Growing up in California, winter was not really a thing. Since moving to the east coast 5 years ago, I have had to really wise up and learn how to take care of myself during the colder months. The beauty of winter, I have learned, is that it is a natural time of year to slow down, tune inward and spend more time inside. It is the perfect time of year to step up your self-care game, to cook warming, nourishing foods, and to catch up on sleep. Here are some of my favorite winter wellness tips.
Sleep- Getting adequate sleep may be the #1 most important thing you do for your health. Many health conditions can be either entirely or partially attributed to lack of sleep. Sleep serves as an antioxidant to the brain. When we get enough sleep, it is easier to manage stress, to be active, and to make good decisions. Inadequate sleep leads to inflammation (immune system response) and results in increased stress and a decreased ability to cope with stress, and profoundly effects hunger hormones and metabolism. Getting adequate sleep is essential for healing, for regulating hormones, for resolving and preventing inflammation, and for normal immune system functioning.
Consider taking all electronics out of the bedroom and intentionally winding down two hours before bed!
Dry Brushing - Dry brushing can help stimulate the lymphatic system, which is responsible for eliminating waste from our cells. If it gets congested, toxins can build-up, causing inflammation and illness. Dry brushing has the added benefit of exfoliating and invigorating dry winter skin. The skin is the body's largest organ of elimination, which occurs through sweat and the shedding of skin cells. Use broad, firm strokes, always brush toward the heart and don't forget to brush behind the knees, under the armpits, and on the back of the neck.
Oregano - Oregano essential oil is one of my main homies during cold and flu season! I make a point to cook with it and add it to an empty gel capsule along with Thieves and lemon essential oils at the first sign of a cold. Oregano has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-septic and anti-microbial properties. Oregano is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, has the highest antioxidant capabilities (ORAC score) of any herb studied to date and supports both the immune system and respiratory system.
Warm Lemon Water- Start your day off with a glass of warm lemon water to boost your immune system (lemons are high in vitamin C), balance your body's PH (lemons are one of the most alkalizing foods out there), lemon water also acts as a diuretic, revs up the digestive system by stimulating the liver to produce bile and hydrates the lymphatic system.
Soak Your Feet- The feet are connected to every part of the body and contain over 72,000 nerve endings. Warm water is not only relaxing but also helps to draw toxins out of the body through sweat glands in the feet. Warm water has a calming effect on the muscles as well as the mind. Adding lavender essential oil aids in relaxation while tea tree can help reduce fungus and Eucalyptus can reduce flu and cold symptoms. Epsom salts contain magnesium which can also relax the entire body.
Tongue Scraping- Bacteria and toxins surface through the tongue overnight. If this debris is not scraped off, it will be re-absorbed by the body. Tongue scraping can also help promote overall oral and digestive health, prevent bad breath, and enhance sense of taste.
12 hour fast- Following a 12 hour daily fast ensures that your body is able to adequately detoxify overnight. The detox signal is given 8 hours after your last meal and requires 4 hours to function. If you eat late at night or early in the morning, you are denying your body its chance to detoxify. The word "breakfast" comes from this concept of breaking an overnight fast in the morning. If your last meal of the day is at 7 pm, don't snack at night and have your first meal at 7 am or later the next day.
Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)- Practicing restorative yoga poses can have calming effects on the body and mind. Practicing legs up the wall for 10-20 minutes can help relieve stress and anxiety, and can allow lymph and other fluids to flow out of the legs and feet and into the belly, thus refreshing the lower body. It's a helpful position to come to when feeling stressed, fatigued, jet-lagged or unable to sleep. Try placing a blanket under your hips and a sand bag on the soles of your feet, and maybe also a strap around your shins.
Self Oil Massage- Directly after bathing, try massaging oil onto mostly wet skin. Leaving skin mostly wet will allow for deeper absorption of the oil for a more intense moisturizing effect. The oil serves as an extra layer of lubrication and can balance out the dryness and coldness of winter. During winter months, try using a thicker oil like sesame, avocado or sunflower. You can add warming and grounding essential oils like cardamom, vetiver, or frankincense for additional support.
Guasa- It is very important to cover your neck during winter months. The back of the neck is particularly vulnerable to wind. In Chinese Medicine, a wind invasion can manifest in the body as a common cold (and as a stiff neck). Guasha is a scraping technique used in Chinese medicine to expel wind from the body. It doesn't look pretty, but it feels amazing. If you start to feel sick, treat yourself to some acupuncture and guasa.
Clove- Clove is another food that is extremely high in anti-oxidants. Clove essential oil has an ORAC score of 290,283 (30 times higher than that of blueberries). Clove was one of the first spices to be traded as far back as 1721 BC and was considered one of the most precious spices of the spice trade. High in Eugenol, a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, clove is known as the ultimate protective herb. It can help improve circulation, kill parasites, boost energy, and kill fungus. I add clove to my hot breakfast cereal and make homemade applesauce with cloves all winter long.