In January, wellness trends predicted that 2020 would be the year of self-care. Little did anyone know quite how poignant that prediction would be. With more time alone, more time to think and more time to battle with our own headspace, this year self anyone who thought self-care was a luxury is surely beginning to realise how truly necessary it is.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and for that reason it’s the habitual things that we do, peppered with the occasional and purposeful ‘treats’ (for want of a better word), that can help us keep our heads straight and our bodies as healthy as possible. Those wellbeing needs can vary throughout the seasons. With that in mind, here are some of the little things that we know make a big difference to how we feel every day.
Self-care and winter nutrition
These days we all know that what we eat can have a big impact on how we feel. Fuel for the body isn’t just about keeping it moving, it can also have a phenomenal impact on our hormone balance, our digestive health and as a result our mental health as well.
For example, you may have read our interviews with Stephanie Moore, Clinical Nutritionist at Grayshott Spa, where she talks about the studies proving that our gut bacteria has a direct impact on anxiety levels and stress resilience. She recommends including plenty of vegetables (no surprises there) for fibre, as well as fermented foods - for which she gave us a great recipe for sauerkraut.
In the winter, our nutritional needs can change a little. We may need more Vitamin D to make up for the darker days (tuck into herring, salmon, trout and sardines). Or perhaps some of those immune boosting ingredients can be topped up to help ward of coughs and colds. That said, the way we consume food can also be a source of great comfort and wellbeing - hot soups in place of cold smoothies for example can be extremely restorative. Try vegetable stews made with lentils and whole grains to get those B vitamins (fundamental to a healthy nervous system) and lots of tomatoes - rich in vitamin B9, which is helpful in easing low moods.
For those mornings where you just want to stay in bed however, nothing beats a hot bowl of porridge. The oats release energy slowly throughout the day, meaning that blood sugar stays more stable, and so does your mood. Plus you can pack it with ingredients like walnuts (rich in omega 3 for brain function) and plenty of seasonal berries. Those rich in colour, like blackberries are great for keeping a clear mind.
Exercise in the winter months
Exercise and fresh air isn’t always the easiest thing in the winter in the UK. Sure there are those cold sunny days, when all you want to do is walk for miles, but then there’s the rain and frankly that’s not all that inviting. Even more than that, it’s dark pretty early, which can make it very difficult to get outside after work. For lots of us the gym provides a saving grace, but lockdowns pending that isn’t always that helpful and equally, work and childcare can very much get in the way.
All that said, the power of a short, brisk walk in the fresh air never ceases to amaze us. Just 20 minutes at lunchtime, when the light is at its best and you can make the most of whatever Vitamin D there is to be had, can really make a difference to how you feel, helping to beat back the winter blues and reminding you that you have done something. Remember you don’t have to do a great big workout to get moving - walk instead of drive wherever possible, take the stairs if you can, and make a conscious effort to get up from your desk periodically throughout the day - it all adds up.
Self-care and emotional wellbeing
Self-care is not just about busily doing things - eating the right foods, doing the right exercise - it’s also about having a little time and space to enjoy the quiet, gather your thoughts and sit with them for a bit without being under pressure to problem solve. Aromatherapy, is something that you can incorporate into your day in lots of different ways. You can have a roller that you apply to your wrist to help ease emotions during the day. You can have diffusers in the house, you can add a few drops of essential oil to a tissue to smell or you can add oils to your bath or products. You might even be able to convince a loved one to give your shoulders a rub and add your favourite essential oil to the base oil to enhance your mood.
Different aromatherapy oils have different effects on your mood, but the amazing thing is that it really can and does have an impact on our emotions. This is because the molecules in the oil are picked up by your olfactory system in your nose producing a nerve impulse which travels to the brain. It’s something we spoke to Aromatherapy Associates’ Global Director of Education, Christina Salcedas, about, and you may find her thoughts and knowledge helpful by following the link below. It includes a few favourite oils, for example, frankincense for a midday slump, vetiver for sleep and pink grapefruit to wake you up.