Natural Ways to Beat Winter Sluggishness
January is that weird time of year where lots of folks tend to low key freak out. After the excitement and stress of the holiday season has finally come to an end, reality begins to sink in and then panic. Many of us pledge to reinvent ourselves for the umpteeth time, this time of year. It often leaves us feeling a mix of excitement, panic and maybe even a little nausea. The ball starts racing in our minds and we begin to notice the effects of the holiday madness more fully and find ourselves physically worn out, stressed out, feeling depleted and yet determined to make it a great year. Below is a quick review of a few herbs, and common sense healthy living hacks to get you go going!
Get Plenty of Rest. This one is far easier said than done. I'm sure you have heard the research on the amount of sleep needed to function optimally and most of us are not getting enough. Sleep deprivation puts you at a higher risk for a host of diseases and will leave you looking, feeling, and acting like a hot mess. Whether you suffer from insomnia or another type of sleep disorder, herbs can assist the body to get the rest needed to give you the energy boost you want this winter.
Valerian Root: (Valeriana officinalis): This warm and dry plant is an anxiolytic, anti-depressive, sedative and is a popular herbal remedy for insomnia. Everything isn't for everybody and valerian can have undesirable, stimulating effects instead of calming actions in people with warm constitutions. Use with caution in combination with sedative pharmaceutical drugs.
Hops: (Humulus lupulus): This herb is a mild sedative, bitter tonic, anti-spasmodic that helps with sleeplessness and indigestion along with a host of other medicinal benefits. Use with caution in pregnancy and if you have estrogen-dependent tumors.
Skullcap: (Scutellaria lateriflora): Skullcap is an anxiolytic, antispasmodic and relieves muscular and nervous tension.
Extracts of Valerian, Hops, and Skullcap 1hr before bed may do the trick for a restorative night of sleep associated with musculoskeletal tension and discomfort. The best part about this combination is that typically you won't wake up feeling hungover and fuzzy-headed the next morning! Contact an herbalist to determine how to select the best herbs for your body or have fun carefully experimenting at home!
The best way to beat sluggishness is to start moving and to keep moving to maximize your momentum. This is difficult, especially during the winter when there is often a decrease in physical activity due to seasonal changes. Remember: movement comes in different forms-- the key is to get the blood circulating and your heartbeat going. Whether it’s walking the dog, cleaning the house, chasing after your kids, dodging exes, taking a walk, or going to the gym, make sure your day includes at least 1 hour of movement a day. It’s ok if it’s broken into 15 or 30 minute intervals, just makes sure it happens. Just think about how active our ancestors were! If you find yourself to be extra sluggish during the winter, I think it’s best to hit the ground running and log in at least 15 minutes of focused physical activity with focused breathing within an hour of waking. You will be surprised how much energy you can cultivate through purposeful movement and the breath. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Try it and see if you notice a difference!
Herbal Teas to Keep Your Mind Right in the Winter
As an herbalist, I love tea all year around but I am able to even convince my fickle father to drink all of the teas I’m about to share. My picks are holy basil, lemon balm, and rosemary because they are easy to find/grow, and they keep my spirits lifted and warm my body while keeping me alert and focused minus the jitters. These herbs can be enjoyed as a tea after a quick 10-15 minute infusion in boiled water and enjoyed throughout the day. Make sure to consult with an herbalist for specific questions on dosing and how to select the right herb for you!
Holy Basil - (Ocimum sanctum) Tulsi is a warming Ayurvedic herbal adaptogen (class of herbs that help the body to combat stress) that relieves anxiety and promotes spiritual and mental clarity. Tulsi also has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties and can be used as a mouthwash and hand sanitizer. Fun fact!
Lemon Balm- (Melissa officinalis) Lemon Balm is a feel-good, taste-good, do-good kind of herb. It’s great for seasonal affective disorder, soothing anxiety, and relieving gas. It’s cool in temperature and has a pleasant lemon flavor. Lemon balm also has anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and antispasmodic properties just to name a few.
Rosemary- (Rosmarinus officinalis) Stimulating warm and dry, this cerebral stimulating herb improves memory and attention and will help get your mind right! Rosemary is an antioxidant, anti-fungal, anti-spasmodic, anti-viral and has chemo-protective properties as well. By simply inhaling rosemary essential oil you can receive a nice refreshing boost.
You can try these herbs alone or in combination with one another to keep you mentally sharp and invigorated all year around, but especially during the colder months.
GET FRESH AIR AND SUNLIGHT & LAUGH
I know it’s cold in many places, but you have to sneak in some fresh air and sunlight to feel your best and to beat the winter blues and sluggishness. Strive for at least 30 minutes of fresh air and sunlight. Find a reason to laugh. It never hurt anyone. Herbs are a great addition to your life and work best when you are taking care of your body, mind, and spirit. This means different things to different people, so aim to have a few baselines. It’s 2018 and time to steer clear of common energy and mood killers like Toxic Food, Toxic People and Toxic Environments! Eat Real Foods, Stay Hydrated, Keep Moisturized, & most importantly Smile.