7 Mindful Tips For Avoiding The Flu This Season
Each year, 5%-20% of the U.S. population contracts influenza, a highly contagious respiratory illness that can cause severe health complications and even death. As temperatures drop and cold and flu season ramps up, it’s essential to take proper precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones. Heed these mindful tips to avoid getting sick and have a happy, healthy winter.
1. Wash Your Hands Regularly
Protect yourself and others by washing your hands on a regular basis. This mindful habit prevents the spread of germs and effectively minimizes exposure to the flu virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds, which can feel like forever when you have other things to do.
Make the chore more mindful by repeating a self-affirming mantra or noticing physical sensations as you scrub, rinse and dry your hands. Doing so will help you find peaceful moments throughout the day.
2. Frequently Disinfect Surfaces
Because the flu virus can live on hard surfaces, it’s also important to frequently disinfect tables, light switches, doorknobs and other common household items. This precaution is especially important if someone in your home already has the flu.
Use a disinfectant cleaner to mindfully wipe down high-touch surfaces several times each day. Bleach and other EPA-approved chemicals are generally more effective at killing germs. Quarantine the sick person to one part of the house to make the process more manageable.
3. Explore the Great Outdoors
Avoiding crowds is key to preventing the flu this season, so attending large, indoor events is out of the question. Luckily, you can still enjoy new scenery and get some fresh air by exploring the great outdoors.
In addition to boosting serotonin and melatonin production, spending time outside can also increase your body’s number of natural killer cells. These immune components are vital for attacking pathogens and viruses like influenza. Take a walk, meditate or make some snow angels to reap these and other amazing health benefits.
4. Get Your Annual Vaccination
Between 29,000 and 62,000 people died of influenza in the 2019-2020 flu season. Because the predominant circulating flu virus mutates every year, you must receive a yearly vaccine.
Protect yourself from infection and life-threatening complications by scheduling a vaccination appointment before flu season arrives. If you’re 65 or older, consider getting a high-dose or adjuvant shot to build a stronger immune response to vaccination. Ask about pneumococcal vaccinations to protect against pneumonia, meningitis and other bloodstream infections, too.
5. Limit Sugar and Fat Intake
You know that chicken noodle soup, tea and honey can soothe sore throats and alleviate cold and flu symptoms, but did you know that some foods can have the exact opposite effect? Sweet treats, juice and other foods that contain lots of sugar can suppress your immune system and increase inflammation. Meanwhile, fatty foods can give you a stomachache and worsen fatigue.
Therefore, it’s wise to limit sugar and fat intake during the winter months. Fill your plate with whole, nutritious foods instead and eat mindfully to practice portion control and self-awareness. Boost immunity with fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products. These foods provide an array of nutrients that can boost immune function, reduce inflammation and keep you healthy year-round.
6. Stop Smoking
Influenza and cigarette smoke both attack your lungs, so it makes sense that smoking increases your risk of catching the flu. This harmful habit can also cause you and others in your family to develop more severe symptoms and complications. One 2011 study found that even those exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to require intensive care and a longer stint in the hospital when they contract the flu.
Kick addiction to the curb to better protect yourself and your loved ones this season by quitting cigarettes. Use nicotine patches, gum, tablets and inhalers to get your fix instead. After a few months of using these products, you might notice your cravings begin to subside. Before you know it, you might just give up nicotine completely.
7. Practice Self-Care
Chronic stress and general anxiety over contracting the flu can affect physical and mental health. Physically, you may notice changes in sleeping and eating patterns, energy levels and substance use. These differences can quickly turn into habits that fuel emotional and mental instability, leaving you more susceptible to the flu and likely to develop serious subsequent complications.
Therefore, you must take care of yourself mentally and physically, especially during flu season. Practice self-care by tapping into the mind-body connection through yoga, journaling and meditation. These mindful activities will reduce worry and encourage a whole-life approach to health and wellness.
Working Together to Stay Healthy
Staying healthy during flu season undoubtedly requires a team effort. Even if you manage to do all of the above, you’re still more likely to contract the flu if your friends and family fail to take care of themselves. Encourage them to use the same precautions and practice self-care so everyone stays healthy and happy well into the new year.
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