Staying Healthy in the Winter

Staying Healthy in the Winter

As someone who was a complete mess the first two years of college, I can tell you from experience that winter is the worst time to get sick. Most likely though, that’s when your first time being sick by yourself would happen, and nothing makes you more homesick than feeling weak and wanting your parents to call the doctor for you.

It’s hard enough to get out of bed when the only warm and cozy place is right under all those blankets. It’s even harder to do so when you know the sun will set right after lunch-time. Now add coughing, pain, and frequent bathroom runs to the mix and tell me that doesn’t sound like the ultimate nightmare.

Anyone who knows me knows that as bad as my sleeping schedule got, as much as I did as a student, I very rarely got sick for longer than a day. One time I even managed to cure my cold within three days, and that’s when I convinced myself that even if all my habits sucked, I could take care of the basics.

So, here are my basics:

Buy sweaters, jackets and scarves around Spring

The year 2014, I traveled from the warm paradise-like equator to so far north that it’s almost Canada. My whole wardrobe was shorts, dresses, and sandals. That might work in Florida, but for Seattle? That’s like asking to get sick.

For the first two years of college, I spent most of winter in sweatpants, hoodies, and a single coat that was not even waterproof. Inconvenient if you consider how in Seattle you practically breathe rain.

The solution? Get it all in the Spring—that’s when all the discounts happen. Winter is starting again and my friends are asking me where I got my warm coat, and where I got my fluffy jean jacket that makes me look like a celebrity. I got them last year, that’s the secret. I got so used to shopping during that time of year that most of my current wardrobe consists of high waisted pants and sweaters, so I don’t know what I’ll wear when I go home.

For even better deals, you can also shop those Thanksgiving discounts or go to nice thrift stores. My first year, we went to thrift stores a lot with friends because one of Seattle’s thrift stores was the one where Macklemore filmed his music video.

Get a hand sanitizer (and tissue) and just keep it in your bag

For the love of all that is holy, don’t sneeze on your hands. That’s the best way to spread germs everywhere. Just sneeze to the side or use a tissue and then sanitize. I don’t know if this is just in my head, but if I don’t try to stay “clean” during colds, I feel like it will last longer because all of me is surrounded by germs and spreading them on all my belongings.

It’s also always nice if you can be the person that your friends can count on when they need a tissue or have hand sanitizer in their bag—that’s always appreciated even in random events such as going to a public bathroom that ran out of toilet paper and/or only has some questionable bar soap.   

Carry your water bottle around all day and be smart about your groceries

I’ve convinced myself plenty of times that I don’t need groceries just to avoid walking in the cold weather, or after dark since the sun goes down so early. This is probably the worst thing you can do because the main way to stay healthy is to eat healthy foods and exercise. Yes, even that walk to the grocery store counts as exercise. To keep your immune system strong, consume fibers and probiotics.

Moreover, it’s just as important to remember to stay hydrated, so carry around a water bottle and make it your goal to finish it every day. We feel less thirsty in the winter, and if you get into winter sports like snowboarding or skiing, you might not even realize you’re sweating because it evaporates more quickly in cold air.

Always have some cold/flu medicine in your apartment

Instead of going to the pharmacy when you’re already weak and exhausted, store some in your kitchen. At the very least, you can offer it to someone else when they’re feeling sick.

Sleep twice as much as you usually do

Especially as a college student, you’re probably not getting as much sleep as you should. Sleeping six hours every night? Sleep twelve and then take another nap after class. Get an eye mask, earplugs, just force yourself to sleep more than you usually would. That time I cured my cold in three days, I slept more than I probably slept any other day of my college education.

Even if you can’t fall asleep, try to lie down and rest in silence. Stress can affect your immune system and make your cold last longer, so rest as much as you can. It’s hard to believe, but mental health and physical health are a lot more connected than you might think.

In very cold and dry weather, getting a humidifier can also help you get better sleep especially on those days you’re feeling congested.

While these are my main pieces of advice, since most international students travel home for winter break here’s an extra three:

  1. Wear a mask on the plane. I started doing this after I had a 10-hour flight next to someone with a really bad cold, but I’m telling you so you don’t have to experience it first. It will really help.

  2. Bring baby wipes and clean your hands, armrests, and tray as soon as you sit down. Then clean your hands again before eating.

  3. Get some sleep. Get whatever you need to sleep better on the plane because we all know it’s not the most comfortable situation. Earphones, noise-canceling headphones, neck pillows, bring your own blankets—anything you think will help. And, for better sleep, avoid sitting near the bathroom unless you don’t mind people walking around you the whole flight.  

Winter is Coming, so stay healthy and stay warm.

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Wendy is an international student from Ecuador who just graduated from Seattle University with a double major in Creative Writing and Theatre. She’s excited to share some of the stories of things she’s learned in her time in the U.S.!

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