Here we go! The holiday season is upon us. And what a wild ride it has been for all of us since last year! For many of us in the northern hemisphere, the winter holidays will look much different than usual. Depending on your situation, that could mean more or less stressful than in years past. One thing I really appreciate about the times we are living in right now is that lots of folks around the world are taking stock of life and learning to appreciate the simple things that we take for granted every day, like our health, the health and lives of our loved ones that are still here, and the realization that life is precious and fleeting-so how we choose to spend the time we have here becomes more important for many of us. No matter how you choose to spend this time, in this article I’m going to highlight some ways that I hope will help you to nourish your nerves so that you can feel relaxed and at your best as we move into winter.
Not “presents” (although those are fun, too). Let’s start off our stress free living with learning how to be present so we can enjoy as much as we can. I have several tools to share with you that help me to become present. One is my daily routines. It grounds and focuses me for my day when I do the same thing every morning to get ready. My morning routine involves brushing teeth, showering, dressing, brewing up a seasonal tea blend, taking my winter herbal tonics (such as fire cider and/or elderberry syrup), and doing yoga. If it’s a cold day and I have the time, making a fire in the wood stove is a wonderful way to set the mood for the day ahead.
Another way I enjoy staying mindful of the present moment is to light a candle, put on some seasonal music (could be meditative, classical, holiday songs/carols, or my personal favorite-songs and chants from around the world that celebrate the coming of winter), and cook a slow seasonal meal, using as many locally grown ingredients and seasonal herbs that I have on hand. Since when it comes to cooking, I’m the type of person who needs a recipe, I have my favorite cookbooks, like the Herbal Kitchen (Kami McBride), the Herbalist’s Kitchen (Brittany Nickerson),, and the Kosmic Kitchen (Benjamin & Singletary). Even a simple online search for seasonal recipes should get you plenty of ideas.
Scaling Back Activities
Normally this is incredibly challenging this time of year, however given the state of the world, it’s happening whether we like it or not. I don’t think very many of us will have an excess of parties, holiday recitals, church/synagogue/fellowship events this year. Except that zoom events count too! Even if we are home more and travelling less, there is no shortage of online events to choose from. Each one of this occupies a chunk of your time and it’s just as easy to go overboard with this as with in person events. Spending hours in front of a screen can deplete your energy and take a toll on your nervous system. So before you start filling up your calendar, take a deep breath. Spend 5 or 10 minutes listing all of these events, and as a meditative exercise, go through each one, and ask yourself for each event: Do I want to do this? How will attending enrich my physical/emotional/spiritual health? How my attendance enrich other people’s? Will it take away my well being to attend? Am I looking forward to it or dreading it? Is it essential or could I let it go? By consciously choosing which to do and which to let go of, you are opening space up in your life to allow yourself time to enjoy the things that you love, that bring you peace and joy. That is an important part of self care.
Herbs for Less Stress
Let’s start with the most obvious-a nice warm cup of herbal tea. Just the act of brewing tea and holding the warm mug in your hands, smelling the aroma, and that first delicious sip can be enough nourishment for the nervous system-the tea ritual itself. To some extent it almost doesn’t even matter what type of tea you are sipping, as long as you are enjoying it and taking the time to be present with the experience. If you want to get specific about it, there are always going to be herbs that will enhance the seasonal experience and/or help us to relax, unwind, and restore the spirit. My very favorite thing to drink on a blustery or stormy day is a steaming cup of Herbal Chai. Traditional chai spices, like cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper are warming herbs that also happen to support digestion. And since we are generally eating heavier foods this time of year, enjoying a cup of chai after a meal can assist our digestive process, which helps us to feel more comfortable, and therefore less irritable. If you’re not a chai person, or if your digestive issues are more complex, you might prefer a cup of Gut Support Tea instead. If you are really feeling exhausted, like you are burning the candles at both ends, and need an adaptogenic blend that is energizing, yet calming and restorative, maybe Vitali-Tea is your thing. Or maybe you’re like me and can never decide so you want it all (gemini in your chart possibly?)-then your remedy for indecisiveness would absolutely be the Tea Sampler Gift Set, which would give you a tea for every occasion.
Beyond tea, there are many herbs that can help us to relax, adapt to stress, and sleep better. Sometimes the very best remedy can be the most simple. A simple tincture of any of these herbs might be of assistance: California Poppy, Catnip, Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Motherwort, Milky Oats, Skullcap, or Tulsi. Remember that each of these herbs has its own personality and specific indications (stress manifests differently, depending on the person and situation). So if you’re considering any of the tinctures I just mentioned, please click on them and read the description, see what resonates, and do your own research. Some work great in acute situations, some are better for long term nervous system support. Some are great for bedtime, others for daytime. Some combine with others exceptionally well, and if you would like more information on any of the tinctures, or would like a customized blend for your situation, feel free to contact me anytime.
If you prefer a formulated blend of herbs, some nervous system formulas worth mentioning are Headache Support, Oh Happy Day (adaptogenic uplifting blend to support overwhelmed stressed out folks), Sweet Peace (general tension-calming blend), and our tonifying, adaptogenic, libido-supportive Vitality Elixir. Again, read the descriptions to learn more about each formula, and as always, contact me if you have any questions.
No article on stress reduction would be complete without mentioning a massage. You can take the time to nourish your body with a self massage, or if you are lucky enough to have someone willing to give you a massage, nothing beats that! To enhance the experience, I recommend Skin Food Massage Oil, which is also great for using as a bath oil or all-over moisturizer. It is made with infused oils only, no essential oils, which means it is generally safe for sensitive skin.
More Herbal Gift Giving
Sometimes our holiday stress simply lies in not knowing what to get for that special someone. In last month’s blog I offered some suggestions for winter wellness and herbal gifts. I believe that a gift of wellness is something that we could all use right now. Maybe you have someone who is excited about using herbs to support their health, in which case something like our Winter Wellness Care Package could be an excellent fit. Or you might know someone who loves herbal body oils. Salves and Lip Balms make great affordable and useful stocking stuffers, and a gift card is always an option. You could also turn gift giving into a creative project. Even if you aren’t a crafter, you can support several small business and package items together in a pretty basket or box to create an individualized, personal gift. Secondhand items are perfectly acceptable, especially in a creatively curated package. Gift giving does not have to be stressful or expensive. If you are going to spend money, I encourage you to support small business whenever possible.
I hope this article helps to bring you some ideas for staying present and getting rid of stress. I wish you a peaceful, joyful, and healthy holiday season, filled with seasonal pleasures. May you be nourished, may your cup overflow, may you find the time to connect with nature and her beautiful world that we all share. Many Evergreen Blessings to you, see you in 2021!