Looking after your health and wellbeing this winter

The cold and flu season is in full swing this Australian winter, and with Covid-19 cases surging once again, it’s the “perfect storm” of circulating winter illnesses. Many of us are lacking immunity due to the last two years of lockdowns and not being exposed to the flu. It’s important that we take extra precaution to prevent ourselves, loved ones and those vulnerable in our community from getting sick and look after our wellbeing this winter.

Getting sick has unpleasant physical symptoms but it can also take a toll on our mental health. The common cold and flu can mimic and cause depressive symptoms which negatively affect our mood, making us feel down and isolated.

How can we manage our mood if illness has made us feel down/low/flat?

When feeling sick, it can feel like our world is upside down. The flu can have a profound impact on our mood and energy levels. So, here are some mood boosting strategies to feel better when illness is taking an emotional toll.

  • Activities to boost positive emotions: When we’re caught up with a temperature, runny nose, or headache, it’s likely we’re spending majority of the day either in bed or on the couch, and that’s okay. Put a funny movie on, listen to music, or read a book. It’s the perfect opportunity to indulge in these mood boosting activities and get a hit of dopamine.
  • Rest & relaxation: When we’re sick, our bodies are under huge stress and demand. It’s important that we learn to accept that resting is okay, and it can actually improve our mood and encourage us to slow down. By taking a step back, we can let our body repair itself, which can strengthen our immune system so we can get better sooner and back to feeling like our happier self.
  • Reach out for professional support: If the flu is having a negative impact on our mental health, reach out for professional support to a GP, EAP, or Lifeline.

Top wellbeing strategies to help support our body’s natural defence system this winter

This cold and flu season, there are also many preventive measures that we can take to support our health and wellbeing.

  • Sleep: Research suggests that people who don’t get good quality sleep or not enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Sleep provides healthy functioning and essential support to the immune system. It’s optimal to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Getting sufficient sleep also influences our mood and energy levels allowing us to feel happy, energised, and ready to conquer the day.
  • Healthy ways to manage stress:  When we are stressed, it triggers our flight or fright response. Repeated activation of the stress response can impair our immune system and interfere with our body’s ability to fight off infection.  Identifying our sources of stress and learning healthily ways to manage it can help support our body’s natural defence system this cold and flu season. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, mediation, and mindfulness have been proven to dial down on the body’s response to stress and can boost our mood and positive emotions.
  • Get moving: Physical activity contributes to boosting our mental and physical health and can help support the immune system. For immune boosting benefits, it’s recommended that individuals exercise at moderate intensity for 30 minutes to an hour each day to strengthen immune and metabolic systems [1]. Physical activity also reduces inflammation, decreases stress, and stimulates cellular immunity which can help our bodies to prepare and defend against viruses.
  • Nutritious food: Eating a healthy nutritious diet has a direct influence on our immune function. Our bodies require a variety of vitamins and minerals which can be found in fruit, vegetables, and antioxidants which support the growth of immune cells. Eating nutritious foods can also be associated with better mental health outcomes. Our gut guides our emotions and has influence on our mood and energy levels.

As we are in the midst of Australia winter, implementing these top wellbeing strategies can help to support both our mental and physical health and keep ourselves safe. If the flu is negatively impacting your mental health, reach out to a professional for support such as your GP or Lifeline.


References:

[1] Nieman, D. and Wentz, L., 2019. The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 8(3), pp.201-217.