I am trying to take nature's cues and doing exactly as directed, slowing down, trying to quiet my ever busy mind. All the plans for business in 2018 and thoughts of starting the year with a bang, in a new city, in new surroundings, have been quieted, not silenced, but not screaming go go go..
I find that ever present internal struggle to hurry up sings to me to a daily basis. So with my best efforts of mindful matras, strategies to pace myself, allowing time for rest in what should be an energy conserving season, I'm trying my best, just to slow down.
Instead of pushing through this winter with gusto and gung ho, I opt to take my energies and plan, prepare well for the busier times to come. I will have more energy and I don't need to make this winter a struggle to not enjoy, I am intentionaly slowing down, still not knowing if I like the pace, but I put trust in Nature's guidance.
Looking at the abundance of nature around me, it all slows down through winter. It is a natural season to get more rest! The trees do it, not growing taller or pulsing great amounts of moisture through their bodies, they conserve there energy for the seasons to come. Most animals, except those that thrive in colder climates, shift into low gear, hello hibernation! Most plant and fungi lay dormant, sleeping, conserving their energy through colder seasons so when spring is ready to burst forth, so are they.
So many clients I talk to have the same requests and comments, they just don't have their 'usual energy' through this season, after the holidays, they seem to just want to sleep until spring.
This is a natural rhythm of the seasons, having less light through the day directly impacts the pituitary, which secretes melatonin. Melatonin regulates the body's sleep-wake cycles. Lack of light can cause the body to produce more of the chemical, making the body feel tired and sluggish.
Take cues from nature that this is the time to work on better sleep hygiene, it may not be perfect, but practicing it and so it goes, it will get better. How to work on this?
- Turning all media off by 9pm, bring a book to bed instead and try your best for lights out by 11pm. It doesn't always happen, but hey, just know it's a work in progress.
- No media allowed in the bedroom, no phones, no laptops, no, no, no T.V. netflix. Harvard Health studies suggest that blue light emitted from these devices and watching screens before bed can through off your circadian cycle (natural sleep rhythms) and suppress the release of natural melatonin that can further disrupt a good nights rest or the ability to fall asleep.(1)
- Start working on sleep hygiene early in the day by nixing the afternoon caffeine. I'm susceptible to long lasting effects of caffeine, and even though that 2pm black chai calls, I know it can keep me up so I'm trying to let that go.
These may not seem like monumental efforts, but week by week, they are folded into a healthier routine and you will start to feel the positive effects of them!
Staying healthy through winter doesn't just mean cutting out certain types of light before we sleep, it also means taking advantage of the light we do have during the day and letting it in!
Not just vitamin D, but natural, full-spectrum light is a necessary nutrient. When it enters our eyes, it activates our endocrine system, which is connected to our immune system and our nervous system. Under harsh fluorescent lights, we are missing the portion of the sun’s spectrum that is vital in triggering the production of a proper chemical balance of melatonin and serotonin.
Despite the name, vitamin D is considered a pro-hormone and not actually a vitamin. Vitamins are nutrients that cannot be created by the body and therefore must be taken in through our diet. However, vitamin D can be synthesized by our body when sunlight hits our skin.
I always recommend trying to get 20mins sun exposure mid day to convert a bit more D and allow for that full spectrum light to enter our eyes. This doesn't have to be more than a walk arounds a few blocks and you can be bundled up for those chilly days but aiming for 15- 20min sun exposure the days when you can. Research at the Linus Pauling Institute and Oregon State University has linked low D levels to levels of depression. Getting D through food and light alone may not be enough. Supplementing with a high quality D through winter is probably warranted as well. (2)
Vitamin D has multiple important roles in the body:
- Maintain the health of bones and teeth.
- Support the health of the immune system, brain, and nervous system.
- Regulate insulin levels.
- Support lung function and cardiovascular health.
- Influence the expression of genes involved in cancer development.
Not just with the rhythms of light we are guided but movement as well. We as humans naturally want to move, but those outdoor activities may not even be a weekly routine through the colder months. Make sure to move those activities inside when the weather turns to keep with our nature, the body needs to move to feel good. Yoga, dancing, or anything that gets your heart rate elevated, can help reduce stress, and build energy.
Movement and gentle exercise can also help you to get better sleep. Stretching or gentle yoga postures before bed can help relax the stressful day away, lowering cortisol (our major stress hormone), tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system (think rest & repair) releasing endorphins and melatonin to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
In This New Year Start With The Basics;
Sleep is crucial to good health, work on it.
The light seems to guide us, work on it being a bit more in sync with our own nature and utilizing what we do have by getting out of doors mid-day.
Know that D is crucial, supplement through winter when we spend so many hours indoors, you might find yourself a little happier for the extra support.
Through this slower, more methodical season, if looking for a little more support, for immunity, energy, or just a little less stress, I turn to the healing properties and the energy supporting power of plants. This season is time for brewing teas, warm soups and stew, and allowing more rest into your days.
Be guided by nature, and use the support that is in the natural world around us. Look to Food and Herbs for immune and energy support through these cold and darker winter days, you can read more about these lovelies from the plant world here.
Rest well my friends, and share a bowl of soup