Beat the winter blues - Winter Health Hacks !

This time of year is my absolute favorite. the autumn is just divine , the changing leaves, Autumn walks, foraging in the woods pumpkins, Halloween (Oh the crafts possibilities -i'm practically giddy and poised with a paint brush and pair of scissors ready to make a paper ghost or munchkin 10 pin bowling- don't worry i'll do a blog on these this week ) bonfires - we have a great range of scented Firelighters ( just saying !) Then if i wasn't childishly over exited enough already, Then, There's CHRISTMAS ! and we all know I'm a Christmas freak. I think I was an elf in past life ,

I feel like life makes sense at Christmas . this is what its all bout. the lights, the holly, mince pies ( I had my first one this week- don't judge me) and Santa,. He and i are kindred spirits,. in fact My daughters actual first word was Santa- Seriously! She was 13 months and we were starting to organise our Christmas decorations from the loft. She found her way into a box of Christmas teddy's - yes we have a whole box of Christmas teddy's - and found a little red elf , She poked her curly head out of the box like an exited Meerkat and said ......"Santa!"( imagine a teeny tiny little Disney baby voice and you've got it ). So that's how into Christmas we are, It my child's first ever word.

However we have a love hate relationship, the winter and I, because it comes with an array of different health struggles.

I have struggled with Anxiety and depression in the past as so many of us have, So for me, I know as soon ass those nights draw in and the weather begins to chill I have to look after myself . It's not just important , Its essential.

Well-being is at the forefront of so many minds these days and the colder days and nights are no exception. Its so easy to slip into a routine of comfort food and cosy nights in, which is wonderfully comforting but if we aren't careful these things can end up being the cause of your loss of contentment rather than the gain.

The Migraines- apparently it is something to do with the barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature . i don't claim to be a Dr or even really know what that means, so this is information I got from google when researching for myself. This also happens when winter turns to spring and as soon as I see a glimpse of sun my sun glasses are stuck to my head as though it will explode if I take them off. I have even been know to wear them washing up, if the sun is streaming through the kitchen window. There are a few little tips that will help you deal or prevent these I will get to later .

SAD- or seasonal affective disorder, something like 1 in 3 people in Britain suffer with SAD. This is a sort of Winter depression that, if brushed under the carpet can drag on until the winter has gone and you don't feel any better. I also have to manage this myself during these cold months because lets face it, the last thing you want is to be carrying the heavy weight of dark feelings when all you really want to be doing is enjoying the time with your family and all those wonderful festive activities throughout he season. SAD also links closely with ....

Anxiety -the shorter days are bound to impact on your anxiety levels. less sunlight means less vitamin D and a reduction of serotonin which can lead to a depressed mood. Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. A vitamin D deficiency in itself can cause serious anxiety attacks..3 years ago I had a severe Vitamin D deficiency. I honestly thought i was having a stroke . I couldn't sleep , I kept getting cold shivers like someone was blowing a breeze on me in the night, then the left side of my face went numb. the stress and lack of sleep in itself caused increased anxiety but as the deficiency got worse I was having severe daily anxiety attacks. I remember wondering around the grounds of my work aimlessly trying to shake it off using all my practiced techniques but nothing would shift it . Naturally I searched google because - google knows everything-. and decided i had an under-active thyroid. So I went to the GP who of course rolled his eyes and told me to stop googling stuff ( never.) but sent me for a blood test, and it turned out I was severely low on vitamin D . He advised that during the winter every one should take a supplement for this. because surprisingly there are not a lot of foods that have enough of the vitamin to suffice through the winter, no matter how careful you are.

I also notice that when the sky is filled with clouds it will cause me to feel anxious.. I can go half a day if I'm busy just feeling nervous like I'm about to take a driving test or do a sky dive ( they are equally scary) until I stop and realize. I always look straight up at the sky, if its full of clouds and I can't see any of the sky I remember this is why and can carry on with my day, the nervousness doesn't necessarily disappear but at least I know why and I can brush it to one side until it passes.

Flu- 4 years ago I remember my mum kept asking me how I was and one day I replied by saying "I'm still ill and just assume I am ill until may or until I tell you other wise " I just couldn't shift it ..One illness lead to another, then another, and the children and I just kept passing our germs back and forth. between us. We had flu , then mine turned into sinusitis, which gave me tunnel vision, my son got chicken pox then inevitability my daughter got it.. Thank heavens for Netflix! Then my daughter and I got scarlet fever. this was the same time I started talking to my ,now, partner and I kept telling him we were ill . by the 5th week he just wasn't buying it anymore. I think I still had my scarlet fever rash on our first date! Cringe !

Now I'm sure there are many more ailments that the winter brings but these are the ones I have suffered with myself and have some pearls of wisdom to share

Winter Hacks!

Firstly Have your flu jab. It's around a tenner in most chemists and pharmacy's. Come on people its common sense, it drives me crazy the amount of sick people who say the flu jab doesn't work because it changes every year etc etc .. but they are usually talking about it because they are ill. just pay the £ 10 and at least even if it doesn't cover all the known types of flu you're covered for the majority of them, , you can just nip in when you do your grocery shop to,

Next ....Spice yourself healthy, who doesn't love a good curry . obviously the best way is to cook from scratch, pile in as many fresh spices and chili as you can handle and if you can handle it hot , which i cant i'm a bit of a curry wimp , but even without the chili

Turmeric and ginger are the best things for cold and flu.

Turmeric is a powerful anti -oxidant and anti-inflammatory, it can boost your immune system, kill germs and help tackle depression. So that's two out of your winter ailments covered right there, It's best to get it fresh

I am only able to find the fresh it in Tesco, Ocado and sometimes Sainsburys but you'll get it in most markets. have a hunt around and make sure you stock up for winter , you can of course use powdered but the properties aren't as as strong and it is not as good for making the winter elixir I am about to tell you about.

Ginger is another great root which does much of the same and you can get this one nearly everywhere. The two are closely related .

Ginger can help digestion , sickness and nausea,it has the same anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as Turmeric, it can also reduce muscle aches and pains, proven to lower blood sugars and will help prevent and fight against infection over all its the super dooper food. so the two combined will work like a magic potion in the winter.

No one wants to eat curry every day - not even me - so ....What i do is ( now if any of my friends and family are reading this they will now be rolling around with laughter because i'm terrible for trying to send them home with flask of the remedy whenever they are ill,

Infuse fresh ginger and Turmeric in hot water with lemon and a bit of honey its a delightful alternative to to the traditional lemon and honey with many more health benefits, It depends how much of a rush am in or how lazy I am being but I usually smash the ginger and turmeric in a large plastic jug and infuse with boiled water until its cooled to a got drinking temperature , then sieve it into a mug and squeeze in half a lemon . I prefer it without the honey but for the kids a teaspoon of honey makes it a little more palatable. if i'm being lazy I just tip it into a flask and off I go but you get the odd lump which can be a little off putting. The spices and lemon make a delicious elixir will boost your immune system and ward away those winter germs its hot and spicy and it really feels like its warming your cockles from the inside. . I swear by it, and after a couple of years of suffering badly with illness over the winter period I make sure i have a batch on the go at least once a week during the winter and I haven't suffered since.

Any time of year if i feel a sniffle or sneeze coming on. or if i have come into contact with anyone ill. out the ginger and turmeric come,

Margarine - The peg!, That's right the PEG! just your average run of the mill washing line peg. Now you can buy a specific migraine peg from places like eBay and amazon a friend of mine had an Aculief one from amazon but if you ask me its quite expensive for what a peg from your washing line will do or food clip. so you just clip it onto your hand between your thumb and forefinger , you know that flappy bit of skin that attaches your thumb to your hand. and it should - in theory- relieve your migraine . I have tried this and it did seem to actually work . but I had also taken paracetamol and ibuprofen so who knows. Another tip. when you feel your migraine coming on . If you get the aura like I do pop your usual painkillers straight away before the head ache kicks in this usually makes it only half as bad as it could be . ( obviously always follow the manufacturers instructions and only take the prescribed amount)

Anxiety and Depression -. The best way to fight the symptoms is to work out -regularly .

Exercise produces endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. These are exactly the same things found in an anti depressant or anti anxiety drug. So really its a no-brainer . Even a few minutes a day or few times a week will help ward off the blues.

I know that if I go for one full week without a work out I get grumpy and stressed or even low Whatever the time of year. having said that I find it sooooo much harder to keep up the regime in the winter .It's almost impossible to get up early, and it fells like night time at around 4pm by December, but it's really important to try your hardest to keep going .

Get up Half an hour before every one else and jump around the living room, dance in the kitchen or run up and down the stairs. There are some great quick workout and hitt training online that you can do.

Being a busy mum of two its quite impossible to get to the gym on a regular basis ,so I use work out videos . I put it on in the living room while my partner put s the kids to bed and do a quick work out . or get up early. I usually only mange half the video in the morning because of time or i usually get a small intruder in the morning who wants there breakfast or to know where there clean pants are ( there in the draw , always in the draw) but if we have time i will try to include them in the work out with me . Jo wicks has some fab workouts for children online an there are even some really fun children's ones as long as your heart is beating fast and your getting a sweat on it doesn't matter what you are doing .

Walking is great especially if you get a nice clear sunny day it will work wonders for anxiety . and the best way to work out is out side .

If i cant manage to escape the children take them with me . It's just as good for them as it is for you and its a really good idea to enforce the important of exercise from a young age . My son who is 9 will come for a run with me but my daughter who's 6 struggles to keep up which is not a great work out for me so she will go on her bike and i will jog a long side her we make it fun by racing or playing it,

I am not great at running and i don't really like it to be honest so we power walk and talk, then sprint for 60 seconds them power walk its a brilliant fat burner because you are increasing and decreasing your heart rate and will really get your heart pumping .

Or to get outside we put on jumpers and head into the back garden with Jo wicks on the tablet and work out .

Swimming is another really good way to keep fit its relaxing and doesn't feel like you are doing as much as you actually are . Especially if your swimming pool has a spa. ;-)

But realistically if you want to feel better, exercise its simple and there are loads of ways to get your heart pumping.

SAD or UV lamps are great way to increase your serotonin levels. You can get them for a range of prices and they are really effective. Basically what they do is imitate natural sunlight . Now it wont increase you vitamin D levels you still need a supplement for that in the winter but it will allow your body to produce its own hormones to help you feel a little brighter..

You get get them on a timer or buy a separate timer so that the light switches on before you wake up . but I also use mine when I'm reading or working or excising. It can get a bit annoying so you don't want it on all the time. If i'm home i'll have it on for a couple of hours, but if i'm out most of the day i will pop it on when i do my work out in the morning or evening and help raise my levels .

Meditation . now some will think this is all airy fairy hippy stuff. but actually its very simple-. its breathing- . and we all breath you sort of have to breath to stay alive.

All meditation is or mindfulness which is pretty much the same thing. is focus on our breathing and getting your brain to stop; thinking for a few moments , you are just giving your brain a short rest .

The easiest way is to count your breaths , find a quiet space , with no distractions , in bed before you go to sleep , when your walking somewhere or even on the loo. ( maybe before you use the loo. you don't want to be taking in long deep breaths after ) and just count your breathing. Take some slow deep breaths in and push your tummy out so count one breath in and 2 for your breath out 3 in 4 out hold your breath for a few seconds in between each in and out breath. a good breathing technique can stop an anxiety attack in its tracks.. and as usual there are loads of apps online to help you achieve this or find new techniques for adults and children. . our favorite app is head space and smiling mind , my daughter who needs a little more encouragement likes the Zen Den cosmic kids YouTube videos

Then finally LAUGH - laughter is another activity that will allow the body to produce the same hormones as an anti depressant. Dopamine , serotonin and endorphins . so crack a knock knock joke , have a food fight or just do something crazy whatever will get your belly rolling as often as you can .

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