I didn’t post last week. I needed to take a break. I was on the edge of coming down with a cold, and I knew that if I didn’t slow down, the cold would overtake me, and then I’d be forced to slow down.
Taking a break may be one of the most underrated of health practices. Anyone can do it, in their own way.
As the weather becomes colder and the days become shorter, my body and mind want to go into hibernation. Yet it never ceases to amaze me that this is the time of year when things speed up in the social world, reaching a crescendo with the “holidays” soon to be upon us.
I’m not much interested in mainstream holidays and don’t participate much. I like having “official” days when I can just tell everyone that my office is “closed for the holidays,” and then I get to re-create with my favorite hobbies. I want to start selectively declaring more days (weeks?) here and there as “closed for a holiday.”
I need to do this in order to reduce and manage stress, a major health hazard. Taking breaks is not optional any more.
As I’ve written about on this blog, I keep up a pretty thorough health maintenance lifestyle. I go into high gear with it when I’m on the edge of a cold. I stop or slow down work, which I have the luxury of doing since I’m my own boss. I continue to walk outside every day but I cancel going to strenuous pilates workouts.
I already take handfuls of vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements daily. In the fall and winter, I also take a daily dose of elderberry extract. There’s evidence to suggest it wards off colds and flus. (I don’t take a pharmaceutical flu shot.) Last week, I upped my dosage of elderberry and added tinctures of other immune system boosting herbs. Plus cups and cups of herb tea and lemon juice in hot water with honey.
Sleep is the best ongoing stress reducer in my book. In the winter, I aim to sleep about nine hours a night.
Getting good sleep can be challenging, especially when taking anti-cancer drugs that can cause hormone and sleep disruption. Studies indicate that inadequate sleep may have something to do with increased cancer rates, for example, among people who work night shifts and have to sleep during daylight hours.
In the paleo lifestyle, one is encouraged to sleep when it’s dark and in the dark. Where I live, neighbors have nighttime security lights. The light floods in through windows, and there are lights emanating from the TV.
To make my room truly dark, I recently installed black-out window blinds. Combined with covering the television with a cloth, I now have a pitch dark room, and I’m sleeping better.
This time of year I also shift my food regimen somewhat, changing just lunch. Instead of eating a cold salad each day, I get my veggies, fat and protein with hot soup or heated leftovers, and I avoid cold food.
Last year I was still struggling to acquire the habit of drinking bone broth daily. Now I’ve learned from Sara Russell, a nutritionist in Berkeley (yourprobiotickitchen.com) how to make my broth so good I can’t wait to have it. At a recent workshop about fermentation, Sara Russell taught me some broth tips. Instead of just cooking bones down in water and then making a stew, I now cook an onion, celery and carrots with the bones in a slow cooker for 24 hours, and in the last hour, I add a bunch of parsley and some sea salt. The result is a broth so good that it does not need to be doctored up to just drink it straight. I’ve found that a great lunch or snack is a bowl of bone broth with a scoop of sauerkraut and even some sliced avocado (for extra good fat). The more bone broth I drink, the better I feel and the less I’m hungry.
(I’ll write more about the virtues of bone broth in a few weeks once I receive my copy of Sally Fallon Morell’s new book Nourishing Broth.)
The key with bone broth and fermented vegetables is that they are pro-biotic as are yogurt, kefir and kombucha. They enhance digestion, making it easier for the body to absorb all the good nutrients from food and herbs. Sara taught me that cabbage has ten times the amount of Vitamin C when it’s fermented versus plain.
Last week, warding off a cold, I slept more and ate more pro-biotics. I also went to one of my favorite healing places for a half-hour steam sauna and a one-hour massage with a massage therapist I’ll go back to as soon as possible.
I think massage is underrated not just as a stress and pain reducer but also as a preventative practice. I don’t know how it all works, but increasing circulation moves fluids through the lymph system which helps the body and mind heal themselves. I’d like to add frequent massages to my health regimen. Expensive, and worth it.
Finally, while on the edge of a cold, I decided to withdraw energy from an apparent problem in my personal life. In my mind, I was trying to solve the problem, and that just wasn’t working. Fortunately, the person I was interacting with suggested that we just table our disagreement for a period of time and instead spend more time together not talking.
What a brilliant idea, and a relief. Often the most peaceful approach in a friendship is to simply let something be. One feels a risk in not acting, not “talking things out.” What if not acting and not talking is a better solution? No talking equals no arguing and overreacting, no making something urgent when it is not. Silence in a twosome may allow an apparent conflict to just fade away. (It may also allow the friendship to just fade away which would also be fine.)
Slowing down and carving out more time for silence will be my mission this time of year.