Winter Wellness

With shorter days and winter weather now approaching, it is important for us to all look after ourselves as befits the season. In this edition of our Parenting the Teenager update, with the help of the health centre, we look at what we can do to help our children, and indeed ourselves, to flourish in the coming months.

Fighting off the seasonal colds

Winter typically sees an increase in colds, flu and other viruses. We recommend that everyone keeps up to date with their vaccines. Autumn Covid boosters are currently being offered to those over 50 and to children in a clinical risk group. If you feel that your daughter is in a high-risk group, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the School Health Centre who will be able to advise.

Pupils in UIII to UIV will be offered the flu vaccination from the Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust Child Immunisation service. The immunisation service will communicate soon with parents about this.

Whilst vaccinations can be an important measure for us to take in guarding against the illnesses we associate with winter, it is worth us thinking about how we can encourage our children to prevent the tribulations of the season. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Eat lots of brightly coloured fruit and veg. These are often packed with vitamin A which help keep our noses and lungs in good condition to ward off infection. Citrus fruits are another favourite in this category with orange, mango, apricot and melon noted for the role that they can play.
  2. Adding garlic and onion to your dishes has also been suggested to protect against viral infections and support good gut health. The studies on these particular foods are not yet conclusive, but they do have a range of other health benefits.
  3. Boost your vitamins C and D through a healthy diet. This has long been seen as a key way to stay healthy at this time. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables including leafy greens and citrus fruits provides us with the vitamin C that we need. We can top up our vitamin D with foods such as salmon, mackerel, eggs and mushrooms.
  4. Stay active! With fewer hours of daylight there can be a natural desire to hibernate but getting out in the daylight and maintaining a healthy approach to exercise can really help support our immune system.
  5. Pay attention to our hygiene habits. Regular hand washing, keeping hands away from our faces and wiping down things such as our mobile phones can help us dodge the cold

Darker days and SAD

Another well-documented health aspect of the winter months is what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Although it is common to talk about the winter blues, about three in every 100 people in the UK are significantly affected by SAD. It is also three times more common in women than in men.

As people who live with SAD often have difficulty sleeping at night and getting up in the morning, we recommend sticking to a sleep schedule. Keeping to a regular routine can improve sleep, which can help mitigate the symptoms of SAD. If you are finding it hard to wake up in the mornings, a dawn-stimulating alarm clock can be useful. These clocks come on dimly for approximately an hour before waking and gradually get brighter. A daily 20–30 minute exposure to daylight during the morning can create a chemical change in your brain that boosts your mood. If you suffer from SAD and are finding it tough, we recommend talking to a GP to discuss your symptoms. 

With a lack of sun exposure in England, there are also ways of boosting vitamin D from October to May, as we do not make enough from sunlight during this time. Vitamin D is found in a variety of foods such as oily fish, red meat and egg yolks. Vitamin D can also be taken in supplements – the NHS recommends taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily. If you are considering boosting your vitamin D with a sunny holiday, please feel free to contact the Health Centre about travel vaccinations as some may be available on-site. For further information please email [email protected].

Try a little bit of Hygge and get cosy

There is no direct translation for the Danish word Hygge, but many of us will know the feeling it describes. Imagine drawing the curtains on a dark winter evening, lighting some candles, adding a log to the fire and cuddling up on the sofa with a good blanket, and some comfy socks and allowing the cares of the day to drift away. There has been considerable interest in how Scandinavian countries have benefited from adopting these practices and embracing the fact that winter is a period of dark and cold rather than trying to resist it.

As we move into winter, and with Long Leave and Christmas ahead, why not plan a family Hygge night to experience the wellbeing benefits of this approach? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Focus on enjoying some time together. Keep the evening simple and don’t worry if there is not a headline activity for the night or not ticking off that bucket list of trips and experiences.
  2. Light some candles or the fire. This will create a lovely atmosphere in the room and a feeling of cosiness that suits the season.
  3. Keep things simple. Plan a simple meal with hearty winter ingredients and something that you enjoy. A warming soup, some fresh bread or a family favourite that doesn’t take hours of effort.
  4. Pour that hot chocolate. Our pupils love hot chocolate nights in the Boarding Houses, so why not make this a focus? There is something comforting and pleasantly indulgent about adding cream and marshmallows to a warming mug; a simple way to turn the evening into a treat! Finding other ways to spoil yourself can also be beneficial; pick up a favourite cake for dessert or take a moment to reflect upon the fact that we all deserve a little indulgence every now and again.
  5. Have the right activities planned. It is supposed to be a relaxing evening so nothing too stressful! A favourite family board game, some time reading a beloved book or even sharing a movie can be a great bonding experience as part of your Hygge nights. Getting outside for a walk during the day can also add to the occasion and leaving phones in a different room can be a fantastic way for us to focus on the people we are with rather than the outside world.

We’ve probably all heard the phrase “man for all seasons” and about being ready to cope with anything, I hope spending a little bit of time thinking about the seasons will help make us better prepared for them and allow us to focus upon all the joy they can bring. Winter can be a wonderful time in School and I know pupils love the fun and festivities of the season, I hope that you’re looking forward to them too!

James Jones, Deputy Head (Pupils), Charmaine Moore and Chantelle Smith, School Nurses

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