Many people focus upon Christmas as the pinnacle of the Winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, pressured as we are to be full of ‘festive cheer’ and to make the most of this annual holiday, but in fact, it’s around this time many fall ill. The added stress of buying presents and attending & organizing additional events, can, of course, contribute to this, stress creates more cortisol and adrenalin in the body; both of which lower our immunity. However, by following these 7 simple pointers you can avoid ill health and fully enjoy this years’ darker months. Here is how.
1. You must get enough sleep!
Stress and exhaustion are the simple, most common causes of us catching one of the prevalent airborne viruses which cause colds & infections. Remember, germs are around all year, the reason we fall prey to them more in the winter, is simply down to depletion of our immune systems. Tiredness is not just as bad as stress; it also is a major factor in causing it! So, it is imperative that you get enough sleep!
If you generally struggle to wind down then applying a few drops of lavender oil to your pillow at night and drinking some valerian tea just prior to bedtime will help most people drop off, or some hot chocolate may be equally effective.
Failing this, 5-10 minutes of yoga stretches will both help induce sleep and relax the mind, also trying to stay awake throughout a 20-minute audio meditation will usually have a suitably soporific effect. There are so many amazing meditation apps & videos available now that help us to achieve deep, relaxing sleep, and achieve some healing in the process!
2. Plan in advance
So much of stress is caused by not staying on top of things. While some people seem to thrive on being busy and having a full schedule, most of us can benefit from learning good time management. One of the most obvious, but important tips, is to keep a list. Most mobile phones have a ‘notes’ section where you can record all of the important things which need to be done, and then you can add reminders to your calendar, to help you keep on top of things.
The most important thing about reminders and lists is that they give you the opportunity to relax! So, you have 5 people to buy presents for and an hour free on Thursday night. Great, you have allocated your time. On Thursday night, you just need to click a few buttons and your presents are ordered. Or it may be that you want to buy in person, as you love shopping. Excellent! Set aside a day to spend with a friend and do all you need to do but make time for a coffee and/or lunch too so that it’s not a chore. If you are organized and allocate ample time to do what you need to do, it can always be scheduled in a way that is enjoyable, rather than stressful!
3. Reward yourself!
In a busy, stressful world, it is so easy for us to get into the habit of thinking badly of ourselves. We all have that inner voice which talks us down at times, reminding us of our failings and flaws. All this does though is deplete our energy and create what is more likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In order to curb this, we need to be kinder to ourselves and offer praise for jobs well done, just as we would do for others. If making a list of things to do, make it achievable, go into the list afterward and make a point of ticking off the items and gaining a sense of completion and fulfillment. Decide on a reward which is health, and just for you. Whether that’s a nice relaxing bubble bath, buying in your favorite food to share a candlelit dinner with somebody whose company you love, or if you have a family, maybe a playdate for your children, so that they can see their friends, and you can reduce the pressure on yourself for a few hours.
Looking after your own needs and pleasures is something, we all need to make time for after all only you can really take care of you and by doing so you have so much more to share and offer to others! Self-love is never self-less, never selfish.
4. Learning to see the funny side
One of the most valuable experiences of my own childhood was the benefit of being around people who really knew how to see ‘the funny side’. My mother and her twin had lived through WW2 and evacuation, so they’d seen first-hand how important being able to laugh and stay positive was. My Dad always knew how to see the absurdity in everything also and to laugh at himself. In fact, when he died, he made my Mom promise to never lose her sense of humor, so valuable a facet it is.
It’s easy to take life too seriously and worry about the small things but the truth is worry never solved any problem and laughter not only connects people, releases tension and feels great, it also boosts the immune system and has a great overall effect upon health.
It’s important never to forget how to laugh, and whether your favorite comedy is stand-up, movies or sitcoms, making time to watch what makes us truly laugh and helps to remind us to share more silliness and jokes ourselves is immeasurably healing.
5. Eating the right food
Nutrition is a big subject and a personal favorite of mine, it is very important that we eat well in order to give our bodies the contingents to create energy, new cells and repairs each night whilst we sleep. During winter it is important that we maintain great vitamin levels, by eating lots of warming vegetable soups and stews. Spice is great for the immune system also; with cumin, coriander, pepper, and cardamom all helping our iron intake, circulatory and digestive systems.
In recent times turmeric has been in the spotlight for its amazing anti-inflammatory properties and the fact it is an adaptogen also, and so helps with overall balance health-wise and also stress. I personally add it to many of my home-cooked meals, but it is worth taking as a supplement if you are not so inclined.
The main deficiency at this time of year is also vitamin D and whilst supplements are useful a small daily intake of mushrooms will give you your RDA (recommended daily amount). I recommend shitake mushrooms in general, for their overall health properties, but mushrooms are a wonderful source of protein. For those of you who dislike the taste, juice them up with some stock and warm water for an extra tasty base for a soup or mince dish.
6. Supplements to get through the darker days
Obviously, if you know that you are not eating enough it is important to get enough vitamin D in the winter, Vitamin D6 is supposed to be the easiest to absorb. This should never be used as a replacement for daylight however, it is not just our skin that requires natural light, our eyes and our brains require it for better function also, not to forget how important it is for the body to have regular walks and fresh air in our lungs.
If any sign of cold begins the adage of honey and lemon applies as much as it ever did, but add to this some ginger pulp, 2,000mg of vitamin C, an echinacea supplement and a pipette full of propolis and you are much closer to a cure. Propolis is a little-known substance that is useful for many things and should be kept in every kitchen cupboard. It is known to boost the immune system, but it’s anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties mean it should be a go-to for most common ailments. Combine propolis with turmeric and you will help readdress any physical imbalance if caught early enough.
Another great pair of herbal supplements for the winter are ginseng; which will increase overall vitality and energy levels when taken daily and gingko extract, which helps regulate and improve circulation and therefore memory. These two herbs may interfere with medication however, so if you have high blood pressure, or are on any regular medication, then they are ill-advised.
7. Counteracting the January blues
Although we all feel a little down when we are low on vitamin D and haven’t seen much sunlight for a while, implementing all of the tips above, should help this to be less of an issue this year. Otherwise the ‘January blues’ is a mostly psychological state. For some reason, people choose this time of year to give up things that they enjoy and to implement tough and untenable regimes upon themselves.
I suppose if you are the kind of person who likes to over-indulge at Christmas, then this is maybe somewhat of a routine for you. May I suggest, however, that you do not eat more this Christmas, and make a healthier time of it? With veganism so popular this year is the perfect time to switch to dairy-free desserts, if you must have treats and to use fewer animal fats and products in your cooking. A switch this simple will mean you can eat plenty, without feeling unhealthy or bloated. You won’t feel the need to starve yourself then, come January, and if you up your exercise routine, perhaps it could be to increased endorphins and overall well-being?
Perhaps (for those not on medication) a ginseng supplement and the implementation of a healthier diet could be something that makes January a month you look forward to?
Good health is to be celebrated and embraced, it is not a punishment or limitation; it is an opportunity to have more energy, vitality which will lead to less stress and more youthful looks.
This year rather than ‘giving up something’ at the start of the year, why not ‘take up a habit’ that helps you feel healthier, happier and more able to achieve all of your goals, aspirations, and dreams?
Let’s create rainbows this January 2020!!
Shalom and blessings