I'm a bit of a germ freak. Not in a weird, "Get away from me, I don't want to touch you," way. Just in a, "Okay, please stop coughing in my hair," kind of way. I once spent a few extra minutes in a long line at a local Michaels craft store during the holiday season and the whole time I stood there, a sick woman and her friend stood behind me coughing, sneezing, and sniffling the whole time. They apparently didn't think covering their mouths was necessary because I could literally feel the wind coming out of them blowing through my personal bubble. I caught whatever they had and spent the holidays sounding like a bullfrog and feeling like a bear. Since we're fast approaching the season of increased exposure to vast amounts of [possibly ill] strangers (at school, at the mall, standing in longer-than-usual lines, at the airport, etc.), I thought this would be a good time to talk about supporting your body's natural defense system with herbs and essential oils.
Use Herbs Daily
Herbs are full of so many beneficial compounds that help support our well-being and including them in our cooking is one easy way to incorporate them into our everyday routines. Chop fresh herbs from your garden or the farmer’s market and add them to your meals. As the weather cools and your herb garden slows down, try adding dried herbs to your dishes instead. They add complex layers of flavor that brighten up (or warm up) our food while also helping our bodies to be at their best.
Drinking nourishing herbal infusions each day can also help build up our body’s ability to stay well even when we’re exposed to people who aren’t. Part of the reason that they’ve become so popular is because they really work! Good herbs to try include: oatstraw, nettles, and red clover. On days when you’re feeling like you need a little something extra, have some Echinacea and Ginger tea or a spoonful of Elderberry syrup.
Treat yourself to an herbal foot bath (or full bath) each evening. Adjust the herbs you use based on how your day went and how you’re feeling when you sit down to choose your herbs. Relaxing herbs like Lavender, Chamomile, and Rose almost always make it into my blend. I also like to add flower essences that I choose based on how I’m feeling that evening to my bath blend. For example, if I’ve spent a long day working and can’t get my get-it-all-done brain to shut off and relax, I reach for Oak flower essence and add a dropperful to the bath after I’ve brewed my herbs.
Utilize Essential Oils As Needed
Especially during cold and flu season, I like to keep a jar of smelling salts in my bag. The formula I use varies, but it will always include some sort of antibacterial, antimicrobial essential oils. It’s helpful to have it on hand when I’m around a lot of people (i.e. a high risk area) or when I’m noticing that a lot of people around me are sniffling / coughing. It’s also a lifesaver for those moments when you’re standing in line and the person standing behind you is hacking a lung up into your hair. Whip out that jar and breathe in those anti-yuck essential oils to help counteract all of the other who-knows-whats that you’re breathing in at that moment.
Using tonifying essential oils throughout the season can also help to strengthen your body’s defense system. Try incorporating regular facial steams into your routine. Put together a massage oil that you can apply to your skin after you step out of the shower. Create a diffuser blend or two that you can use on days when you feel like you need a little extra boost. Make a foot lotion that you can massage into your feet at night to help you relax after a day of work. My approach to essential oils throughout this season is to use them to nourish and tone the body. I don’t use them everyday, but I do use them as needed to help me feel good, strong, and relaxed. Stress adds to the likelihood that you’ll become sick if you’re exposed to something, so keeping your body and mind in a healthy state of relaxation can do wonders for supporting your immunity.
Take Care of Yourself
Protect your sleep quality as much as possible. Lose the screens and electronics in your bedroom and resist the urge to stay up late finishing that book you just can’t put down. Craft a ritual around your sleep habits that keeps that time of the day protected from distractions so you can do all you can to make sure you get a good night of quality sleep each day.
Stay active. A little bit of exercise (even gentle exercise) each day helps to keep your lymphatic system functioning at an optimal level. On days when you can’t work in a full workout or a few laps around the block, set an alarm on your phone to go off every hour on the hour. Whenever the alarm goes off, turn on one of your favorite upbeat songs and take a little break for a dance party and some herb-infused water. I try to take dance breaks every hour throughout the day when I’m working from home. If I don’t, I’ll get lost in my computer screen and forget to get up and move at all except to refill my water bottle and visit the loo. Dancing helps me get moving and releases endorphins that help me to feel happier when I sit back down to keep writing. Win-win.
Allow yourself some space to relax each day. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to the things that want to distract you from your purpose. It’s okay to leave something to be done the next day. It’s okay to take care of yourself and the other people who rely on you too. Schedule non-negotiable relaxing time into your day, every day. Trust me – it helps!
Take care of yourself, my friend. I want you to be healthy!
What keeps you feeling great during the germy seasons? Let me know in the comments section below.