ADVICE FROM mdm WELLNESS PROFESSIONALS
During the winter, people tend to feel more aches and pains as a result of the colder weather and dropping barometric pressure. The best thing we can do is make sure that we are bundled up with coats, hats and scarves to help reduce the tightness in muscles that occurs with exposure to the cold. The reason this happens is that the brain wants to protect the core for warmth, and pulls blood flow from our extremities, lessening the blood flow causes muscles to tighten up.
Remember to preserve your energy by getting good sleep and restorative physical activity. Practices such as meditation, qi gong, tai chi, or yin yoga that focus on breath-work and stillness can help manage stress and keep you feeling your best in mind, body, and spirit.
Your eyes need a little extra TLC in cold dry weather, just as your skin does. Use a good quality tear (we sell Oasis brand in our shop) twice daily in winter months to stabilize your eye moisture. Using an artificial tear before you go outside will help eliminate the reflex tearing too!
Nourish your sense of wellbeing by focusing on what you love about winter. For some, this may be invigorating outdoor activities such as skiing, ice skating, or long winter walks. Others may find their joy by turning inward, being cozy with a soft blanket, a deep mug of tea, and a quiet activity like reading, journaling, or knitting.
Internally, we can help fight colds and flus by increasing our vitamin D and C to help out immune system. Both Vitamin C and D help our immune system by binding to viral coats and making them weaker, which allows the white blood cells to do their job a lot more efficiently. During Chicago’s winter months, the cold makes us cover up more, and there are less sunlight hours, so our Vitamin D levels drop. Additionally there aren’t as many virus fruits growing during the winter, so natural vitamin C levels can drop in our diets. Supplementing both of these in to your daily routine, will help your body be healthier during the winter months.
Take the pressure off yourself a little by giving some of it to a friend. In order to best get back to being consistent, have a strong accountability friend or coach. It's a best practice to have set days for you both to do your fitness activities together.
These cold, dark winter months, topped off with a global pandemic, make it difficult to stay active. There is strong evidence to show that movement can be a powerful tool to boost our physical, mental, emotional health. Good news: research is showing that all movement counts, and it all adds up! On the other hand, lack of movement also adds up and can have cumulative negative effects on our health. Here are a few tips to help you keep moving through the winter:
- Get some fresh outdoor air every day. Embrace winter and invest in some base layers (i.e., thermal underwear), and other winter gear so you can stay warm and motivated to go out for a walk or play outside with the kids. Parent tip: building igloos and snowmen can be quite a workout!
- Recess break! Set your alarm for “recess” breaks during the day. For 10-15 minutes, look away from your device and move – walk, dance, stretch, it all counts!
- See a movement expert. If it is difficult to get moving because of pain, injury, or just not knowing how to start effectively, see a physical therapist to help you out. That’s what we’re here for.
Here we are, in the middle of the frigid temps of winter! Nothing feels better than to put on some nice, warm socks to shuffle around the house. Conversely, nothing feels worse than going down the stairs, slipping in those socks, falling down, and landing on your bottom or back, boom, boom, boom! In our experience as physical therapists we hear the story – all too often – that someone was going down the stairs in stocking feet, maybe in a rush or perhaps carrying something, and their feet slide out from under them. Down they go! Ouch!! They end up in our clinic with low back, or more often, tailbone pain. With our expertise as musculoskeletal experts we can help them of course, but wouldn’t it be so much better if the injury didn’t happen at all? Prevention and safety are the keys. Please take our advice: in addition to those soft, snuggly socks, wear footwear that keep you secure on the steps: slippers with a non-slip sole, or at the very least, socks that have grippers on the bottom. PS: slow down when you’re on the stairs, use the handrail, and take extra care if you are carrying something at the same time. Happy, healthy winter from Link Physical Therapy!
When we exercise, chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine are released. Exercise also helps to reduce chemicals like adrenalin and cortisol, which may cause feelings of anxiety and tension. Additionally, exercise is a keystone habit that has numerous benefits.
Tell me more about these chemicals.
Endorphins: Endorphins are chemicals produced by the nervous system. These chemicals can act as a pain reliever and happiness booster. The feeling of well-being known as a runner’s high after vigorous exercise is caused by an increase in endorphin levels.
Serotonin: Serotonin is a hormone that impacts your mood. Low serotonin levels have been associated with depression. Even small amounts of exercise have been shown to improve serotonin levels.
Dopamine: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that contributes to the feelings of happiness. Over time, regular exercise leads to higher circulating levels of dopamine. Even looking forward to exercising can help increase your levels of dopamine.
Adrenalin and Cortisol: Adrenalin and cortisol are two of the body’s stress hormones; exercise can help to reduce the levels of these hormones.
When deciding what to eat, minimize raw, cold, and foods that can burden the Kidney and Spleen energies (e.g. dairy, sugar, cheese). Instead, start your day with hot ginger tea or a steamy cup of bone broth and enjoy meals with warm soups and slow-cooked stews using seasonal ingredients like root vegetables. Bone broth, beans, and squash are warm, nutritious & supportive to the Kidneys,. Home cooking is best! It’s the perfect time for that butternut squash recipe you’ve been wanting to try. Use ginger, cinnamon, fennel, fenugreek or other warming spices for a delicious taste that will spread that delectable heat all the way down to your toes. Other whole foods such as citrus, garlic and mushrooms can help to support your immune system. Also consider taking a quality mushroom supplement to boost your immune response.
It’s cold, dark and icy out. What are some options I can do from home?
Monarch Fitness Coaching offers a full range of Zoom trainings that can be done with no equipment from your home. We have programs for strength, stability, flexibility, and cardio—all of which can be completed in a 4-by-6-foot area.
Strength: Do pushups, dips, squats, and lunges.
Stability: Jog in place, skip, hop, plank, and crawl.
Cardio: Climb stairs, jog in place, walk your halls, jump, and walk backward.
Flexibility: Move all your joints through their healthy range of motion, and stretch.
Breathing though your nose is important. Dry winter air can cause dry mouths, which can lead to numerous dental issues, including dental decay and gum disease.
In the winter months (and especially during COVID), it's difficult to be out among others. Isolation can be tough on one's emotional wellness. Try saying a kind hello to a stranger, or making a conscious decision to say something nice to someone to refill your tank. You'll be surprised how much this small gesture can mean to both you and the person who receives it.
Try this simple hack: tape the top of the mask with surgical tape to block upwards air flow (also helps with fogging)! At Evanston Eye Wellness, we use surgical masks with an adjustable nose to reduce gaps.
The winter months are in some ways a quieter, more reflective time. Especially during the pandemic, people may be socializing less, spending more time in their own homes. Take this time to reconnect to your deeper self and engage in a journey toward meaning, consciousness, and wholeness. The Jungian approach suggests that dreams are windows to one’s sense of meaning and purpose. Try writing down your dreams and see what is revealed about you. This can help you clarify feelings and work through unprocessed issues. New insights and directions can become evident.
Do you experience reflex tearing when you are outdoors in the winter? Do you wake up with crusties? Are you prone to styes? Do you want fuller, thicker eyelashes? The answer to all of the above is clean eyelashes! We prefer products that don't use preservatives, such as our We Love Eyes foaming cleanser. Use daily at bedtime for best results.
Keep it simple when the weather gets to you. This means that your to-do list may not get done. Be at peace with that. What's more, be sure to be kind to yourself (and those around you) when you're not running at top speed.
Smiling is very importance for overall wellbeing, but it also a fantastic way to protect your teeth from daytime clenching and grinding. While smiling your teeth do not touch, which results in less tooth wear and therefore less sensitivity.
Moxa, a dried form of the herb mugwort (Artemisia species), is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its warm nature and regulatory effects on the blood. In the practice of moxibustion, moxa is safely burned near the skin to warm and stimulate acupuncture points and areas of the body. Moxibustion improves the circulation of qi and blood, warming and strengthening the body to treat symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and some types of infertility, respiratory, and digestive disorders. Moxibustion is available at In Fine Fettle with the recommendation of your Chinese Medicine practitioner.
I recommend a daily 5 minute time out (at least), to: meditate or stop and be in the stillness or listen to a beautiful song, or look at nature. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the busyness and obligations of life, multi-tasking running around and over doing. But the more you slow down, and go within, the more you’ll enjoy all that you’re doing being more present and the less you’ll experience stress and overwhelm. And as this happens, the more your joy will increase.
We’re taught to look at our productivity to determine how well we’re doing, but if we don’t have peace of mind or happiness no matter how much we do it’ll never be enough. The key is to develop an inner connection, which takes dedication, it’s like a new relationship, the more time you invest, the better and deeper the relationship can become.
What are some exercises that are beneficial when you have a short period of time?
Monarch Fitness Coaching, recommends an assessment prior to starting any training; however, if you are not experiencing discomfort and have 5–10 minutes, below are some exercises to try.
Jog in place.
Alternate lifting your knees up.
Go up and down the stairs.
Sit in a chair, stand, repeat.
Kneel on the floor, stand, repeat.
Do cat cows.