Staying Healthy

by Anna Kubiak
November 20, 2020

From online workouts to quarantine diets to public mask wearing, 2020 has brought us a year of unexpected health discovery. Health has become a priority in our lives in ways that could never have been foreseen, and while we have faced numerous challenges that continue to plague us, we have also been given a unique opportunity to approach the cold and flu season with a transformed perspective. As we approach colder weather and with it the height of flu season, being conscientious about your health has the power to keep you and the people around you healthy. While some of these precautions may seem cliché, with these tools in your belt the common cold and the flu will be no match for you!

In the conversation revolving around health, one factor that can be emphasized is the importance of washing your hands. Having clean hands prevents you from transporting germs from your skin to your face or to the person next to you and in doing so can stop viruses from infecting yourself or others. Taking steps in an effort to make washing your hands a priority in your life and schedule, such as ensuring that your hands are washed after coughing or sneezing, before eating or preparing food, and after using the restroom can drastically reduce your chances of getting sick. It may also be helpful to leave alcohol-based hand sanitizer in places that are convenient for you such as in a car or in a backpack so you will use them more frequently. Avoid habits that involve touching your face such as nail biting and refrain from sharing food or drink with others.

As important as it is to keep yourself germ free, experts also stress the significance of keeping your surroundings clean. Surfaces such as door handles, keyboards, phone screens, and light switches are known as high touch areas because they harbor germs, therefore disinfecting them is recommended because clean high touch areas can reduce the chances of spreading viruses.

While being vigilant about ensuring the cleanliness of both hands and high touch surfaces is a proven way to ward off illness, there are additional steps that can be taken to further that narrative. Such a step might include a healthy diet and consistent exercise, which go a long way in preventing disease and helping to ensure a speedy recovery should an illness be contracted. Proper nutrition works to support your immune system by supplying your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to battle against viruses and bacteria in our environment. A well-balanced diet consisting of a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables throughout the color range are essential for proper nutrition. However, in some cases it may also be beneficial to consider taking supplemental vitamins such as vitamin D or vitamin C which have been proven to assist in the body’s immune response. In addition to getting your body in tip top shape for disease fighting by eating healthy and exercising, it is highly recommended to make it a priority to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Sleep is an exceptional defense mechanism against viruses because it allows the immune system to operate at full capacity and enables you to get the maximum benefits from preventative measures such as a flu shot.

Defending yourself from seasonal illnesses like the flu and common cold are not restricted only to how you handle personal hygiene and fitness. Disease prevention can be as simple as stepping outside to get some fresh air. During the winter months cold weather tends to drive people inside, however, the positive effects of fresh air include enabling the lungs to fully replenish your body and increasing energy. These positive effects certainly make a snowball fight seem even more enjoyable! Some people find that using a humidifier makes the transition between the seasons easier. By adding moisture to the air, a humidifier hydrates dry skin as well as reduce the symptoms of a cold in some cases.

Physical health is not the only concern during cold and flu season. Mental health is just as important, and sadly, it can be easily overlooked. During the COVID-19 pandemic most Americans have experienced some form of quarantine, and the isolation and constant stress can put a strain on mental health. It is important to be there for each other as well as being open to being helped ourselves. This winter, try to be kind to yourself, cut yourself some slack and don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends if you need to. If you are experiencing any type of mental health challenges, make sure to reach out for help whether from family/friends or a medical health professional. The GCC Counseling Center can be reached at: counseling@genesee.edu.

As the brisk wind and dancing flurries of snow transform our surroundings into a winter wonderland, take the opportunity to protect yourself from winter viruses such as the flu and the common cold. While COVID-19 has introduced us to a year of health awareness and unexpected challenges, it has also prepared us to face the 2020 flu/cold season with a series of helpful tips to help ensure that we stay healthy this winter. This season remember to wash your hands, keep high touch areas clean, get good sleep, eat healthy, and take your mental health seriously. By taking these steps you are making sure to give yourself the best chance at staying healthy and safe this winter.