Winter is coming: How to stay happy and healthy
It's easy to enjoy the summer when living in Europe. Warm days and late sunsets allow plenty of time to socialise, exercise and enjoy yourself. The colder months, however, are a slightly different proposition.
Autumn and winter mean shorter days, colder nights and often a range of health challenges. Not only are seasonal colds and flu circulating, but low temperatures and light levels make it more difficult to keep in shape, and moods dip.
Together with international health insurance broker ASN, we identify proven ways in which you can stay fit, healthy and happy as the year draws to a close.
Cold, coughs and flus – oh my!
Avoiding the cold and flus that come with the cold weather can be difficult, but there are some things that you can do to minimise the risk, that go beyond washing your hands or wearing a mask.
Clinical studies across the globe have demonstrated that regularly taking vitamin C, echinacea and (most importantly) zinc may boost the immune system's defences, and in some cases prevent illness.
For those with health issues such as hypertension, pre-existing respiratory or heart disease, seasonal viruses can be devastating. In these cases, doctors recommend a yearly flu vaccine. These protect against the yearly dominant strains and can vastly reduce the severity of illness, should you get sick.
As Giovanni Bretti from ASN Customer Care tells us, "The good thing about international health insurance is that you can include or exclude benefits such as vaccinations and specialised respiratory care, tailored to your needs.”
Ski, skate, cycle or spin
Of course, we know that you can minimise your odds of getting seriously ill by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a good level of fitness – but how do you keep that up when it's dark and cold outside?
Majuran Panchalingam, an International Insurance Consultant from ASN shares some tips: “When it starts to get cold outside, I mainly train indoors. Furthermore, I make everything ready the evening before. Skipping training becomes more difficult when I have already packed my training things.”
Also, something as simple as installing a free pedometer on your smartphone can help. Studies demonstrated it can increase average daily physical exercise by around 20 percent.
For those with a competitive streak, depending on which app you choose, you can receive detailed analysis on your walks or runs, including distance, speed and elevation.
An increasing number of apps also allow you to virtually 'walk' a set distance, such as the length of the Great Wall of China. Some even award a real medal or certificate upon completion.
Regular exercise can also help prevent injury to muscles and joints but should you get hurt in an accident, such as slipping on an icy pavement, it's important to seek medical assistance and specialised help as soon as you can. Some health insurance policies, like those arranged by ASN, will even give you free access to physiotherapists and other physical specialists.
By dealing with problems as they occur, you can not only avoid more invasive treatment and possible mobility issues but also save on healthcare costs. Who doesn't want that?
Get out of the gloom
The colder months don't just impact physical health – they can have a remarkable effect on mental health as well.
This is for a complex range of reasons. Some scientists have linked shorter days and longer nights to decreased serotonin production in the brain, while others have suggested it provokes changes in our circadian rhythms – our routines of wakefulness and sleep. Rather than be social and get out, we just want to sleep.
What has been shown to work are two things: getting outside during the daylight hours, and the regular use of a sun lamp, available in many shops. Both can have the effect of fooling the brain into proceeding as normal, and avoiding a low mood.
Internationals are especially susceptible to poorer mental health in the colder months, as they might find themselves isolated while those around them are celebrating the holiday season. It's important to stay connected and socialise when possible. Many forums and websites for internationals regularly hold events to facilitate social interaction and this can be a great way to stay connected and make new friends.
If you do find yourself experiencing a persistent low mood, speaking to someone about the challenges you’re facing and receiving the proper support can help.
Mental health therapies are usually covered in standard international health insurance plans. If you are working with a broker, such as ASN, they will do their best to support customers in their preferred language to find out what is covered and what kind of possibilities there are to find peace of mind again.
The best investment in your health
One of the best things an international living abroad can do to safeguard their health throughout the year, and especially in the darker months, is to consider an international health insurance policy.
Such policies, like those brokered by ASN, give 24-7 access to a global network of doctors, specialists and other healthcare professionals who can provide the personal care you need, when you need it. Not only that, but if you need to be transported to your home country for specialised care, this may be covered by an international health insurance policy.
These policies often also include coverage for preventative care, to help you avoid illness and mitigate conditions before they become chronic.
Just as consistent exercise, taking advantage of social activities, and getting yearly flu shots are investments in your health through autumn and winter, an international health insurance policy can ensure you can make the most of your life abroad.
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