Fall has arrived and with it, the harried months of November and December, when our lives become even busier than they usually are.
It seems that all around us is an overabundance of articles on how to stay healthy through the winter and holidays, as well as a plethora of invitations to parties, Thanksgiving feasts and everything else that deters us from maintaining balance in our lives.
Here are some ideas that go beyond the typical recommendations of taking Vitamin C and D to support you during this time:
Keep caffeine to a minimum.
Coffee is in the news a lot lately as science uncovers some health benefits to the dark liquid that jump starts many of our days. While science illustrates many benefits from drinking coffee, too much of a good thing can get you into trouble. Caffeine can irritate our nervous system and adrenal glands, particularly when we are under stress.
If a cup of coffee or black tea is already part of your morning, continue to enjoy this switching any remaining cups you might have throughout the day to green tea. Green tea still provides a low level of caffeine for the alertness and pick-me-up we seek from coffee, while also supplying a nice dose of l-theanine. This is an amino acid that is quite calming to the central nervous system. It also helps boost mood and may even support proper immune function. Many types of green tea and green tea blends are available. Keep trying them until you find one you like. Remember: green tea often needs to steep much less than other teas or it will be very bitter.
Establish a bedtime ritual.
Our days are long and packed with countless things to do. Most of us work right up until it is time to sleep and then wonder why we toss and turn before actually sliding into slumber. Putting aside 15-30 minutes for a nightly, calming ritual is a wonderful way to signal to your body and mind that a shift is about to take place. Dim the lights, light a candle, put on your favorite mellow music, do light stretching, take a warm Epsom salt bath—something to transition out of the constant Go! Go! Go! and into the calming, restorative nighttime hours.
Consider setting an alarm on your phone or computer to ring 15-30 minutes before bedtime as an external reminder to stop working and start winding down. Turn off your computer, TV and cell phone one hour before bedtime as these devices can over-excite the brain and contribute to insomnia. Additionally, the blue light emitted from these screens can break down melatonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter necessary to induce sleep.
Get a full-spectrum 5-10,000 lux light for your bedroom.
These lights mimic natural light and can be remarkably effective at lifting mood and aiding motivation. Put one by your bed and set it on a timer so it turns on 5-15 minutes before your morning alarm sounds. This will support the chemical process of waking up so that by the time your alarm does ring your body will already be experiencing the act of waking up. This will also help during these otherwise dark mornings that can make getting out of bed so hard.
Download a free mindfulness app to your phone and/or computer.
It is amazing how much we can release and relax in just a few mindful breaths. These apps are wonderful and can be set to chime randomly throughout the day. What you do when you hear the sound is completely up to you. Close your eyes for a moment to give them a break from the computer screen; take a few deep belly breaths; relax the muscles around your eyes and mouth; lower your shoulders away from your ears. It doesn’t take long to literally switch from a stress response to a relaxation response, and doing so will increase your focus and energy while decreasing stress chemicals and inflammation.
Get up and move.
Taking regularly scheduled short breaks throughout the day is another great way to reduce stress chemicals and inflammation. You can literally burn off excess blood sugar and cortisol (our main stress chemical) with a few jumping jacks, a quick walk around the block, walking up a few flights of stairs, doing a wall-sit, etc. While a consistent 30 minutes of exercise every day is ideal, engaging in multiple rounds of 5-10 minutes at a time can also give you great long-standing health benefits in addition to the immediate burst in energy and increase in focus. Again, setting an alarm on your phone or computer is a wonderful, external way to gently remind yourself to get out of your chair for a brief movement and move.
Eat Vitamin-A-rich foods.
Fall and winter season deliver a bounty of Vitamin A-rich foods like carrots, butternut squash, kabocha squash, delicata squash, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, pumpkin, kale and swiss chard. Vitamin A has natural anti-viral effects that can boost your immune system’s ability to fight off the colds and flus that run rampant this time of year. Eat 1-2 servings of these foods every day. Foods high in Vitamin A are safe, however, it is do not supplement with high-dose Vitamin A without consulting your naturopathic doctor. This is because high doses can cause complications with pregnancy, headaches and other adverse reactions.
Relax with aromatherapy’s essential oils.
Lavender and sandalwood essential oils calm the nervous system and help reduce stress. Put a couple of drops into a warm bath, a diffuser or a hot air humidifier. Or put a drop on the inside of your wrist. Rosemary and peppermint essential oils increase focus and memory. Rose, Roman chamomile, cinnamon bark, grapefruit and Melissa oil can help lift mood.
Take a moment each and every day to find and recognize one thing in your life that brought you happiness that day. You can record your gratitude in a journal, share it with your best friend, or simply think of it and smile to yourself. Taking the time to recognize grace and practice gratitude is a wonderful, easy and free way to increase your happiness and health.
—Dr. Korza & Dr. Colby
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