January 1st brings me such relief every year, as it signals the end of yet another holiday season. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for festivity and cheer in the darkest, coldest time of year, but for me (like many of us) the winter holidays are a very emotionally charged time of year. I lost my Dad on Christmas. So my grief really stacks up with family obligations, ambient consumer frenzy, and the social pressure to “be merry” and “celebrate”, creating a veritable minefield of emotions. For me, life is one continuous stress response from when the holiday decorations come out the day after Halloween (?!) to New Years day. It really wears a girl out.
It’s not just grief and loss that can turn the holidays from merry to scary; it could be any old thing that is rough in your life (breakup, family tension, chronic illness, etc. etc.). And to be frank, the holidays can wear you down even if they are your favorite time of year! The pressure of running the holiday gauntlet leaves few unscathed. I guess what I want to say is that if you feel like the last month (or two) has been rough, take some time to be good to your self, heal up. Stress takes a toll on the body, and can make us especially susceptible to winter weather and cold season and seasonal depression. It’s quite the recipe for getting sick and/or a holiday melee comedown induced pit of despair mental health meltdown.
So whether the holidays left you bruised and battered or just a little scraped up, put down that 2018 planner and list of New Years resolutions for a minute and join me on a tour of my post holiday- return from the brink- self care routine.
STEP 1: SLEEP
No really, sleep. It seems simple, but sometimes it’s best to just get out of the way and let our bodies and minds repair them self. Right as the holidays come to a close, I like to have a couple nights to sleep as much as I possibly can (I have been known to sleep 12 hours in a night and then nap the next day). After the initial sleep marathon, I aim to sleep an extra hour a night for the rest of January and into February.
Yes, it is my goal to be in bed falling asleep as close to 10pm as I can manage, January social life be damned. This is not always realistic for me, and is never realistic for many folks. So do what you can. Even an extra 15 minutes a night and one day of getting to sleep in a few hours can make a big difference in your mental health, immunity, skin health, and energy levels.
STEP 2: NERVINES
I can almost smell people’s nerves frying throughout the holiday season. Do your selves a favor and get to know nervines. Nervines are herbs that calm, nourish and re-build the nervous system.
Some of my go-tos are: fresh Skullcap tincture, Milky Oat Seed tincture, and Chamomile tincture or tea. They won’t knock you out like some of the more sedative herbs (think Hops, Valerian, California poppy, etc.). They are great to take the edge off that tender and crispy feeling, and help ease your nervous system back in to a more balanced place.
One of my favorite nervine blend tinctures is:
- equal parts fresh Skullcap and Milky Oat Seed
- and just enough Rose petal to taste (usually 1-2 mls/1-2 droppers full per ounce on tincture blend). The Rose is really nice for releasing emotion pressure in the chest area, often feels like a weight being lifted or being able to take a deep breath again.
I recommend taking 1 dropper full 3 times daily for all of January.
STEP 3: HYDROTHERAPY
“When they are cranky, put them in water” is my favorite motto from my many years of working in childcare, and boy does it ever translate well into herbal care. Water is the element most closely associated with our emotions. This is one reason we are drawn to be near water (ocean, creek, pond) when we are having feelings.
Baths and showers are a great way to relax, release, and return to our center. Picture your stress/pent up emotions/exhaustion/what have you drain away with the water. Getting in hot water is also great for circulation and the immune system. If you feel a holiday crash cold coming on, hop in a hot bath for a while and then bundle up well once you are dried off and sweat it out.
Add a cup of Epsom salt to your bath for aches and pains. Add a ¼ cup of sea salt to your bath for help releasing emotions. Add 3-5 drops of organic lavender or rose geranium essential oil to your bath for extra help relaxing.
STEP 4: DEEP IMMUNE TONICS
There are two kinds herbs for the immune system, one kind you take when you are actively sick in order to kick your immune system into high gear so you can get un-sick, and a second kind that you take when you are not sick, but maybe a little depleted, to help you not get sick in the first place.
The second kind are called deep immune tonics, and along with increasing your defenses against illness, they can also help you build your energy, stamina and overall feeling of vitality. They are deeply nourishing, crucial to staying healthy in this fast paced world, and most of them taste delicious. Some of my favorites are Astragalus, Elderberry, Ashwaganda, Codonopsis, and the medicinal mushrooms, especially Reishi, and Shitake.
Medicinal Broth Recipe:
1 onion (skin and all), chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
2 inch segment ginger root, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
7 Shitake dry or fresh, chopped
2 TBLS dry Astragalus root
*optional- the bones from one chicken carcass (already baked and meat separated out)
Put all ingredients in a slow cooker or big pot along with a gallon or more of water and cook on low for 5-12 hours. Cool, strain, and store in the fridge or freezer. I like to freeze what I am not using immediately in ice cube trays for ease of use later.
This broth can be used as the base of soups, instead of water when cooking grains/beans/veggies/anything you want, or just sipped as is for the brave of heart.
STEP 5: MOVEMENT
Get out and move y’all! I’m not talking about hardcore cardio like trail running or cross fit (but if that’s your thing, you do you). Just moving your body in simple, low impact ways not only increases your immunity and innate detoxification (thanks lymphatic system), but it can help clear stress hormones from your body, working to bring you back to balance post stressful event. You can get these benefits from activities as simple and enjoyable as walking, stretching, and dancing. I prefer to move around outside for the double effect of movement plus nature therapy (city parks count as nature if getting out to the woods is not possible).
And if all of that feels like too much (believe me I feel you, I’ve been there), just remember to drink some water, ask a friend to pet your head for a while, and most of all, be gentle with yourself.