Being in touch with nature will help you and your family stay healthy this time of year.
The past eight months have certainly challenged us to take a good look at our immune systems. As we enter what is often described as “flu season”, it is true we do tend to have more illnesses September through December—but not always for the reasons some believe. It is important to understand the health benefits and obstacles that each season brings in order to best prepare your mind, body and soul for optimal health.
In the Northeast, we have a hard stop to summer with the start of school and extracurricular activities. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the December holidays bring tempting overindulgences in sweets and fast food. Many people during this time of year report experiencing decreased hours of sleep (due to the need to rise early for school), “good stress-bad stress” from frequent gatherings with family/friends we love (or those who may cause us anxiety) and exhaustion from routine transporting children to and from their activities.
Our days are getting shorter, with the shortest day of the year December 21 having 10 hours of sunlight, versus the 15 hours of sunlight offered to us on June 21. The air is getting colder. We are entering a season in which our ancestors (and our current-day local wild animals) would begin to slow down, ending the day earlier and getting to sleep sooner. Cooked meals versus raw ones are important to warm our bodies from the cool weather and essentially warm our souls, too.
The frenzy of this season in addition to nature’s call to slow down and rest, can result in emotional and physical stress for adults and children participating in life in this part of the world.
Emotional and physical stress increase our chances of developing symptoms (illness), as the body works to cleanse the system of the overload of toxins that have accumulated.
We have no control over nature, but we do have control over how we respond to this season.
Whenever possible, say “no” to activities that extend past sunset.
Try to avoid gatherings with those who aren’t in the same mindset as you. For example, those who want to confront/question your choices/judge your parenting/imposing their ideas, values upon you and otherwise stress you out as a parent! We only have so much energy to give to the day. Don’t use it up at the bus stop combatting neighbors/friends in conversations that drain you. Surround yourself with people who bring you light. Do this always, but especially during this season.
If possible, hold off on starting little ones in a new program and minimize older kids’ after-school activities. If able, don’t initiate any major life changes like moving, changing careers, potty training, weaning from breast, bottle or crib. Consider setting goals for the month of January.
After December 21 (the shortest day of the year), we enter into an energetic ‘rebirth.’ With more sunlight added to our days, we are able to tolerate change and increased activities more gracefully.
As the sun goes down, our bodies naturally make melatonin to bring on sleep. Get your little ones, teens and yourself to bed earlier. Be patient with those who rise with the sun—they are in tune with nature and may find it difficult to sleep after the sun has risen.
Eat warm, cooked meals.
As temperatures drop, it is more difficult for our cold bodies to digest cold foods. Decrease consumption of raw salads, shakes, smoothies, frozen treats, as well as fruits, and replace them with warm, cooked seasonal vegetables and iron rich foods. Encourage these hearty meals EARLY in the day versus during the evening hours. Children (as well as adults if you are mindful) are most hungry in the morning when their body requires more energy to drive them through the day. Plan to enjoy your lightest meals in the evening.
The standard American diet of grains/fruits early in the day and protein/vegetables in the evening could be turned upside down to achieve increased energy and greater health this season. Following this plan will also enable your child to have a better chance of being able to self-regulate. Pay attention as insulin and glucose levels are more balanced with a protein/vegetable-rich breakfast versus a sugary one. Additionally, parents may find that they have less of a battle with “picky eaters.” Picky eaters are described as children who won’t sit at the dinner table or even eat dinner. Rarely do we hear a child refusing to eat breakfast. They don’t want dinner because they intuitively know they don’t necessarily need it. Start to rethink breakfast as it is: THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY.
"We have no control over nature, but we do have control over how we respond to this season."
Address the first start of a symptom with care.
Stop and Rest. Give your body the time and attention it needs to heal.
Avoid sugary, dairy, cold, floury foods that increase inflammation and decrease the body’s ability to detoxify, which could lead to worsening symptoms and/or increased length of time with symptoms. Increase water intake. If your urine is yellow, you need to drink more water.
Visit your chiropractor. Chiropractors address the relationship between the structure of the spine and the function of the nervous system and how that relationship affects the body's ability to heal and maintain health. When a chiropractor relieves the nervous system from spinal stress, the body is able to heal more efficiently and strengthen the immune system.
Have the following available: Vitamin C, Echinacea and Goldenseal, Biocidin LSF, Alium Cepa, Spongia Tosta, Belladonna, Manuka honey, lavender essential oil, Eucalyptus essential oil, Thieves oil, Epsom salts, a new humidifier, bone broth, and most of all trust in the body’s innate ability to heal and recover and patience to let it do so.
Children of holistic minded families get sick less frequently and recover faster. However, our tendency to panic over our child’s illness is far greater (mostly because we don’t have the experience of dealing with illnesses too often).
Enjoy good health this season!
While this season can be overwhelming, it can also be quite beautiful. Take in the beautiful colors that come with fall, the crisp air before it becomes too chilly, and cozy, quality time with your loved ones. Show gratitude for all that is wonderful in the world and have faith that what is not will resolve. Smiling, laughing and embracing joy can also help to achieve healing, recovery and good health.
Wishing you good health this season and always!
—Jennie Zethner, R.N., M.S., C.P.N.P.