So long summer! Welcome back, short days, crisp air and bright colorful leaves. Fall has officially arrived and though it may look a little different this year because of COVID-19, it’s still a season of transition. Think of it as a fresh start to focus on healthy habits and wellness. Although our bodies are different, and nothing health-related is a guarantee, the following preventative tips will help you and your family stay healthy and safe while enjoying the autumn season.
- Eat seasonally!
This time of year, beautiful fruits and vegetables make their appearance in grocery stores across the nation, including apples, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, turnips, kale, and squash. An abundance of these tasty, nutrient-dense options are ones to consider adding to your plate. This makes it easy to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet, such as lowering your risk of cancer, diabetes prevention, hypertension control, heart health and many more. It can also protect you while COVID-19 is still lingering as we head into the cold and flu season. So, take advantage of these seasonal delights. Get adventurous and try something new at a local farmers market or choose the freshest selections from your supermarket and enjoy the tastes of fall.
- Consume immunity-boosting foods!
As the weather gets colder and flu season starts, now more than ever, it’s important for your immune system to be in tip-top shape during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eating healthy foods with vitamin C (like citruses and berries) are key to fighting off infections. Garlic, ginger, spinach, and almonds are also big winners when it comes to boosting your health and immunity.
- Connect with others!
Fall is a perfect time to slow down. We may be physically keeping our distance from others, but it’s important to stay in touch. Talk with people you trust about how you are doing and feeling. Make time to reconnect with loved ones and pursue activities that will ensure your mental and social support systems are maintained during the pandemic.
- Cope with stress.
Stress management is extremely complex since you are never going to be completely stress-free, because life happens, which means stress happens. Everyone is different. Every journey is different. Everyone experiences stress differently and has different ways of coping. Here are a few practices and tools that can be found helpful in coping with stress in a natural way.
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
- Be mindful while you do activities you enjoy. Notice the sounds of crunching leaves outside, the smell of your favorite fall foods, and the sounds of your neighborhood.
- Actively practice gratitude. Establishing a gratitude practice can be extremely transformative and helps to acknowledge the good in our lives even when things aren’t going so great.
- Let go. Letting go is huge. Whether it’s letting go of expectations, past hurt, limiting beliefs, judgement, or stress itself, letting go can be extremely healing for all areas of our health.
- Drink up…your H2O that is!
While the simple act of drinking water won’t prevent contracting COVID-19, there are other ways drinking more water can help you during this outbreak. Hydrate with tons of water throughout the day, and your immune system will thank you. An appropriate water intake can improve cognitive function, and will also keep your skin supple, which can be a problem as the weather gets drier. Keep your water intake high as fall fades into winter, too.
- Rise and shine at the same time!
As the sun goes down earlier, it can throw off your natural circadian rhythm. Try to maintain a sleep schedule of at least seven hours and keep your normal bedtime and waking hours the same as the rest of the year. Our bodies need sleep to rest and recharge. According to the CDC, without a sufficient amount of sleep, you increase your risk for developing serious health problems—like heart disease, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease. Inadequate sleep has also been linked to suppressed immune function.
- Switch up your fitness routines!
Soon enough you’ll probably have to give up your outdoor run and biking fun as the weather gets chillier, especially since many gyms are still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Make it less of a shock by taking some of your routines and slowly incorporating indoor workout sessions. Try joining an online group fitness class – there are many new virtual classes out there now, like kickboxing or Zumba to get your cardio fix. The change of season is always the perfect time to make changes happen in your life. If you accomplish those goals, you’ll be in a great place to begin the new year with a new set of goals.
- Get your flu shot – especially this year!
Getting an annual flu shot is your best defense against contracting this prevalent virus. Even if you do get sick, a flu shot can reduce the symptoms. And, no, you cannot get the flu from getting the shot. The CDC recommends for the entire family, from infants ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine, which is more important now than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As both viruses will circulate at the same time, what will happen is a bit of a wild card. Wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing to avoid COVID-19 are measures you can take that will also help protect you from the flu. But with the coronavirus still raging across the country, the mortal dangers of both COVID-19 and the flu increase if a flu season packs the hospital. Coming down with a cough and fever could also mean locking down in quarantine while you wait (probably way too long) for COVID-19 test results.
So when is the best time to get your flu shot? The CDC advises to getting a flu vaccine as early in flu season as possible. It takes two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu. There is no change in CDC’s recommendation on the timing of vaccination this flu season because of COVID-19 factors. September and October are still good times to get vaccinated.
- Schedule Yearly Checkups!
Have you had your annual health checkup yet? If not, now is the time to set-up your annual physical you’ve been putting off all year. It’s best to schedule it now before it takes a backseat to the hustle and bustle of the winter holiday season. Even those without ongoing health issues should continue with preventative health screenings each year.
To maximize your healthcare benefit, schedule your annual checkup with your primary care doctor, see your dentist for your twice-a-year exam, visit your eye doctor for a checkup, get bloodwork and all the accompanying tests done in this calendar year.
And with October fast approaching, now is a perfect time to get that mammogram scheduled! After all, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which highlights the importance of breast cancer screening. According to the CDC and the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women in the United States. The good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. A mammogram, the screening test for breast cancer, can help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat. Therefore, October is a great time to spread the word about breast cancer screening and to show love and support for all those living with breast cancer and those who have lost their fight.
Fall is the perfect season to slow down and take a look at your health and wellness. These tips are aimed at helping you have a healthier fall overall. It’s a cliché, really, but health is wealth no matter how you look at it. So, let’s start implementing these habits today!
2020 will be remembered as a most unusual and out-of-the-ordinary year (and for many, in not so many positive ways), so we need to make the best of it and remain as healthy as possible to enjoy what we can. Have a happy and healthy fall!
References and additional resources:
CDC: Flu Season
Breast Cancer Research Foundation: Breast Cancer Statistics And Resources
National Cancer Institute: Breast Cancer – Patient Version
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