WINTER - A guide to self care
Updated: Jul 9, 2019
In nature, winter is the time for rest, regeneration and renewal. When we tune in to nature and embrace her rhythms, we always benefit. So winter is a great time to withdraw, to go within, and take stock. How are you feeling? What do you need? What do you want for the second half of the year? What will you create? This is the time to keep the social schedule quiet, to stay in, and take extra care of yourself.
If you are someone who suffers a lot from colds/flu in the winter time, be sure to take extra good care of yourself – as one of my favourite sayings goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".
Here are some simple tips for keeping healthy and happy in the colder months:
Many of my clients have been coming in very dehydrated over the last few weeks, which I feel is a common issue in the winter time. When it’s cold, we don’t necessarily feel as thirsty; yet we are dehydrating constantly by being in heated offices, cars and homes. Our need for water hasn’t decreased – in fact, probably the opposite. If drinking cold water doesn’t appeal in cold weather – and I definitely sympathise – then try hot water from the kettle. If you need additional flavour, try adding a slice of lemon. Remember that coffee, black tea and green tea all increase your water output, and so don't really count towards hydration. Drinking pure water is always best – but if that’s too challenging, try herbal teas.
It may seem too simple to need saying, but keeping warm enough has more of an effect that you might think. When we aren’t warm enough, we tense up, bracing against the cold. Keeping warm enough at night is especially important, because if you’re asleep you may not realise that you’re too cold. If you are waking up feeling stiffer than usual, or you are experiencing muscle or joint pains that come on overnight, it might be worth trying an extra blanket on the bed and seeing if it makes a difference.
Eating well is always important, but especially when the body is working hard to keep warm. It’s perfectly natural to want to eat more hearty, warm foods when it’s cold – and I feel it’s ok to honour that. My Year 12 biology teacher assured me it’s normal to put on a little weight in the winter time, so if that happens, don’t beat yourself up. It’s just nature at work.
Ensure you are getting all your essential vitamins and minerals – eating a diet based on whole, real food is always a good place to start. If you are feeling tired or lacklustre, it might be worth going to your GP and having your vitamin levels tested. Deficiency in Vitamin D can happen in winter, so do make sure you get checked if you aren’t feeling your best.
Rest and recovery are hugely underrated; yet as those of you who are keen on the gym understand, if you don’t take rest days, you simply can’t continue at your best. To expand on the gym analogy, it isn’t during the gym sessions that you are building muscle – it’s during your recovery periods that the muscle builds up. It’s the same with life. We need time out to process what we learn and experience, and we need it often. Our individual requirements for how much time is needed will vary; but I believe that we generally need more than we think. It can also take more effort to carry out our usual duties and tasks when it’s cold, so if you’re not in the mood to go and do extra things, please honour that. Don’t push yourself further than you can readily handle; there is no gold medal waiting for you if you do, but you might find yourself with compromised immunity.
Gentle Exercise and Bodywork
Feeling stiffer than usual can accompany the colder weather for many of us. We unconsciously tense up against the cold, and if we’re outside for an extended period, we can be in that tensed state for hours. Even wearing extra layers of clothing that restrict movement can have an effect. It can therefore be very beneficial to engage in gentle exercise with an emphasis on stretching – such as yoga or Pilates – to ease tight and stiff muscles.
It can also be a great time to have a massage, not only to ease the tension in the muscles but also to help with hydration and blood circulation. When our muscles are tight, the tight bands in the tissue can create difficulty for water trying to get into our cells; it can also mean that blood circulation to the area can be restricted. Massage and gentle stretching can help to release these restricted areas and encourage nourishment into the tissues.
This article is for information only. For further information, please consult your healthcare professional.
Weaver, Libby. Women’s Wellness Wisdom. Auckland: Little Green Frog, 2016.