Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Surviving Winter

"To take medicine when you are sick is like digging a well only when you are thirsty - is it not already too late?" - Qi Bo 

This was penned 4500 years ago by the above mentioned Qi Bo, a Chinese physician. And it rings true today. Why do we only begin to think about our health when we're starting to get a sore throat or we can't shake a cough? It's often too late then. So, it's about prevention - which is what this winter will be all about for me. I've been reading up and getting stockpiles of my favourite herbs and remedies to ensure I strengthen my immune system prior to even getting an inkling of a sniffle. Follow my 5 steps to a healthy winter (or summer, depending on where you live) this season.

1. Sleep 

This is often one area of our lives that suffers the most, mainly because we are time-poor and sacrifice our nights to make up for things we haven't accomplished during our days. How much should you be getting? It all depends on your age, but people who sleep eight hours or more regularly are three times less likely to contract a virus than those who sleep seven hours or less a night. Track how much sleep you're getting on a calendar and see how you measure up.

2. Stress

It's vital that you relax. Not just because it makes you feel good, but because it's good for your immunity and heath. Unchecked stress and a detrimental effect on your body's immunity and can impact on your upper-respiratory system causing a vulnerability to infections. To help keep yourself relaxed take 10 minutes out each day to stop, lie down, close your eyes and meditate.

This means different things to different people, but I do not think of meditation as an exercise of clearing the mind of all thoughts or mindless daydreaming. Instead, I attempt to concentrate on my breathing - slowing it down and breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. I also focus on my body and any areas that are sore, allowing them to relax if they are tight. I also think about calm places I've been, the warm sun on my face, and healing, positive thoughts.

3. Tea

Drinking green tea and herbal teas are a great way of increasing the amount of water you drink per day, but also an effective way of getting a natural detoxification of your cells. And the benefits of tea go beyond just the antioxidant-rich green teas. 

Herbal teas also offer enormous assistance to your body's systems. Some particularly helpful herbs are: 
  • Gotu Kola
  • Ginseng
  • Ginko Biloba 
  • Chrysanthemum 
  • Golden Seal
These herbs have various properties that can assist your immune, endocrine, nervous, respiratory and circulatory systems to function more effectively. Gotu Kola is known as a "pharmacy in a herb" because of its multiple abilities to assist the body. Golden Seal supports your respiratory system, assisting the body's natural response which is to push excess mucus and phlegm out through the throat and nose. Golden Seal speeds this up, and clearly the blocked areas. 

Also, herbs like Ginseng are what is known as 'adaptogen' herbs, as they can increase or decrease a certain aspect of the body's functioning as needed. For example, ginseng promotes healthy endocrine health - especially for men. If men are producing too much or not enough testosterone this can lead to a plethora of illness. So the Ginseng, if taken regularly, will help level out the correct amount of hormone to be produced. 

4. Exercise

Exercise should be moderate and consistent. Try for half an hour of moderate exercise four times per week. I'm desperately trying to meet this requirement and failed miserably last week. However, I know I feel and look a lot healthier when I'm regularly exercising. 

Why is this? Well, when you exercise you force your heart to pump harder, thus more oxygen is disseminated through the circulatory system resulting in more alertness and greater detoxification of cells. Also, your muscles are being activated, bringing you many health benefits, but specifically creating a small amount of stress on your muscles, thus stimulating the body to produce more white blood cells - the very cells that search out and destroy viruses and foreign bacteria. Perfect. 

 5. Positivity

It's very hard to stay motivated and positive during the winter months if you are naturally a warm weather and sunshine kind of person. I know because I am one such individual. However, rather than wishing away the winter months and complaining about the frosty weather I've learned to embrace every season, for with each change comes new adventures and benefits. 

For example, I hate the cold mornings. But I love fog. I can't have one without the other. So now I look forward to the fog and understand the cold morning is part and parcel of it. Also, I don't like the way everything appears 'dead' when the leaves have fallen away and plants become dormant. However, I love autumn colour, and it wouldn't happen if there wasn't a winter to follow it. So it's all part of a cycle. So now I enjoy the way the crisp winter sunlight glints of the morning grass covered in dew. And I smile like an excited kid when a crack of thunder rumbles overhead or the rain and hail pelt down on my tin roof. It's part of the cycles around me, so I enjoy it. 

And staying positive mentally goes a long way to making you feel better physically. So stay positive and your winter won't seem so bad. In fact, you'll start to enjoy it for what it is; part of a cycle of change.