As the countdown begins to Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends, we are reminded of the scripture that says "In all things give thanks". No matter what time of year it is, we need to incorporate some kind of self reminder to remember the things we have to be thankful for. Even in the midst of hard and challenging times, it is part of a lifestyle of staying spiritually and physically healthy.
Stress is one of the most prevalent daily challenges in this millennium. It is so prevalent that most of us don't even realize some of the things that are the sources of our stress. Our bodies even have the ability to incorporate it so that, like an addict, we can't stop the cycle. Pausing to be thankful, gives us an opportunity to prioritize what is worth working towards and what needs to fall by the wayside. As you enter the time of celebrating the holidays, take the time to reflect on what is truly valuable during this time of year, and what is simply over expectation and advertising hype. Joy is so much more valuable to our health than stress.
Help with stress:
We have discussed food, supplements and herbs to help us through the winter season. There are some other categories that we would do well to be mindful of any time of year; and especially during the winter months when disease can be more challenging. We don't need another layer of "stuff" for our bodies to deal with.
There are things that cause us to be out of our natural rhythm. Lack of sleep is another millennial problem we are all faced with. As we demand more of ourselves than we should and it takes more of our time to do everything we feel necessary to do, it takes away from the window of sleep time. Even the stress of a mind overrun with problems and ideas that can interfere with our falling asleep, shortens our time to get deep, rejuvenating sleep. This is a part of our human biorhythm that is key to body function and health. For some this problem of sleep is getting to sleep, for others it is staying asleep. Some of us even try the evening "toddy" in the form of a glass of wine or alcohol, thinking that it will cause us to become drowsy. They are unaware of the boomerang effect a few hours later that causes us to wake up and not be able to get back to sleep. The effects of the sugar have taken hold and sleep is now interrupted.
Actually the old wives tale of having a glass of milk before bed is a good one, as the calcium in milk helps to activate the evening biorhythm for sleep. While drinking warm milk may not be appealing to you, a good source of natural, absorbable calcium could be a key to your success. It is better obtained in food form rather than supplement for successful absorption. One of the herbs that has the highest calcium percentage of the plant kingdom is valerian and is one of the reasons we believe that it is a great sedative herb. Many herbal formulas can be found containing valerian for sleep, and it helps to cut it's bad taste. Magnesium, potassium and Vitamin D are supplements that help with the absorption of calcium. Those nutrients are best taken/eaten in the evening to augment your calcium and sleep cycle. Time release magnesium can often be the missing factor in getting to sleep, and just adding that to your evening regimen can do the trick. Herbs like ashwaganda, hops, and california poppy are the ingredients that can help you stay asleep. Look for them in your health food stores when looking at sleep aids. Other things like not using cell phones, computers and ipads before bed because of the blue light they emit mimicking daytime light can help your body relax. And beware the coffee clutch. Unless you are drinking organic coffee, you are not only adding layer upon layer of stimulant to your body that can carry across the day; but you are adding toxic elements that occur in the roasting and brewing of that coffee. Not all coffees are created equal so buyer beware.
Best foods with calcium (in order of strength): valerian, Pau d'arco, kelp, cabbage, nettle, thyme
Best foods with magnesium (in order of strength): Irish moss, oatstraw, tumeric, kelp, nettle, peppermint, chickweed, pumpkin seed, astragalus
Herbs to fall asleep: valerian, scullcap, hops, california poppy
Herbs to stay asleep: hops, passion flower, ashwaganda
Ashwaganda is an herb that helps with both stress and sleep cycles. If you are the type of person who has depleted energy, yet is jittery and hyper during the daytime and then can't fall asleep, you may be a candidate for using ashwaganda. If taken daily over a month or two, it helps to re-establish normal sleep cycles.
Taking pills and supplements can be helpful, but don’t underestimate how diligently working toward changing a lifestyle can help improve your health. You don't have to wait until the New Year to resolve to get better at this. Give yourself a gift this holiday season, take the time and make the effort to strengthen your immune system. As you get older, your body will reward you with long and vitality filled life.