How to Stay Healthy This Winter Part II

Well, we survived the polar vortex!  Everyone seems to have gone through round one of a cold and cough.  We’ve still got about two months left of winter so rejuvenating and restoration are the order of the day.

Here are my second set of tips for staying healthy, energized and in alignment with the energy of the season!

1.  Reduce stress

This is HIGH STRESS season.  We were wrapping up work projects before vacation, navigating challenging relationships with family members, logging multiple hours in airports, worrying about our finances and rushing around trying to get everything done.  Find a method to add peace and calm into your life on a daily basis.  You can begin your day with a 2-minute breath practice.  Set a timer and begin to count your inhales and exhales.  The goal is to have your out-breath be slightly longer than your in-breath.  This signals to the body that it’s safe and can relax.  This can clear your mind for the day and you can employ it throughout the day if tension builds.  Do it on the train or at your desk.  Stress and frustration can damage your immune system, allowing pathogens in.  Schedule relaxation into your day.

2.  Slow down

This is not the season to strive and push through. Each season in Chinese medicine corresponds to a different organ system.  Winter is the time of the Kidneys and the Bladder.  The qualities of those organ systems are also the qualities of winter-rest, reflection, conservation and storage.  The Kidneys are considered the source of all the energy in the body.  They also store all of our “reserve” energy.  The amount of reserve energy that we come into this world with could be compared to the strength of our genetic code.  It has a strong effect on our physical and mental development as well as our aging process.  We should naturally reduce our activity levels to conserve our energy at this time so as not to deplete our reserves.

3.  Drink only room temperature or warm/hot liquids

This tip can be applicable to every season but is of utmost importance during the winter.  Our organs function optimally when they are warm.  They do not enjoy being iced.  I saw a woman on the subway the other drinking a giant Jamba Juice while wearing a full length down jacket, hat and gloves.  It was a “feels like” 11-degree day.  Doesn’t this feel counterintuitive?  It’s very important to keep your internal environment warm, especially when your external environment is so cold.  Drinking iced drinks when it is freezing outside can lead to stomach cramps and diarrhea.

4.  Exercise should be less strenuous and less intense

It’s very important this season not to exercise to the point of fatigue.  The goal is to boost your energy levels, not deplete them.  Slow it down in the winter and lower the intensity level of your workouts, especially if you find you are tired after exercising.  We want to nurture and rebuild our energy stores in anticipation of bursting back to life in the spring.  Yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong are perfect winter appropriate forms of activity.

5.  Know your cold!

There are two different types of colds-a ‘hot cold’ and a ‘cold cold’.  Hot colds are characterized by a burning, painful sore throat, more copious sticky yellow phlegm and a possible fever and body aches.  A cold type cold will present as a scratchy throat and a runny nose with clear phlegm.  Each type requires different care as far as herbal remedies and dietary therapy.  I have great herbal formulas for both!