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      Updated Monday March 12th, 2001.
 

Take preventive steps against the common cold, flu or depression, and learn about ways to reduce your stress and boost your energy.

Fighting a Cold or Flu

The common cold afflicts about 30 million Americans yearly. And if you don't take care of yourself, a cold can lead to more serious problems.

Every year 50,000 people die from pneumonia and other problems caused by a cold or the flu. You can fight off the flu by eating well, getting plenty of rest and exercise. But flu shots during flu season are extremely important if you are over 65 or have a long-term illness like heart problems, lung problems or diabetes.

Fighting Fatigue, Depression

Fatigue is the feeling that you're very, very tired. You can help overcome fatigue by doing the following:

- Have a more consistent diet. Don't skip breakfast and stay away from rich, sugary snacks. Eat foods with iron, whole-grain breads and cereals, and raw fruits and vegetables.

- Get more exercise. Working out can give you more energy.

- Change your routine. Try to do something new and interesting every day. If you already do too much, make time for some peace and quiet.

A common form of winter depression, called Seasonal Affective Disorder, is due to deprivation of light, which is caused by the shortened length of days during the winter months. And Thanksgiving and Christmas fall in our two darkest months. Here are some ways to lighten up in the winter:

- Try to get an hour of outdoor light every day.

- Decorate rooms with light colors, but avoid stark white.

- Avoid any diet that severely restricts carbohydrates like breads and pasta, which increase energy levels. Cut back on fats and calories instead.

- Reduce stress levels.

Fighting Stress

The March Break and holidays are stressful, no doubt about it, but you can learn to manage your stress. Stress-related disorders, such as alcoholism, heart disease, ulcers, hypertension and emotional distress, have become common among Americans. Incorporate these stress-relievers into your daily life:

- Take long walks.

- Do breathing exercises.

- Stretch often.

- Limit caffeine intake.

- Take time to relax.

- Avoid drugs and alcohol.
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