What You Need to Do Right Now to Avoid Getting Sick this Winter

Professional Caregiver Health Tips

Try these holistic professional caregiver health tips used to provide consistent care and avoid missed workdays (and income) all season long.

Perhaps you’re like HomeCare of the Rockies president Sandi McCann and prefer a steaming bowl of homemade chicken soup to boost your immune system and nourish your spirit. Could be you rely on regular handwashing, like Janie Thurston, to avoid germs and infections. Or maybe you subscribe to Paul’s winter wellness strategy and fill up on Vitamins C and D and herbal immune boosters to stay strong and healthy all winter long.

Whichever approach you prefer, we encourage all caregiving professionals to make wintertime wellness a priority by taking steps to avoid colds, flu, and other common wintertime bugs that can slow us down and lead to care disruptions and missed work.

Not only can sickness sideline us from the fun of this festive season, but it can also heighten the health risks for the older adults we care for. Seniors are particularly susceptible to colds and flu viruses that can lead to complications, hospitalization, and sometimes even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sandi McCann, President

“Caregiver wellness is important to us,” McCann says. “We want our team members to feel good and be able to enjoy their lives. And, we also recognize that we cannot consistently care for others when we are sick ourselves. So, we work hard to give caregivers the information and support they need to create their own self-care and wellness routines.”

To help, HomeCare of the Rockies devotes hours of training to caregiver wellness. In the HomeCare 100 Professional Caregiver Training Curriculum, caregivers learn strategies to avoid and prevent illness and infection, manage stress, enhance well-being, and improve their quality of life.

Professional Caregiver Health Tips: Back to Basics Wellness

Staying well starts with the basics: regular sleep, a nutritious diet, daily physical activity. These things help us manage stress, strengthen our bodies, and boost our immune systems so we have the energy to fight off those germs and viruses that can make us sick and lead to missed time on the job.

But, complete well-being requires a holistic approach. Here are some other ways to prime your mind, body, and spirit to stay well this winter.

Professional Caregiver Health Tips: Five Ways to Stay Physically Well this Winter

  1. Wash your hands. We say this all this time, but handwashing is the easiest, most effective way to prevent the transmission of germs – both to you and others. Most viruses and illness are transmitted when you rub your nose, mouth, or eyes with contaminated hands. Wash well and often for about 30 seconds to get rid of those germs before they make you sick.
  2. Stay hydrated and well-nourished. Poor nutrition and inadequate hydration can weaken your immune system and leave you prone to illness. Drink lots of water and other clear, zero-calorie fluids, and eat fresh whole foods to keep up your strength.
  3. Get vaccinated. Flu shots and shingles vaccines can help buffer you against these viruses that can leave you feeling terrible and keep you from work.
  4. Sneeze into your elbow. If you feel the sniffles coming on, sneeze into the inside of your elbow rather than your hands to avoid passing on the cold. And remember, don’t go to work sick. You don’t want to expose your client to the illness. Stay home and rest and you’re likely to recover faster.
  5. Build physical activity into your day. Does your client like music? Turn on a tune and dance around the living room, or go for a walk with your client, if he’s up to it, or after your shift. Take the stairs Instead of an elevator, drop by the gym before work. Find little ways each day to stay physically active. Not only will your body stay strong – forming a protective barrier against the viruses that can drain us – but you’ll feel less stressed. Physical activity infuses our brains and bodies with endorphins that help us feel more relaxed and happier and that can help us manage our moods.

Professional Caregiver Health Tips: Four Ways to Ease Mental Stress

Daily stress depletes our bodies and immune function and can lead to more frequent colds, flu, and other sicknesses. Learning to manage the stress of the regular routine can help you stay healthier. Here are some things that can help:

  1. Turn off your phone and get some sleep. Not only does regular sleep support our physical health, but it also allows us to restore mentally. Sleep allows us to relax after stressful days and builds resilience so we can cope better with the stress ahead. To get a better night’s sleep, turn off devices at least an hour before bed. The short-wave blue light from these devices alters our melatonin release and can keep us awake at night. And the fast-paced streaming information can make it tough for us to relax our minds. Turn off devices to rest easier.
  2. Cut the to-do list. One of the greatest sources of mental stress is the sense that we have too much to do and not enough time to do it all. That leads to a feeling of overwhelm that chips away at our health. To alleviate this feeling, cut your to-do list down to the essentials. Challenge yourself to prioritize. Put only the most important things on your list. Preferably, keep the list to five must-dos in a day. Then practice good time management to get them all done. Still feel overloaded? Focus only on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking stresses us out and leads to mistakes, which take more of our time to manage. Limit your tasks and give your focused attention to each one and you’ll feel better.
  3. Add in the fun and maximize the meaning. Make sure you choose to do one thing (at least) a day that brings you joy. Make that an essential task. Savor good food, go for a walk outside, take a yoga class, volunteer, connect with friends. Do something that helps you recharge, makes life meaningful and enjoyable, and maybe even leaves you laughing. Taking time to do what you love isn’t selfish, it’s self-care and all professional caregivers need a big dose of that all winter long. Only when we take care of ourselves, can we care for others.
  4. Practice diaphragmatic breathing. We often underestimate the power of a deep breathing practice, but it is the simplest, most effective way to ease stress in the moment.

Studies also indicate that deep breathing improves immune, heart, and brain function. It can also lower blood pressure.

When we are in overdrive and our body is filled with stress-response hormones like cortisol, deep breathing can stimulate the vagus nerve, slow the release of those stress chemicals and blunt our fight-or-flight stress response. This helps us calm down and feel better in our bodies.

Start with belly breathing. Put one hand on your belly, the other on your chest, and breathe slowly in through your nose for a count of seven. Feel your belly pushing out. This is a sign that you are breathing deeply enough to fill your lungs. When we are stressed we breathe shallowly from our upper lung area, which intensifies our emotional, stress reaction, Belly breathing fills the entire lung. Then, exhale slowly through the mouth for a count of eight. Repeat this process five to 10 times.

Professional Caregiver Health Tips: Three Ways to Strengthen Your Spirit

Part of any holistic, self-care approach should include attention to your spiritual, thoughtful side. Here are some simple ways to build that in.

  1. Practice gratitude. It’s easy to get swept up in stress or to focus on what isn’t working, but shift your focus to what you are grateful for and you’ll feel better. Try giving thanks – aloud or in a written list — each day, for five things. Research shows that a regular gratitude practice improves health, regulates moods, prevents depression, builds optimism, and even powers up our immune function. But aside from all that, you’ll just feel happier.
  2. Try mindfulness. Take a deep breath, sit comfortably, relax your body, and just pay attention. Become present to how your body feels, what you notice in the environment around you. Tune in to your senses and just notice. Don’t judge or ruminate. As thoughts come in, recognize them and let them go. Let them pass. This kind of mindful meditation – or present-moment awareness – helps us reground, cope with stress, and manage anxiety. Mindfulness also lowers blood pressure and provides other health benefits.
  3. Practice random acts of giving. Each day, find a way to give to others. Either with a gentle, connecting kindness, like saying hello to someone on the street, or by dropping a dollar in the bell-ringers’ bucket, taking a meal to a neighbor in need, buying a coffee for the guy behind you in line. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost any money to act with generosity. In return, you will feel great and experience what researchers call the “helpers high.” When we give to others our bodies are flooded with feel-good hormones and endorphins that leave us happier and less stressed. This lowers our heart rate and boosts immune function. In short, doing good for others is also good for you.

These and other approaches – which we cover in the HomeCare 100 Professional Caregiver Training Curriculum – can infuse your life with meaning and joy and help you avoid colds, flu, and other viruses. This will leave you feeling better this winter and all year long.

Call us 720-204-6083 if you are looking for a meaningful career with a company that truly cares about the caregiver. HomeCare of the Rockies provides paid training, competitive wages, and full-time career opportunities. We have jobs available now.

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