelming at times and there is no shame in it. The pandemic has brought with it a heightened understanding and awareness of our mental health and mental wellbeing.
There is far greater recognition from our employers that if our mental health is suffering in any way that our productivity will suffer too. Check with your organisations to find out what support is available to you through them. Some have Employee Assistance Programmes that can offer counselling, advice and information on lots of different issues, others may offer a counselling service.
However, if you can’t access or don’t want to access support via your employer, there are many other organisations that can offer help:
Shout 24/7 texting support if you are struggling with mental health issues.
Campaign against living miserably (CALM) orientated towards those who identify as male. Helpline or online webchat offering support, advice and signposting to various organisations that can help on specific issues.
The Samaritans for anyone feeling suicidal or worried about someone else who might be.