I have a confession.
First, let me say I am NOT a high-maintenance girl. I don’t get mani-pedis, my hair is really long since it doesn’t get cut often, I don’t wear makeup daily.
However, I have realized that in wintertime, my routine (such as it is) totally falls apart and I stop really taking care of myself.
I think the reason has a lot to do with the fact that it’s cold, and I simply don’t want to stand around dry-skin-brushing before I get in a hot shower, and I don’t want to wait around after a shower to oil or lotion or polish. Instead I get dressed quickly in long pants, long sleeves, socks, go to make tea, notice the dishes that need doing, sit down at my computer…
The first night I visited my parents for the holidays, I took a bath. It was the best bath I’ve had in a LONG time! A deep tub, Eucalyptus and Spearmint Epsom salts, jets, a shell-shaped inflatable pillow, ice water, it was fantastic. I remembered feeling that great just a couple months ago, and the gradual dropping off as the weather changed.
Do you see this pattern in you, too? How do we add back in some of the self-love we all need in the dark winter months? Here are a few ideas I’m trying out:
Slow the Flow
I know that we’re supposed to use low-flow shower heads to reduce our water consumption. To be honest, I switched for two other reasons. One, it makes my hot water last longer. Two, it has a shut off feature.
My shower features the classic two-knob setup, and fine tuning the temperature can be tricky. So mid-shower, when I want to take a break from the water, I can flip through the spray options on my new shower head and turn it off completely. This lets me take a few minutes to pumice my feet, to scrub my hair, to put a clay mask on my face, all without being rinsed before I’m ready.
This means I have a chance to do a little in-shower pampering, when I’m already warm and content! It also gives me a chance to cool off, which is good too…
Hot and cold, yin and yang, night and day- we all need to cycle through the extremes to get to the other side of things. While I love me a good hot shower, one of my teachers (Jill Hoffman) recently explained the benefits of using some cold water in terms of our immune systems, lymph circulation, and core heat.
The temperature change stimulates the pumping action of our lymph system, which cleans out the debris from a hard-working immune system. It also drives the surface heat created by the hot water to our core, warming us from the inside.
Before I tried hydrotherapy, I had a sense that the cold water would ‘wash away’ the heat in my arms and legs. What I actually experienced, however, was my body saying, “Nope, nope, that heat’s MINE,” and a sense of it drawing in- condensing instead of dispersing. This is important to me because often when I feel cold, the surface of my body is actually quite warm and I’m losing heat rapidly through my arms and legs.
Jill told us that the secret is to turn the water to cool, then back to hot for twice as long- say 30 seconds then one minute. Starting with cool, rather than full on cold, was the key to me continuing the therapy! And I really have been feeling warmer, especially when I’m sleepy and prone to chills.
“Oil on the Inside, And on the Outside!”
This is one of my all-time favorite quotes from Gilmore Girls, and it really holds true. When the weather changes, I start craving oils, and I give in readily. I have a lavender-infused almond oil that is really nice on those dry spots on my arms and shins, I use coconut oil on my face (after I apply it as deodorant!), and I don’t mind making a little mess of the olive oil on my hands when I’m cooking.
Oiling the inside is even more important to me. I’ll put extra coconut oil in anything- oatmeal, greens, even hot tea. (I find it very light when it’s melted, so I don’t feel like I’m drinking grease.) Collagen and gelatin are also super necessary to my typically cold digestive system. This early in the season I make stock from chicken or turkey (I collect bones after Thanksgiving, it’s super!) A quick supper for me is to cook soba noodles in a small pot of stock with fresh ginger and garlic, and add a nice glop of sesame oil. Soon, when it gets really cold and dry out, I’ll keep my crockpot going with a beef shin bone in it. I’ll drink a mug of broth in the morning and again at night.
Bone broth is one of those amazingly seasonal things. At no other time of the year does it seem remotely appealing, except at those times when I really need it. Then I can’t get enough.
I’ve got some ideas for more small steps to make my winters more comfortable, and I’ll be experimenting as the days begin to lengthen and the cold begins to strengthen. What do you do to stay happy in the cold?
A Warm Pre-Christmas
I got to have an early Christmas this week with my parents. Here's some of what it looked like:
It was amazing how much I reveled in the warm weather, coming off 3 snow storms in PA. I expected to feel "wrong" somehow, since the sun and the breeze and the heat were such a dramatic difference from what I had become used to, but I couldn't get enough. It was quite a lesson to see how differently my body feels and acts when it's not restricted by the cold weather! I think it is worth the effort to pamper my circulatory and immune systems a little, now that I'm back home.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
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