Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Doldrums

I suspect a lot of us wish we could allow ourselves some extra time to relax and decompress from our busy schedules.  Most of us inherently want to do this when the cold weather arrives.  Somehow, what’s normal the rest of the year is more difficult to accomplish in the winter months.  Despite our best efforts, many may be experiencing a period of stagnation right now.     

I wouldn’t say my current schedule has slowed down, but I wish it could!  Fortunately, I have considerable inner drive.  Or, maybe that’s not so fortunate; it’s all about balance.  What is critical during the dark months, though, is that I plan more carefully because I know there are times when I feel like I’m walking in slow motion. 

I put extra attention into how I will be healthy in the winter.  I continually revise my techniques based on how my body is responding.  There is no magic pill that works for everyone, but you might try incorporating some of these ideas:    

  1. Get enough sleep.  We all want, and may need, more sleep when it’s darker out. 
  1. Make sure your pantry includes:
· Virus fighting supplements, teas, throat sprays and lozenges to support the immune system.  You can find many blends of herbs, but some of the commonly used ones are Echinacea and goldenseal.  Elderberry surrounds a virus which slows its growth. 
· Don’t forget the foods that are helpful and can be incorporated into many meals.  Garlic fights infections.  Ginger is warming, decongests the sinuses, and soothes digestive disorders.   I love raw honey and coconut oil on the throat.  Chicken broth thins mucous.  Homemade bone broths are nourishing even when someone can’t eat much solid food.  Cook broths and freeze extra portions so they’re available when illness strikes. 
· Probiotics.  Digestive support helps with all sorts of maladies.
· Vitamin D.  Everyone should have their Vitamin D levels tested.  This is done via a blood draw at a lab.  We cannot make Vitamin D from the sun from November through February in Denver, so we will deplete our levels during this time.  This occurs in other parts of the U.S., and world, too. Vitamin D plays a role in healthy mood. 

If you’re sick, take a hot bath, curl up with a book and tea, or go to bed.  This is not the time to be running out to the store. 

  1. Understand how food and drink will affect your health and mood. 
· Alcohol will disrupt sleep.   It can also exacerbate anxiety and OCD for several days after just one drink.  Everyone has to access their mental health and ask themselves if they can manage the possibility that their symptoms could worsen. 
· Many people are reacting to common foods whether they realize it or not.  Food intolerances cause many symptoms and those will vary by individual.  Not everyone will have digestive distress.  Many will experience an inflammatory response that can cause trouble throughout the body.  Food intolerances also interfere with mood. 
· Gluten interferes with brain function.  A person does not have to be Celiac for this to occur.  Gluten acts like opiates in the brain, which may feel good at first but one’s ability to balance their own neurotransmitters can be altered.  This can result in poor mood, heightened anxiety responses and obsessive thoughts! 

  1. Schedule some enjoyment.  I find a couple activities rejuvenating, and can usually devote at least one hour a week to them. 
· I have recommitted to my hiking group.  Despite the cold temperatures and wanting to sleep more, I feel better having gotten outside, moved and laughed with my friends.  The rest of the day is easier when I do.
· I am learning to play the saxophone.  My lessons are a highlight of my week.  It is one thing I do regularly that’s just for me.  There’s no agenda, but lots of laughter. 

  1. Pamper yourself with essential oil aromatherapy.  You’ll find these precious oils in natural cosmetic, hair care and cleaning products.  Some have antiviral properties, or are beneficial for different skin conditions.  (Do not apply the oils undiluted directly on the skin.) 

My favorite use of essential oils is for emotional balancing.  Have some fun by finding which oils balance you both physically and mentally.  I frequently mix my own blends.  I add 10-20 drops of my favorite oils into a small glass spray bottle of water.  I refresh my bedding, mist a room, and myself!  You can also use them in a bath. 

· Calm the nervous system and muscle tension, and enhance mood with lavender or chamomile. 
· The refreshing scents of orange and lemon can lift the winter blues. 
· Relieve anger and anxiety with the floral scents of rose or ylang ylang.
· Clary sage and rosemary can reduce stress and mental fatigue, yet revitalize and wake up the brain.  
· Support the immune system with thyme, eucalyptus, and tea tree oils.
· Light some candles, and feel the peace of more natural light flickering nearby. Many have natural essential oils in them.  I love the outdoorsy scents of pine and fir at this time of the year. Cinnamon and peppermint are festive and invigorating. 

  1. Plan some downtime and respect your limitations.
· My game table is up in front of the fireplace.  I take short breaks to relax, and then go back to the task that needs to be done. My husband sets up a puzzle during the winter months.
· Say no to something, and save some time for yourself. 
· Don’t pack even more into your schedule. 

My wish for you is that you feel healthy and emotionally peaceful.  By incorporating some of the above ideas, you’ll have a better chance of this.  You can fight those winter blues!