It’s that time of the year again, when the weather is getting colder and we are spending more and more time at home. It’s more important than ever to simply check in and take the time to look after yourself.
Are you stressed, suffering from interrupted sleep and battling to eat well? You’re not alone. The good news is that there are simple things you can add to your day that will help you feel more in control, relieve feelings of anxiety and keep you feeling calm and relaxed. Here’s how….
Wake with the sun
Have you ever started your day as the sun rises? Many busy (and successful) people get up at the crack of dawn. Not only are they finding a few extra hours in the day, but our bodies benefit from being in tune with a circadian rhythm. The late Andreas Moritz encouraged people to take part in sun gazing, where you stare at the sun at it’s softest light (either at sunrise or sunset) to produce melatonin, serotonin and improve energy.
Start with a cleansing drink
Put the tea and coffee on the back burner, especially for the first drink of the day. Hot water with a slice of fresh lemon helps to rebalance the PH levels in the body, promotes digestion and increases your metabolic rate. In regards to cooler winter days, the high levels of Vitamin C in lemons boost your immune system and fight off illness (something that you are more susceptible to if you are overworked, tired or run-down).
Drink Tulsi throughout the day
Another drink to add to your daily routine; Tulsi tea, it has many health benefits. It can help to beat stress by normalising levels of cortisol in the body. This hormone is related to stress levels with a high level of cortisol hormones leading to feelings of anxiety. As an adaptogen, Tulsi trains the body to cope with stress, so the more frequent you drink it, the better your body can adapt and deal with stress. Try drinking 3 cups of Tulsi a day.
Wash your face as soon as you wake
You might feel like slipping out of bed and heading straight to the coffee pot but make washing your face your priority. As stress can take its toll on our face, we need to rehydrate and cleanse it from the rigours of a night’s sleep. Splash your face with cold water (seven times is ideal) to remove excess pitta energy and to prepare it for the day ahead.
Take a bath
You know that feeling of instant relief you get when you slip into a luxuriously warm and scented bath? Embrace it and make time to include regular bathing into your hectic life. Use a herbal oil that is suited to your particular mental state. Lavender, chamomile and rose are particularly good at relieving stress as is Holy Basil (also known as Tulsi). In its oil form, you can add a few drops to your bath to restore balance in your nervous system. As an adaptogen, it will either calm and relax you or rejuvenate, depending on your needs.
Take the plunge with an ice bath
An ice bath might not sound that inviting on a cold day. However, they are proven to boost feel-good endorphins such as dopamine. Regular ice baths and showers put the body into ‘survival mode’ and produce a positive stress response in the body. The Wim Hof method is a combination of breathing and meditation exercises taken in cold therapy conditions. The founder ‘Iceman Wim Hof’ has broken numerous world records relating to performance in extreme conditions. His motto is: ‘What I am capable of, everybody can learn”
Swim like a mermaid
Now it’s not always possible to relieve stress by swimming outdoors. However, whenever you get the opportunity try to swim in the ocean, lakes or a local pool. Swimming is not only great exercise it releases endorphins that counteract stress hormones.
Dry body brushing
Perfect not only for sloughing away the winter dry dead skin, but dry body brushing also helps to boost the body’s circulation. Begin with a bristle body brush and work from the ankles towards the heart. Regular dry brushing has a calming effect on the mind with people finding the movements to be relaxing and therapeutic.
Sesame oil self-massage
Love massages? Hate the cost? Self-massage is another Traditional Ayurvedic method that has countless benefits including stress relief. Use pure black sesame oil in a BPA free bottle or dispenser and apply no more than 2tbsp to the body. Use sweeping movements over limbs, circular ones over soles of feet and palms and gently glide around the tummy. Carefully rinse your body with warm water (hot water will strip the body of oils) and delicately towel off. You will feel wonderfully moisturised and blissfully stress-free. Be careful not to slip!
Yogic breathing and stretches
The ability to breathe deeply is something that you can always carry with you and use as your ‘go to’ stress reliever. Deep breathing helps to calm as well as focus the mind. For added impact, add a relaxing stretch such as the Child’s Pose.
You know how hypnotic a campfire can be? The same applies to a candle. Choose a place to sit where you can focus on your candle without having to bend your neck. A simple five-minute meditation is all that is needed to feel the calming benefits. Solely focus on the flame and breathe deeply. Many people find meditation to be frustrating. Try not to force any feelings, just lose yourself in the flame’s dance.
Try Yoga Nidra
Known as the ultimate in relaxation and as restorative as a long sleep, Yoga Nidra involves laying on your back and finding a comfortable position (possibly with head propped up on a pillow or cushion). Close your eyes and become aware of any passing thoughts. Try to become in tune with your breathing as your mind focusses on your intention for the particular session. We recommend listening to one of the many online guided meditations as you need to work through a series of instructions from mind focus to body scanning. Once you’ve done this a few times, you will be able to do it on your own.
This ayurvedic practice involves swishing coconut oil around your mouth to extract toxins from your body and improves the health of your teeth and gums as well as some possible anti-inflammatory effects. Start with swishing the oil for five minutes a couple of times a week, and as you become accustomed, build up the length of time.
Put your feet up
How easy does sitting down and putting your feet up with a nice, cold drink sound? How often do you do it? Hardly ever. So, brew some Tulsi tea to help you relax, allow it to cool and add some ice cubes. Then, sit back and put your feet up on another chair or stool. Raising your legs to hip height alleviates any pressure in the legs and allows the heart to rest.
Gaze at the moon
We mentioned sun gazing at the beginning of this article; now it’s time to look to the moon. Why? At times of stress, moon gazing can help to regulate your hormones and a woman’s menstrual cycle. As with any practice where you get to sit and relax, just staring at a beautiful moon and being ‘present’ will invoke a peaceful state.
Make a smoothie
Winter time is notorious snacking. If you feel bloated or that you’ve overeaten try replacing either your breakfast or lunch with a moringa smoothie. Moringa is famed for its abundance of health-boosting properties as well as being dense in minerals, vitamins and proteins.
Use one teaspoon of Moringa powder and combine it with an avocado, banana, almond milk, kale spinach and an apple. Blend and enjoy.
Take to the outdoors
Again, it’s the simple pleasures that often get put to the wayside. A 15-minute walk is enough to top up your Vitamin D levels and be restorative. If you can, surround yourself in fresh air and nature. Opt for forest, beach or bush and as you walk try to notice your surroundings. It can help to stop and take in your view for a few minutes, to listen to sounds (or lack of them) and, of course, breathe deeply. Try to add walking into your daily routine.
It’s hard to feel grateful when you’re under increasing stress from workloads and extra social activities. However, if you take just a few minutes a day to write down one or two things that you are grateful for it can help to boost your mood and calm down any inner anxiety. It doesn’t matter how small the thing that you are thankful for feels. For added emphasis try smiling as you write.
Create a nutritious dinner
Spoil yourself by preparing a healthy and nutritious meal. Chop up lots of vegetables and grill some lean protein, add herbs and spices. When you eat your dinner, make sure to chew slowly and enjoy the taste. Eating mindfully takes practice, but it adds to the enjoyment of your meal and can turn it into an event.
Take yourself to bed
What would you do with a tired child? You’d send them off to bed early and tell them they’ll feel better in the morning – rest is best. The same applies to you. Ideally, try to get to bed by 9 pm at least once per week. If you find it difficult to fall asleep pick up a comforting book or favourite novel. You’ll be nodding off in no time.
Fast living deserves fasting
Have you tried intermittent fasting? Giving your digestion a night off is a good idea. Try to eat a light dinner and complete it by sunset, ideally something like a light soup or smoothie. After this time only drink herbal teas and water. You can eat again at 9 am by which time you will feel refreshed and invigorated. The 5:2 diet takes fasting further and is something that you might want to incorporate into your life.
Go on a digital detox
There was a time when people were desperate to get online, now more and more people are becoming desperate to get off it! Are you one of them? Give yourself a break for the night where you put your iPad, phone and another technical wizardry away in a drawer. Enjoy the peace of a beep and blue-light free evening.
Sweat it out
Going to a sauna will help you to unwind and relax while, at the same time, sweating out toxins in your skin. The glow that you get from a sauna is partly caused by heat but also by increased circulation. Regular sessions in the sauna will also improve the look and feel of your skin and help with weight loss.
It pays to listen, which is why we often go to great lengths to do so for others. However, how often do you listen to your inner voice? Our internal rants and ramblings are like a weather vane, pointing towards a lack of self-worth and compassion. Take care to listen to your negative voice and try to replace it with positive affirmations. The more you practise, the more the negatives will be replaced and leave you feeling happier.
There they are, simple yet effective activities to help you stay grounded and at peace this winter.