Come on, relax a little
Wow, here we are, just days from our favorite winter holidays. Wherever you live in the world, whatever holidays you observe, this can be a very stressful time of the year. Typically, holidays are meant to be festive, family oriented and fun; with emphasis on being generous. Stress levels seem to be higher in the winter anyway with shorter days and less opportunity to get outside and to be active. For some people this can cause vitamin D levels to drop to the point where they feel depressed and lethargic, making wintertime even more stressful for themselves as well as others around them. Money can also feel especially tight this time of year. Family gatherings can make some people feel that there is not enough time, money, or resources available. Demands at work can also rise during this time, causing additional stress. These things never affect just the individual; friends and family also suffer.
For so many people, all this pressure to do more results in sacrificing our own well-being. There are dozens of ways people try to “manufacture” more time, money, and energy. Whether you are working more, sleeping less, or turning to magical “energy” drinks to keep you going, you are guilty of abusing your body. You know who you are, I’m not going to point fingers. The problem is that these tactics (and so many more) are not healthy and will definitely take a toll on your health. We do not have the ability to manufacture more energy. Think about yourself as a really awesome machine. When every part works the way it was designed, you achieve maximum output. Each person is has a unique potential for energy, endurance, and stamina. So often we sabotage ourselves by thinking that we can make more energy and get away with it. Actually what happens is that we end up “borrowing” energy from another part of our body. Short-lived tactics usually don’t have lasting effects on our overall health. But over the long haul, everything borrowed will need to be repaid or there will be a major breakdown in the fabulous machine called your body. If you keep asking for more power/torque, you may get it for a little while but something is going wear out, seize up, or break. Even putting an instant energy additive (energy drink) in the tank stresses the system that is already giving its all; watch for burnout because it’s coming.
In order to give your best, you need to be at your best. Start with being kind and generous with yourself. You really need to take care of yourself so that you can effectively take care of others. This means finding balance. Ways to bring your body into balance and achieve your maximum potential for energy output, health and wellness include: eating wholesome nutritious foods, improving digestion, moving your body, getting plenty of rest, and reducing stress. Let the natural rhythm of winter encourage you to slow down and relax; even just a little. Think about it like this—a well-oiled (finely tuned) machine will produce more energy with less effort and wear and tear. And more energy doesn’t equate to more work! Use some of that energy for fun things. Wouldn’t you just like to have more energy every day? I’m going to share with you several things that you can do actually every day that will rejuvenate and revitalize you.
You may not be surprised that I recommend eating wholesome nutritious food. What may surprise you is that I encourage you to make your wholesome and nutritious meals the kind that warm you from the inside out. This time of year our body’s focus is on staying warm. It needs good quality meats and fats that will warm you and sustain you. Rich soups and stews, especially made from tomatoes, pumpkin, winter squash, potatoes, turnips, and Brussels sprouts are so natural for this time of year. Use olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and animal fats to add flavor and richness to your meals. Cook all your vegetables and eat fruits that have been cooked or canned to make them a warming food. Limit sugars and fresh fruit as these will keep your body from burning the fat in the rich food and your body will store it instead.
Indulge in warm drinks. Any kind of hot tea you like is fine, but limit or avoid those containing caffeine in the evening. Coffee is a great after lunch treat which will help you digest your big meal. Winter is a perfect excuse for hot cocoa. Whole milk with cacao powder and sweetened with agave is not only delicious but good for you. Cacao power is a superfood packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It has a rich flavor that is superior to other powdered chocolate because it is not overly processed like cocoa powder found in most grocery stores. Cacao powder is available in health food and wholefood stores.
When your body is efficiently utilizing the foods that you eat, you will lose weight and your health will improve. Proper digestion is so important for good health. It affects your moods and your immune system, but at the same time, stress can wreck everything. Simply, by following these recommendations, your digestion will improve.
Take time every day to move your body. Take a 10 minute walk, do some gentle stretching, yoga, or tai chi, to get your blood moving and awaken your senses. It doesn’t have to be strenuous by any means. You can incorporate these things into your day; do you walk somewhere every day? Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Would your dog enjoy a walk? Take the long way through the parking lot. Or a few minutes at home could include sitting on the floor with your kids or grandkids; have them copy you while you stretch or do simple exercises. You could modify your exercises to help you unwind from the day or to get your day started.
You must get adequate sleep to be at your optimum; you need 8 hours of quality sleep, minimum. Your body has a lot to do while you are asleep. This is when your body repairs itself; it is also the time that kids grow. If you get enough sleep on a regular basis your cognitive skills and memory will be sharper, and you are less likely to be overweight (provided you are eating properly). Remember that you must be asleep for these things to take place. Lying in bed watching television does not count towards your 8 hours.
If you are doing everything right with eating, sleeping, and exercise but are stressed out every day you will not gain the benefits of good health. The hormones released when you are stressed wreak havoc in your body. Those hormones are there to save your life when you need quick energy and fast reactions. Think about how you feel when you are startled. The jolt that you feel is the stress hormones responding to the crisis; you’re grateful for them when a bear is after you. When it’s a false alarm, then you can really feel how your body has responded. It can even be unsettling to feel your heart racing and every nerve and muscle ready to jump into action. After you have calmed down you might feel exhausted and out of sorts. Whenever we allow things to get under our skin and bug us, stress hormones are released. Not only does blood pressure rise, digestion stops, fertility decreases, and the immune system suffers. The liver, kidneys and lymph system become overloaded trying to filter the stress hormones in addition to the normal toxins and waste. Make it a point to recognize when something is stressing you. If it is not within your control, let it go. If it is within your control, let your creativity find solutions instead of anger. Take a deep cleansing breath, hold it for a second or two and then let it all the way out. Repeat until you feel calmer. At the end of the day, play some soothing music or take a hot bath with mineral salts.
This holiday season, remember to be generous with yourself. Take some time to appreciate yourself and recognize that you would want your friends and family to take care of themselves, and they want the same for you. By doing these things you will be able to enjoy the seasonal festivities and gatherings, as well as thrive this winter. Make self-care a part of your daily routine year round to feel your best and enjoy life.