I am writing this on the heels of below freezing temps all week here in New Orleans, and as the bomb cyclone affects the east coast. Y'all, winter just got real AF! The houses in New Orleans are not really built for this cold, and in my experience, extreme weather is difficult to manage because it is something that is completely out of our control. I pulled out the big guns to get through the cold week, and I thought I'd share my winter wellness tips here because they truly helped me so much, and are not necessarily tools I rely on daily.
1. Boost your immune system! There are all sorts of germs swirling around this season, and the last thing you need during a cold snap is to get sick, too. Each morning I've been drinking my hot lemon water, and adding a shot of elderberry syrup to this concoction. I've also increased my B vitamins, vitamin D, and vitamin C. Think preventative! Don't wait until you feel sick to implement this.
2. Get your core temp up and your lymph moving! I recently bought a rebounder (also known as a mini trampoline). So after I drink my hot lemon/elderberry concoction, I pull up an upbeat song, and bounce on the trampoline for 1 or 2 songs. This moves the lymph fluid, which moves out toxins and increases our bodies’ immune response. It also gets your core temp up, and is wonderful when we are just waking up.
3. Cayenne pepper! In the world of herbalism, cayenne pepper is a stimulating herb that affects the circulatory system and mucous membranes. It is useful anywhere there is cold and stagnation within the body, when there is cold or flu, or anytime increased circulation is desired (hello, arctic freeze!). I have been adding a tiny amount (about 1/8 tsp) to my golden milk everyday. You could also add it to hot lemon water, or sprinkle it on your food. You don't want to overdo it—it should be pleasantly spicy and warming.
4. Work with the darkness, get cozy! This winter I’ve been enjoying dark spaces and the shorter days more than any winter past. I've been curling up with candle light, using this as a time to journal, meditate, and go within. Normally, I try to deny or fight the cold, but I've been letting my mammalian winter instincts kick in. This has been wonderfully soothing for my nervous system (especially after the extravagant holidays), and feels like I am tapping into some ancient winter secret. So light some candles, put on some gentle music or a podcast (take a break from screen time if possible), sniff some essential oils, say no to any unnecessary extracurricular activities, and let yourself melt into a mini hibernation like the bear that your body secretly wants to be!
5. Saved the best for last, y'all: Castor oil packs! As you know, I love baths and they are a huge part of my self care. BUT, it is way too cold to get naked, for one. Also, baths are best if you can swaddle up after and keep all that warmth you just built up in your core temp. Last week, my house was just too cold to do that. Enter the castor oil pack. Castor oil packs are typically done on the abdomen. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is said that all disease originates in the intestine. So, my thought here was "affect the core, affect the entire body." Castor oil has a drawing action, and may pull out toxins, break up cysts/scar tissue, improve circulation of blood, liver, and lymph, improve hormone function and digestion, and so much more. It is a softening and deeply relaxing treatment.
To do: Start with a clean space. You'll be lying down for this, so if using your bed, maybe put down a towel first. Have everything you need nearby, lie down, place a bolster or pillow under your knees. Take your high-quality castor oil, and massage about a tablespoon onto your bare abdomen. Work clockwise from your right hip to your left, massaging in a circular motion. Take your time with this process, explore tight areas. You want to cover the entire abdomen...from about 3 inches below the belly button to the outline of the rib cage. Once you've adequately covered and massaged the abdomen, place a square of parchment paper large enough to cover the entire abdomen on top of your oiled belly. Cover this with flannel (I use an old flannel pillowcase, works perfectly. You could also use a thin towel), and cover the flannel with a weighted heat source. I use hot stones, but you could use a hot water bottle or one of these Nelly Packs. You can also use a standard heating pad, but the weight is really important, so weigh it down with several blankets/towels if you're opting for this. Either way, cover your heat source with a blanket to keep heat in for as long as possible. Relax, let go, listen to a yoga nidra or this body scan, and let yourself drift off into a cozy, nurtured state for at least 20 min, but preferably up to an hour. When you are finished, removed all the toppings, and massage remaining castor oil into your belly, again going in that circular, clockwise direction from right to left. Notice if your abdomen feels any different--softer, more movement, more spacious, etc. I find this treatment to be delicious and incredibly soothing. The benefits of castor oil are cumulative, so it's a good treatment to do daily for 3-5 days in a row. I think I fit it in 3 nights that cold week, and loved it more each time! It really is the #1 tip that got me through this very cold snap, and was a wonderful way to support a good night's sleep!
Stay warm, loves, stay well!