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Sick of the cold? 5 ways to boost your energy levels

Wipe out winter tiredness and beat the cold this February with our five top tips to boost energy.

Runny nose, scratchy throat, you draw the curtains — it’s still dark outside. You cross your fingers and pray (not for the first time this week) that a few strong cups of preferred caffeinated brew will be enough to power you through the day. 

Sound familiar?

You’re not alone. In winter, adults typically catch two to four colds a year [1], and they can leave you feeling rotten, particularly when you roll out of bed in the morning, crack open the curtains, and see it’s still dark.

Does a cold leave you feeling tired, or is it the fact you were run down in the first place that you caught it? It’s probably a bit of both. But fear not — we have five tips to get you back to feeling your usual self. 

1. Get a top-to-toe health MOT

Kidneys, check. Liver, check. Hormones, check. 

First and foremost, if you’ve not already, it’s a good idea to make sure your body is functioning as well as it should. There are so many health conditions that can either make you prone to infections or leave you feeling lethargic, like diabetes or an underactive thyroid. 

Our Advanced Well Man Blood Test and Advanced Well Woman Blood Test are quick and easy home health checks that can help you establish whether an underlying problem may be to blame for your frequent colds or low energy levels. 

2. Check for deficiencies

Largely gone are the days of scurvy and rickets — supermarket shelves are now stocked with exotic produce from all over the world. But despite this, some of us find ourselves deficient in one thing or another. The most common? Vitamin D.

We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight exposure. As it’s generally difficult to get enough vitamin D from your diet alone, the NHS recommends taking a daily 10mg vitamin D supplement over the winter months [2]. Vitamin D plays an important part in keeping us energised. And there’s some evidence to suggest it might even protect you from picking up another cold, especially if you’re deficient [3].

Before starting any supplements, you can check your baseline level with our Vitamin D (25 OH) Blood Test.

Aside from vitamin D, there are a couple of other deficiencies to be aware of — these are vitamin B12, folate, and iron. They might not stave off a cold, but a deficiency can leave you feeling run down and even cause anaemia [4]. Most people get enough through a nutritious, varied diet, but vegetarians and vegans should be a little warier. Our vegan and plant-based health hub explains how you can stay well-nourished, even on a restrictive diet.

Worried your levels might be low? We have a test for all three — Vitamin B12 (Active) Folate and Ferritin Blood Test.

3. Take a breather

Fighting off a cold when you’re under chronic stress is like running into battle unarmed. 

Just to be clear, there are a couple of different types of stress. Short-term stress generally isn’t harmful to the body — it’s one of the built-in survival tactics that give us a surge of adrenaline when we need it. 

Chronic (long-term) stress, such as unrelenting strain at work, is not helpful. As well as increasing your susceptibility to infection, it can also cause low-grade inflammation and delay wound healing [5]. Not to mention, it’s likely to disrupt your sleep. Check your stress levels with our Stress Cortisol Saliva Tests (4)

Managing stress is easier said than done, especially in our fast-paced world. Some stressors can’t be eliminated completely, but you may be able to change the way you react to them. 

Relaxing activities and meditation can help you channel your inner Dalai Lama — see our top 10 ways to de-stress

4. Sleep, sleep, sleep

Late nights staring at a screen — most of us are guilty. But just how important is it to get enough kip?

Well, aside from leaving you tired and sluggish, a lack of sleep is likely to make you more susceptible to catching a cold. This is particularly true if you’re getting less than seven hours of sleep [6][7]

Sleep deprivation also has an effect on our mental wellbeing, and it’s been linked to conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure too [8]. Find out more about the benefits of a good night’s sleep

5. Get out and about

Immerse yourself in the great outdoors. It’s free, it’ll top up your vitamin D levels, and it might even lift your mood. 

This time of year, it can be challenging to find the motivation to step outside when it’s cold, grey, and overcast. But the fresh air can do you a world of good. If you’re working from home, it’s a chance to iron out the kinks in your back, increase your heart rate, and escape the stress of work, if only temporarily. If it’s the dark that’s stopping you, try going for a brisk walk on your lunch break instead. 

Exercise is a proven way to feel more energised and improve your overall well-being [9]. It’ll also give your immune system a friendly nudge.

The homestretch

Spring is only around the corner, but until then, make sure your defences are robust to tackle whatever it’s faced with. 

A seasonal shift in our energy levels is natural, but it means we’ve got to put in extra effort this time of year to stay uplifted and healthy — you’ve got this.


References

  1. Lung Association. 2021. Facts About the Common Cold. [online] Available at: <https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/influenza/facts-about-the-common-cold> [Accessed 23 December 2020].
  2. NHS. 2020. Vitamin D. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/> [Accessed 23 December 2021].
  3. Martineau, A. et al. 2017. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ, [online] p.i6583. Available at: <https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583> [Accessed 4 January 2022].
  4. NHS. 2019. Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamin-b12-or-folate-deficiency-anaemia/> [Accessed 4 January 2022].
  5. Dhabhar, F.S. Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunol Res 58, 193–210 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0
  6. Nieters, A et al. 2019. Psychophysiological insomnia and respiratory tract infections: results of an infection-diary-based cohort study. Sleep, [online] 42(8). Available at: <https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/42/8/zsz098/5491053> [Accessed 4 January 2022].
  7. Robinson, C. et al. 2021. The relationship between duration and quality of sleep and upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review. Family Practice, [online] 38(6), pp.802-810. Available at: <https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/38/6/802/6276667> [Accessed 4 January 2022].
  8. NHS. 2021. Why lack of sleep is bad for your health. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/why-lack-of-sleep-is-bad-for-your-health/> [Accessed 4 January 2022].
  9. Mental Health Foundation. n.d. How to look after your mental health using exercise. [online] Available at: <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-using-exercise> [Accessed 4 January 2022].