Wishing you good health and wellness this Maine winter
The first snowfall of the season is always magical for me. Winter is by far my favorite season, so waking up to that light coating last week got me excited for the coming months. But for many people, even hardy Mainers, winters can be tough. I wanted to provide some tips on staying healthy and managing stressors this winter.
Moderation in eating
Understandably, healthy habits can slide during winter, especially around the holidays. Cooking and gathering for meals with loved ones are among my favorite activities, whatever the season. Practicing moderation, eating mindfully and consuming mostly healthy foods allow room to indulge a bit for special occasions. It is what allows me to feel no guilt about baking my grandmother’s original cookie recipe with my daughter this weekend.
We all know that exercise is good for us and helps reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Did you know that there is also evidence that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants? A good way to start a regular routine is to aim for 30 minutes of movement that gets your heart rate up three times a week. Music can make your stationary bike ride fly by. Apps can turn your workout into a game. A buddy can transform a nature walk into a social event – with Vitamin D. One of my frequent exercise companions is my yellow lab, Sam. He loves jumping into puddles and scampering through the snow.
It can be hard to stick to usual routines during holiday festivities and winter breaks, but it’s important to take the time to rest and recharge. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of a host of health problems, including high blood pressure, stroke, anxiety and depression. Good sleeping habits include going to bed and waking up at consistent times; keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom; exercising during the day and avoiding overeating, caffeine and alcohol before going to sleep.
Staying safe when respiratory illnesses are active
As you prepare for holiday gatherings, please keep in mind that we are still in the midst of the “tripledemic” of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Consider the location, the size and make-up of the group, especially whether any of the attendees are at higher risk for COVID, flu or RSV. The precautions you can take include:
- Staying up to date with COVID vaccinations and getting your flu shot. There is no RSV vaccine at this time.
- Practicing good hand hygiene
- Wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask
- Social distancing
- Improving ventilation indoors
- Testing before attending a gathering
- Staying at home if you feel unwell
Connections and Gratitude
Strong social connections and expressions of gratitude also have physical and emotional benefits. Seek the company of people who fill your cup and also give yourself permission to set boundaries. Thanking someone through a note or a phone call, keeping a journal, meditating and supporting a good cause are some of the ways to cultivate a gratitude practice.
I will share that I am grateful every day for being able to live year round in my home state of Maine, to practice medicine at this physician-led practice and for the patients who entrust me with their care and allow me to be part of their health journey.
I, along with the entire InterMed family, wish you joy and good health this holiday season and throughout the new year.
Dan Loiselle, MD, Chief Medical Officer, and the InterMed care team