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Winter wellbeing

Looking after yourself this winter 

Winter has arrived, along with shorter days and colder temperatures. During this time of year, we often see an increase in common illnesses that tend to peak during this season as well as many people feeling lonelier and more isolated. 

That's why we've introduced our winter wellbeing page, to help you look after yourself this winter so you can enjoy activities with your friends and family or meet someone new in one of our welcoming spaces. 

On this page you'll discover tips on maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough rest to practicing good hand hygiene, preventing illnesses, minimising the risk of falls and how you can keep yourself mentally well this time of year too. 

Take your time reading through the information below - it may come in handy to either you or a loved one.

Looking after your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health and there are some really small steps you can take to help you feel happier.

Try some of the steps below and see how they make a difference for you:

  • Giving: Do kind things for others
  • Relating: Our welcoming spaces are a great opportunity to connect with people - have a look on our map to see the closest one to you 
  • Exercising: Take care of your body
  • Awareness: Live life mindfully
  • Trying Out: Keep learning new things
  • Direction: Have goals to look forward to
  • Resilience: Find ways to bounce back
  • Emotions: Look for what’s good
  • Acceptance: Be comfortable with who you are
  • Meaning: Be part of something bigger

For more information visit Action for Happiness.

If you are feeling low in mood and need to speak to someone to get support for your mental health, there are a wide range of support services on hand to help you.  

The Mental Health Number is free to call on 0800 448 0828 any day or any night. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a trained mental health navigator ready to speak to you. 

If you are in a crisis and would rather speak to someone in person, you can drop into one of the NHFT Crisis Cafes located all round Northamptonshire with trained professionals able to listen and support you. For locations and times visit the NHFT Crisis Cafe website

NHFT Talking Therapies can help individuals to identify, understand and manage their problems or difficulties. The talking therapies support options include face-to-face therapies, telephone and video calls, webinars and our online tools, which you can use wherever and whenever works best for you.

If you are feeling unwell or are worried about someone, the NHFT Urgent Help webpage has advice and contact details designed to help you decide what to do now.

Emotional wellbeing and mental health for children and young people up to the age of 18 - if you are a child or young person and are experiencing difficulties with your emotional wellbeing and mental health difficulties, or know someone who is, find out about children and young people's mental health services in Northamptonshire.

These are our top tips that you can do at home, to keep yourself well this winter. 

  1. Stay hydrated - drinking little and often can help to keep you hydrated throughout the day. Water is the best option, but milk, tea, coffee, fresh juice, smoothies and sugar-free drinks all count too
  2. Eat well - eating a wide variety of foods means you are more likely to have all the essential nutrients your body needs to function at its best. Check out our advice on how to make food go further!
  3. Get moving every day - just 30 minutes a day is great for your mind and body! Whether a walk outside, strength exercises or a ‘get up and go class’. There are lots of options to keep you active every day. Have a look at Northamptonshire Sport to see the activities available.
  4. Enjoy nature – being outside in the fresh air and around nature is proven to have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing – just remember to wrap up warm!
  5. Keep your medicines stocked up! – visit your local pharmacy or supermarket to buy remedies for minor illnesses, often at little cost
  6. Be kind and look out for each other – it may be you have an elderly neighbour or relative that is on their own or know of someone in your neighbourhood that is struggling whether it be financially, mentally or in simple everyday tasks like getting to the supermarket. A simple call or check-in can make all the difference
  7. Wash your hands and catch your sneezes - it sounds simple, but it really does make a big difference! Washing your hands several times a day for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water can help prevent you from getting sick and spreading bugs further. Catch your sneeze! – catch it in a tissue, bin it and kill the germs
  8. Stay connected - Social relationships are an important part of supporting our wellbeing. Spend time each day developing and nurturing relationships with friends, families, neighbours and colleagues. Try to make a connection each day. Age UK Northamptonshire have a Telephone Befriending Service available or pop along to one of our welcoming spaces near you to meet someone new over a cuppa! 
  9. Keep warm - cold weather can have a serious impact on health, and it is important to keep warm. If you can, try and have a room temperature of 18°C, particularly if you have reduced mobility, are 65 and over, or have a health condition such as heart or lung disease. Ensure windows are closed during cold nights, have your heating system checked to make sure they are safe to use and working and finally wear lots of layers of thin clothes.
  10. Safely enjoying festivities - keeping bugs at bay this festive period is important and there are a few things you can do to help achieve this! Keep balanced ventilation within your home, be careful when storing and handling food to prevent contamination and remember good hygiene when greeting others.

For many of us, the colder weather can put us off wanting to be active as we are used to being outdoors for nice walks, tennis or friendly football games for example.

We know that by being active and moving for at least 30 minutes a day can make a huge difference to how you are feeling so it is really important to still get your movement in, in whatever way you prefer! 

Have a look at our sports and leisure pages which have information on different groups you can get involved with or leisure centres near you.

Maybe visit one of our country parks that you haven’t been to yet? Find a full list of our country parks and open spaces.

If you are looking to be more steady on your feet, you can sign up to a ‘Get up and Go’ class to learn balance exercises.

Many residents are feeling the strain on their finances because of the cost of living crisis with worry as we head into the winter months. There is support available to you, so please do not feel like you can’t take it. Have a look at our Cost of Living Support Hub for the various support that you may be able to access.

If you are looking at ways you can save money then have a look at our tips below.  

Being energy efficient

  • Remember to only heat the rooms you use - by turning individual radiators off in the rooms you aren’t using
  • Draught proof your doors and windows - a lot of heat can be lost from your home through windows and doors. You can pick up some draught strips for a low price from many stores and it will make a difference to your heating
  • Keeping windows closed - although it’s important to open windows for fresh air, make sure they aren’t left open all day cooling your house down (double check that all windows are shut so heat doesn’t escape)
  • Keeping heating set to 18°C - Keeping your heating set to a constant temperature will mean your central heating will work to keep it at that temperature constantly

Shop and cook smarter

  • Weekly meal planning - Planning meals ahead and checking the cupboards before you go shopping means you know what you need to buy and can reduce waste
  • Having leftovers - Cooked a big meal? If there’s enough to plate up another portion keep it for the next day rather than throwing it away 
  • Check use by dates - Check use by dates so you can use food before it goes off, reducing food waste

There are so many things to do across West Northamptonshire, many of them free or low-cost. To find out what’s happening near you use the Explore West Northants app

The winter months typically see an increase in the number of infectious diseases in circulation. With people remaining and mixing more indoors it is easier for viruses to spread either through airborne transmission or indirect transmission on objects such as handles or switches.

You can help to keep common bugs at bay this winter by following these simple steps:

  • Keep your hands clean - it sounds simple, but it really does make a big difference! Washing your hands frequently throughout the day, but particularly after using the toilet, handling food, and when returning from going out can help prevent you from getting sick and spreading viruses to others. Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. If soap and water is not available an alcohol-based hand rub can also help to kill the majority of viruses, but it is important to wash your hands as soon as you can.
  • Catch your sneeze! - catch it in a tissue, bin it and kill the germs. This helps avoid the release of viruses into the air or landing on surfaces. If you do not have a tissue available you can use the crook of your arm instead, but don’t forget to wash your clothes.
  • If you feel unwell - stay at home as much as possible and avoid contact with others, this helps stop the spread of infection to anyone else, particularly those who are vulnerable such as young children, older people or people with certain health conditions.
  • Get vaccinated - vaccines help to boost immunity and avoid complications. Find out more about vaccinations below.
  • Keep surfaces and frequently touched items clean - viruses can easily be transmitted on surfaces or objects such as doorknobs, light switches, taps, handles and phones. Anti-bacterial disinfectant cleaning products or wipes are effective at killing the majority of viruses and germs that could be lurking. Soft furnishings such as sofas, carpets and rugs can also be cleaned by steam cleaning.

Getting vaccinated is an important step in keeping yourself and others around you safe. Being fully vaccinated helps to protect you from severe illness and can reduce the likely transmission of viruses to others. This is particularly important during this time when there is an increase in the number of viruses in circulation.

Some of the common winter illnesses that can be vaccinated against include:

Flu

Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter, which is why it’s also called seasonal flu. It’s a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly. Flu can cause a high temperature, extreme tiredness, aching muscles and joints, stuffy nose, dry cough and a sore throat. A bad case of flu is much worse than a heavy cold. Many people will recover within seven days, but for some the disease can have long term effects, and lead to hospitalisation or even death.

Those eligible for a Flu vaccine during the Autumn 2023/Winter 2024 season include:

  • children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023
  • primary school aged children (reception - year 6)
  • secondary school aged children (years 7-11)
  • those aged 6 months to under 65 years in clinical risk
  • pregnant women
  • those aged 65 years and over (including who will be 65 on or before 31 March 2024
  • those in long-stay residential care homes and other long-stay care facilities
  • carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person
  • close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
  • frontline workers in a social care setting including those working for:
    • a registered residential care or nursing home
    • registered domiciliary care providers
    • voluntary managed hospice providers
    • those that are employed by those who receive direct payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health Budgets, such as Personal Assistants

Eligible people will be notified by their GP or the NHS about their vaccination. Other groups such as children and people in care homes and facilities may be offered the vaccination at school or in the home. It is also possible to get the flu vaccine at some community pharmacies.

People who are not eligible for a free vaccine can arrange it at a local pharmacy, for a small cost.

See Flu vaccination for more information.

COVID-19 vaccination

The national Autumn/Winter 2023 COVID-19 vaccination programme runs from September until January 2024.

The vaccine is offered to those at highest risk of serious disease from COVID-19 including people aged 65 years and over, aged between 5 and 64 years with a health condition and frontline social care staff.

People in care homes may be offered the vaccination at the home, other eligible people may be notified by the NHS about their vaccination by text message or invited by their GP to attend a scheduled clinic.

Anyone eligible is encouraged to get vaccinated as early as possible via:

  • A drop in clinic at a community venue or local pharmacy find a location
  • Your own GP

See the NHS website for more information about the COVID-19 vaccination.

MMR vaccination

Everyone is eligible for the MMR vaccine which gives protection against Measles, Mumps and Rubella (German Measles).

These three very serious viruses can easily be spread and cause severe illness between people who are not vaccinated, so it is important to do what you can to reduce the likelihood of transmission. Two doses of the MMR vaccination are required to be fully protected.

The MMR vaccination is offered to all children aged 1 year and the 2nd dose at 3 years 4 months by their GP. However, it is possible for anyone to get fully vaccinated, even if they are older than the age it is due.

Everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated, but it is particularly important for those who are vulnerable due to existing conditions, or those who are in close contact with vulnerable people such as people who work in care home are encouraged to be fully vaccinated against MMR, to help protect the vulnerable people they are in contact with, as well as themselves.

If you or your child have not had the MMR vaccination contact your GP to discuss how you can arrange to receive it.

See the NHS website for more information about the MMR vaccination.

If you, or the person you care for, have missed any vaccinations, it is not too late to arrange it. Speak to your GP who can advise how you can arrange to receive it.

For further information about vaccination and some of the most common winter illnesses visit: