When it comes to health, everyone knows that exercise and proper nutrition are of paramount importance. But there are several other areas that are essential but often overlooked resulting in difficulty reaching your weight loss and overall wellness goals.
Many people are aware that a good night’s sleep helps us to face our day feeling well rested and with greater mental acuity. But did you know that there are a multitude of bodily functions that occur when we are sleeping? Fat burning, hormone regulation, and overall cellular recovery just to name a few. Despite the many benefits of sleep, very few of us get the proper amount at the proper time. Yes, timing matters! Your most important window of sleep occurs between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. which is the time when the majority of your bodily recovery is occuring. In an ideal world one should get to bed by 10 p.m. and wake sometime around 6 a.m. Hectic schedules, shift work, improper nutrition, and hormone imbalances can all wreak havoc on our sleep.
Developing an evening routine is essential for a successful bedtime for children and as it turns out, it is quite effective in adults as well. Limiting screen time for at least an hour before bedtime can help you to relax and get to sleep more easily when you finally decide to close your eyes. The blue light that is emitted from screens such as TVs, phones, tablets and computers can suppress your bodies natural production of melatonin (the hormone that helps regulate your circadian rhythm) thus making it more difficult for you to fall asleep. While you will never hear us recommending sleeping pills due to the laundry list of side effects and risk of dependence, there are a few natural remedies to get that melatonin flowing naturally. Although you can purchase melatonin at most health stores, it is not necesarilly a good option either. Melatonin is a hormone, so taking it in pill form is considered a type of hormone therapy and is not without risk. You can also boost melatonin by eating foods that are rich in magnesium such as avocados, almonds, and spinach. But the number one food for boosting melatonin is tart cherries. They are packed with antioxidants which also aid in the fight against premature aging. An easy way to consume these little beauties is to drink your apothecherry each night before bedtime. We have recently replaced our nightly serving of red wine with a wineglass full of apothecherry. Trust me, drinking it out of your favorite wine glass makes all the difference. Sometimes it’s all about the ritual..so create new healthy ones!
Another way we combat sleep issues in our family and with our clients is to use certain essential oils both topically and in a diffuser. Lavender oil is one of our favorites. Others include Bergamont, Cedarwood, Ylang ylang, and Roman chamomile. Simply dilute a few drops of the essential oil with a carrier oil of your choice and apply to wrists, neck and/or behind the ears before bed. You could also choose to add a few drops of the oils to a hot bath and soak until you feel your body begin to relax. Add a cup of herbal tea to the mix and you have the perfect combination to slip off into slumber. Another option is to fill your environment with an essential oil mist using a diffuser; just breath deep and drift off to sleep…zzz.
Stress in life is inevitable. Failure to manage stress properly can lead to many negative effects on the body and our overall wellness. Increased risk for heart disease and stroke, gastrointestinal upset and ulceration, adrenal fatigue and dysfunction, increased cortisol levels leading to weight gain, insomnia, and a weakened immune system are just a few of the ways that stress can manifest itself in our bodies.
Learning to manage your stress can literally be a life saver. Yoga is a beautiful way to activate the muscles and blood-flow as well as lower your stress hormones. Since it’s not always realistic to drop what you are doing and strike a yoga pose, you can always pause for some deep abdominal breathing. Just the act of taking deep abdominal breaths can activate the parasympathetic nervous system which tells your body to relax. Take a deep breath, filling your lungs to maximun capacity; now pause a hold that breath for a few seconds before exhaling. Repeat this cycle slowly 5-10 times or for a full minute. Try inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling slowly through pursed lips for each breath. This action signals the parasympathetic nervous system to slow things down.
Essential oils such as frankincense, bergomot, chamomile, vetiver, and lavender are all amazing ways to to calm your mind and relax your body. You will notice that many of these are the same oils that are listed above to aid sleep. Apply topically diluted in a carrier oil behind the ears and along the spine. Or add to the palms of your hands and inhale deeply through your nose. Diffusing into your environment is also a great option if the situation allows.
Next is time management. We all fall into the trap of heaping way to much onto our daily schedules. There are only 24 hours in a day and a multitude of responsibilities vying for our attention. Learning to say no on occasion can be an important weapon in your arsenal. If you are overbooked, you will be over-stressed and incapable of being your best self. Say yes to the necessities and learn to politely decline those activities or responsibilities that will overextend you and cause burn out. One way to do this is to take an assessment of your daily activities and decide are these adding value to my life in some way, or are they robbing me of my joy? You will find that you do not always need to have your week packed with activity in order to feel productive. Sometimes what you really need is to slow down, rest, and enjoy time with family or friends (or even some me time).
IMMUNE SUPPORT/ DETOXIFICATION:
Last but not least…our old friend the Immune System. We tell our kids all the time that our immune system is like an army. It is called in to defend our body from an onslaught of bacteria, viruses and environmental toxins. But like any soldier in the armed forces, our army needs support to keep fighting the good fight. It needs nutrients, clean water and a good scrubbing every once and a while. The nutrients should come from healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocados, free-range eggs, and organic nuts and seeds. A wide variety of organic vegetables is also essential. Aim to “eat the rainbow” everyday by eating a fruit or vegetable of every color. Supplements such as vitamin C and elderberry syrup provide a nice boost to the immune system during cold/flu season or times of increased stress or illness. Be sure that your vitamin C supplement is derived from natural sources such as Acerola or Amla berries and not just ascorbic acid which is only one component of vitamin C.
Clean water is a given. Dehydrated bodies break down…It’s that simple. Adequate amounts of fresh clean water supports just about every function in the human body including the immune system, so you can see why this is so important. Drink fresh clean spring water (with a squeeze of lemon for an added boost) or water that has been filtered through a system that removes chlorine as well as fluoride such as the Berkey filter. I would never recommend drinking tap water, but that is a topic for a later post…
Now for the scrubbing…Detoxification! While detoxification is a heavy subject that is also worthy of it’s own post, there are a few things you can do to support your natural detoxification pathways. Taking a nice hot bath in water as hot as you can comfortably tolerate with 2 cups epsom salts, 1/2 cup baking soda and 5 drops of lavender essential oils is an excellent way to assist in the detox process. Increasing your water intake as well as consuming 1 Tbsp of quality apple cider vinegar diluted in 8oz. of water can provide a gentle kidney flush and aid detox pathways. Lemon, Tea Tree, Rosemary, Clove, and Myrrh essential oils can all aid the body in detoxification.
Wow..that was a lot of information! Don’t get overwhelmed..take baby steps to incorporate new lifestyle changes that will lead to long-term habits. And look for more information in future posts to guide you in the “how and why” of using essential oils to obtain optimal health.