It’s that time of year again when the temperature drops and we start to feel the cold. Heating comes on and we wear extra layers. At the end of the month, the clocks will go back an hour so we are back to Greenwich Mean Time. The nights will be darker and colder and we will all be preparing or rather just waiting to see what weather the winter brings.
For an average family you would think it should be exciting times, Christmas coming and thoughts turn to the New Year and new beginnings, kids excited to see some snow… However this is not really the case. In the UK, one in six families are struggling to cover their costs so Christmas and extra heating bills will be putting a extra serious strain on many. Worrying about money, the cold gloomy weather and the lack of sunlight is a recipe for ‘winter depression’ or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) as it’s also known. The elderly and disabled will be feeling extra vulnerable as they are less agile so will feel the cold a lot more. Age UK estimates that there are 1.7 million older people in the UK who can’t afford to heat their homes.
Keeping warm over the winter is important as it can help prevent colds and flu and even more serious health issues such as strokes and heart attacks. So it is important to keep warm and stay healthy. The chances of catching colds and flu will be much higher for the vulnerable, so the elderly, disabled, those with long-term health condition, and those that cannot afford heating are all in this category. Even the average middle-aged person will be vulnerable if they are stressing of Christmas, their work, the kids, bills etc. Immune systems will be low and with a slight shill in the air we are all more prone to getting illnesses.
This is all sounds for rather depressing reading.. Sorry about that, but there is a happy ending or rather there can be. Looking at the positive, there are things we can all do to ensure that we keep warm, keep healthy and get through the next few months unscathed.
So what can we do?
To keep the bugs at bay we all need to use a little common sense to keep warm and stay healthy over the coming cold period. If you can, get the flu jab from your doctor and try to follow these simple tips:
How to keep warm this winter
• Keep your main living room warm. Just heat one room if you cannot afford to heat all rooms and keep everyone together. You can warm up a bedroom just before bed and use water bottles.
• Wear Layers – Wear extra layers such as vests or long johns. There are plenty of nice affordable under wear which you can wear to keep warm. Wear several thin layers as this will keep you warmer compared to one thick layer as lays trap warm air.
• Use Water Bottles – Water bottles can be used anytime, just just in bed.
• Eat Healthily – Eat plenty for fruit and vegetables and have a breakfast. Porridge in the morning is perfect for winter mornings.
• Keep Active – There are plenty of things you can do at home to keep active. Stretches, yoga or even having a dance. Put your favourite music on and have a little boogie when you start to feel the cold.
• Wear Clothes in Bed – Wearing thermal underwear socks and a hat on very cold nights will keep you warm.
For the less able or those that can’t walk or move around, there are chair-based exercises which you can do to more your arms and legs.
• Keep Windows Shut – Keep the windows so to keep the heat inside.
• Draft Excluders – Use draft excluders to keep drafts at bay. If you havenet got any you can use old towels or clothes to roll up and put at the base of doors or drafty areas.
There is a Winter Warmth Advice Line which you can phone for free:
FREEPHONE 0800 085 7000
Families should use the winter months to try new activities for the whole family. Many people use the winter months as an excuse to stay in and lounge around doing very little but watch TV or read. Being cooped up inside the house can cause family tension. This year do more; find an activity which the whole family can enjoy. Remember regular exercise helps to control your weight and boost your immune system.
How to stay out of Debt
There is help from the government for the most vulnerably when it comes to paying for heating bills. For the elderly and disabled and those with income support based allowances are entitled to cold weather benefits. Follow the links below for more information on these grants.
Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments.
Say No to Loans
Do not get loans, especially payday loans. Loans are one of the worst things you can do when it comes to keeping out of debt. They just add to it. Just spend within your means. Work out what you have coming in and what you have going out, then budget. If this means the children or family going without presents then so be it. Make gifts instead, there are plenty of things that can be made or sourced cheaply. There was a time when children would be happy to get an orange or banana. Now I am not saying we should go back to those times, but we all spend far to much on Christmas presents for our children and grand kids and it really is appreciated by them. Most kids end up playing with the boxes anyway.
Shop around for the cheapest fresh food and cook all your own meals. It is cheaper to cook from scratch than to buy ready meals or junk food. It just needs a little more time and effort, but this helps with keeping active so get busy in the kitchen and get back to basics
How to keep SAD at bay
• Eat Healthily – Again eating healthily has many benefits and getting a good well balance diet will help to keep spirits high. Eating plenty for fruit and vegetables are important and trying to lay off the comfort food. It is tempting to eat comfort food at this time of the year but if you want to keep your waist and keep happy into the new year, do it, lay off the rubbish.
• Keep Active – getting exercise is important to keeping SAD away, wrap up and go for walks or move around more at home.
• Laugh More – Did you know that laughter releases tension and relaxes your whole body? Also laughing burns calories and boosts your immune system which improve your resistance to disease. So watch some funny DVDs or read a funny book. Families should play old fashioned games such as can play games such as ‘give us a clue’.
• Get out More – If you can get out of the house do so, getting fresh air and daylight even if cloudy will help lift your mood
• See your Friends – Don’t become a loner and schedule social time with friends.
Learn a New Skill – Winter is a great time to take up a new skill or learn a new craft.
Remember at this time of the year there will also be elderly relatives or neighbours who will be suffering in silent. There is always someone worse off than yourself. Check with relatives; see if there is anything you can do to help. There is nothing more rewarding than helping someone who needs it. We all need to stick together and do what we can so that everyone stays warm, healthy and happy this winter.