Feeling blue or not like yourself this winter? Here are the best self-care tips to honor the season and create a daily routine that serves your health, energy, and overall well-being.
This post is by Martha G. Blessing, a Healing Mentor, Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, Clinical Ayurveda Specialist, Energy Medicine Practitioner, and Intuitive. She is the author of Healed & Unlimited: The Secret to Breaking Free from Chronic Dis-ease and Igniting Personal Power.
Her grounded wisdom, highly skilled capacity to hold space, and her razor-sharp aptitude for seeing her clients’ deepest gifts—alongside their most critical stumbling blocks—make her a highly sought-after mentor. Her approach uniquely combines a signature 5-Step Formula that has a proven high success rate.
Martha is the host of “THE Place To Be Free Podcast” launching January 2021. In her free time, you’ll find Martha cooking up creative recipes for family and friends—traveling, kayaking, hiking, and anything that gets her outdoors. She lives in Amherst, NY. Learn more about Martha at her website here.
My best self-care tips for winter come from observing the natural rhythms of the season.
In Ayurveda, winter is Vata season. Its qualities are cold, dry, and windy. With that in mind, our best approach for self-care and well-being is to remember that like attracts like—when creating our daily routines.
To achieve balance in our body and life, our focus should rely on foods and self-care routines that counter those winter qualities: warm, moist, and grounding. And if you don’t have a daily routine that supports you, winter is the ideal time to start one. Having a supportive daily routine helps keep us centered and grounded, especially during stressful times.
Now is the time to counter the effects of the often stressful and over-indulgent holiday festivities, while balancing and supporting the air/wind element in our body-mind.
And what could be simpler than taking our cues from Mother Nature? It’s time for going inward and slowing down.
We’ve long since put our gardens to sleep here in the north–it may seem as though they are lifeless. But in truth, there’s lots going on under the surface. Plants are gathering energy and nutrients for their next bloom cycle in the spring.
And so too, it’s time for us to root and gather our energy once again.
During the summer months (Pitta season) we expend a lot of energy. The days are long and we soak up as much fun outdoors as possible–from sun up to sun down.
Now in Winter, it’s time to slow down and replenish some of that energy, so our bodies don’t become depleted.
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If we follow the wisdom and cues of the natural world, our well-being will flourish when we take time to restore our body, mind, and spirit during the winter months.
It’s time to bring the principles of gathering and rooting into our meals and self-care, gently restoring our inner life force. To everything there is a season!
While holiday cheer can be the restorer of our hearts and spirit, overdoing it will elicit a cry for help from our immune systems, come mid-January. Enter colds, flu, increased mucous, stiff achy body and joints. Not to worry, I’ve got the hacks below.
Mindfulness in our daily routines will help us shift our focus and intentions to counter the dominant qualities inherent in the season.
Instead of following a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach, consider tuning into the energetic qualities of the season when choosing the self-care that best fits your needs.
Since you’ve just learned “like attracts like”, these simple self-care tips aim to counter the dry, cold, wind/air qualities of Winter in our body and mind.
These tips help you create healing from the inside out with your daily routines and foods you eat.
RELATED: 10 Ways to Practice Mindfulness
7 Self-Care Tips for Winter
Self-Care Tip #1: Eat grounding foods.
Eat foods that are grounding: heating, and moderately moist. Favor root vegetables and tubers: sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and beets all grow in the ground, under the dirt. That makes them superior choices to offer rooting qualities to your body as well. Toss them in soups, stews, and casseroles.
Winter is the time to favor pungent and heating spices… chili peppers, ginger, and curry are all good choices. They help increase digestive fire and burn off mucous in the digestive tract.
Minimize your intake of foods that are cooling: bananas, cucumbers, and avocados. Too many of these foods in winter will slow down and possibly extinguish your digestive fire. Mother Nature didn’t get it wrong. Bananas and avocados grow naturally in tropical places to best support people who live in warm climates. They’re not off limits, just don’t eat them every single day.
Self-Care Tip #2: Do your best to limit drying doods.
Avoid foods that are drying: coffee, tea, and alcohol are natural diuretics in addition to being astringent and drying. For every cup you drink add an additional 8 ounces of water to your daily water intake.
Most people don’t think about this but crackers, chips, beans, lentils are all drying foods. They contribute to slowed digestion and absorbing too much vital moisture in the body. Again, it doesn’t mean you never eat these foods in winter, just not every single day.
If you notice your body is exceptionally dry, cut them out for 7 days and then see if you’ve noticed improvements.
Another thing to consider, your body will naturally try to correct itself when it’s too dry. It does this by creating more mucous to hydrate your cells. An increase in mucous can mean you’re eating too many drying foods.
They’re robbing the cells of moisture from the inside out.
Counter the dryness and support your immune system by hydrating with moisture rich foods like oranges and grapefruits.
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Self-Care Tip #3: Hydrate with high-quality beverages.
It goes without saying that water is the best choice for hydrating our bodies and creating health.
Get in the habit of filling up a large pitcher of water, (at least one gallon), every morning, and let it sit where you’ll see it. Know that you’ve got to empty it by 8pm. (You don’t want to be up all night going to the bathroom.)
I keep mine on the kitchen counter with a great big glass next to it. I drink a full glass every time I go in the kitchen, until it’s gone. If I’m going to be out and about, I fill my water bottle from the pitcher and take it with me. It’s the simplest way to make sure I’m getting my water. Every. Single. Day.
Sure I drink lots of other beverages during the day too. But water intake is critical, and non-negotiable.
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Lots of clients tell me they don’t like plain water. I’m with you! Consider boosting your water quality by adding fresh oranges, lemons, or grapefruit slices. They taste refreshing and add a little boost of Vitamin C.
My second favorite health boosting beverage for winter is homemade bone broth. It’s rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A and K, fatty acids, selenium, and zinc. It’s also rich in collagen which helps protect and lubricate joints, and it may help with healing gut inflammation and restoring health in the intestines. I tend to be a purist and recommend making it at home for yourself and freezing it for later use. Store bought powders are nutritionally deficient after processing and just don’t provide the same benefits as homemade.
Consider adding some miso to your broth for an added boost of nutrients that support your gut and immune system.
Lastly, if you’ve over-indulged during the holidays consider adding several cups of Ayurveda ‘CCF’ tea, to your diet to stimulate increased metabolism and gut health. The CCF stands for it’s ingredients: cumin, coriander, and fennel. They just happen to be super healers in the gut. Sugar is like glue in the digestive tract. Restore the digestive fire with this tea to get your weight balanced and increase digestive health.
Self-Care Tip #4: Decrease raw foods and increase cooked foods.
During the winter months digestive fire slows down as the body naturally uses its resource for keeping us warm. We can help support ourselves by eating foods that are easily digested. It’s the time to eat soups and stews. Lots of greens and vegetables are still a favorable choice, but cooked and well-seasoned are the best choice.
Your body has to work much harder to digest raw food than it does cooked food. When it’s working hard to keep your core body temperature warm, it doesn’t have as many circuits available for digesting raw foods.
Remember the qualities of winter are cold and dry. Eating cold raw salads increases cold in the body and slows the digestive fire. What doesn’t get digested may cause early symptoms of leaky gut and irritable bowel. Keep raw foods to a minimum in winter, eating only a few salads a week.
Swap raw kale salads for beans and greens with a generous amount of pungent and heating spices. Cut back on raw green smoothies if you live in a cold climate and swap them for a pumpkin chai smoothie, or an orange chocolate smoothie with fresh fruit, hemp seeds and chocolate protein powder. You can go back to cold, raw in the spring and summer!
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Self-Care Tip #5: Use healing essential oils.
Bring the Healing Power of Plants Into Your Home: with essential oils. The health benefits of essential oils are numerous. Essential oils can make a positive impact on your health and well-being as long as you use them in a safe way.
Essential oils are basically plant extracts. They're made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant (flowers, bark, leaves or fruit) to capture the compounds that produce fragrant and therapeutic oils.
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries. When inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain.
Diffusing oils in your home can create an uplifting environment and soothe emotions. But essential oils do more than just smell good. They carry anti-viral, anti-septic, and anti-bacterial properties of the plants and can help purify the air in your home. While I recommend working with a qualified aromatherapist if you plan on using them as a healing modality on or in your body, you can safely diffuse them in your home with good benefits. Just be sure you purchase high quality, 100% essential oils, not fragrance. Fragrance alone does not have the same benefits.
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Oils to diffuse in winter that help ground, gather, and center your energy and mind are: Spruce, Vetiver, Copaiba, Sandalwood, Frankincense, and Palo Santo. Oils that help uplift are orange, lemon, bergamot, and geranium. And of course, lavender is the go-to oil for calming stress, an overactive mind, and assisting with a good night's sleep.
If you’re looking for great quality with super reasonable prices, I love Plant Therapy–their oils are 100% pure, free from any additives, adulterants, or dilutions. Their essential oils come in varieties like synergies, singles, organic, and pre-diluted roll-ons, and their facility is USDA Certified Organic. Plus you can get 10% off your order of $50 or more sitewide with the coupon code ROOT10!
Self-Care Tip #6: Show Your Body Love.
Show Your Body Some Love: with an ayurvedic self-massage. Massage. When we hear that word, most of us picture a fabulous spa treatment reserved for special occasions.
In Ayurveda, however, the practice of self-massage, called abhyanga, is recommended daily. This ancient massage ritual melts away tension and stress from the muscles. Ayurveda believes that these inherent massage benefits are further enhanced with the addition of an Ayurvedic massage oil.
The health benefits of adding a daily oil rub to your morning or evening routine are numerous:
- improved musculoskeletal and nervous system health
- proper circulation and lymph drainage
- improved sleep patterns
- softer, stronger skin
- graceful aging
- lustrous hair
- strong limbs
- tone and vigor for the body’s tissues
- and increased longevity
It especially counters the dry qualities of winter and offers a soothing and nurturing ritual to ground you in your self-care routine.
There are numerous how-to videos on YouTube to get you started. I recommend using a high-quality organic oil during the winter months that is specifically crafted for Vata types and ayurvedic massage. This is truly one of the most wonderful self-care tools you can gift yourself.
Self-Care Tip #7: Let your exercise be gentler and restorative.
Sometimes less is more. One of the biggest mistakes I see women make when trying to create well-being and arrive at their ideal weight is pushing themselves to do-more, when their body is already showing signs of depletion.
And aggressive exercise is the biggest culprit. They’ve been taught to believe that extreme exercise is what builds a fit body. But our bodies need a slower-paced, more nurturing exercise during winter months.
Many women see the numbers going up on the scale after the holidays and think that the best solution for weight loss is to decrease calories and increase aggressive workouts.
Here’s why that’s a bad idea. Remember cold and dry qualities? Excessive workouts and extreme sweating will contribute to more fluid loss and dryness in the body.
Also, if stress is already present in your life, (which it is for everyone during a pandemic), you’re like experiencing elevated cortisol levels. Over-exerting with aggressive exercise will throw the body into fight-or-flight mode and cause the body to actually hang on to weight gains.
The best forms of exercise for winter months are gentle and restorative activities like walking in nature, swimming, yoga, pilates, and cross country skiing. They’re good heart-pumping activities but also very grounding and supportive to the central nervous system.
Save the extreme HIIT workouts for Spring.
A few simple tweaks, a couple of new rituals, and you’ll be feeling your best all winter long. Mother Nature has never gotten it wrong. Our bodies know how to be healthy. We can be fully empowered to create vibrant health and well-being when we align ourselves with mindful choices–when we take our cues from the natural rhythms and elements found in all of life.