How to get through the rest of winter

How to get through the rest of winter | The Organic Beauty BlogAs we head into this final stretch of winter, we all seem to be getting a little fed up with the cold and the havoc it can wreak on our bodies and minds.  I moved all the way across the country from New York to sunny Santa Monica to escape winter, and even here, in the temperate 60 degree winter temperature range, my feet are cold, I’m sipping hot tea all day long, and I’m pretty much living in my long, chunky knits.

Cold weather, even Santa Monica-style cold weather, can dry us out, stress us out, make us feel depressed and unmotivated, and majorly hamper our glow factor.  But with a few Ayurvedic tips and tricks, we can heat things up, boost our mood and immunity, and get through the rest of winter with our glow on!

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How to Become a Morning Person

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

How to Become a Morning Person | The Organic Beauty Blog

In my holistic health counseling practice, the excuse I hear most often for why someone just can’t make time for a healthy breakfast, a morning workout, or meditation is “I’m not a morning person.”  I’ve got news for you:  That’s a load of hooey!  Any staunch night owl can become a super productive person before 9am if they want to.  I’ll tell you how I know this.. I did it!  I come from a family of night owls.  We stayed up LATE in my house, and mornings were a time to sleep until the very last minute, rush around getting ready, and frantically arriving late wherever we needed to be.  I kept up this M.O. well into my late 20’s.  And then I decided to change.  I craved calm, nourishing mornings.  I craved time.  I hate the feeling of rushing.  So if I can do it, so can you, if you choose to.  Here’s how:

1.  Get to bed at a reasonable hour (DUH!)

This is so obvious, but always overlooked.  If you want to wake up, totally rested, before your alarm, with time to get some stuff done in the morning, you need to get to bed earlier.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking you do ok on less than 7 hours of sleep. You don’t, and pretending is what’s making you a tired, grumpy zombie in the mornings.  Figure out when you ideally would like to wake up, leaving time for whatever you would like to accomplish in the morning (see below), and get thee into bed at least 8.5 hours before that time (leaving yourself a 30 minute buffer to actually get to sleep). If you have trouble getting to sleep, check out my article, How to Sleep Better, Naturally!

2.  Decide how you want to use your morning.

Morning is a perfect time for exercise, meditation, a healthy breakfast, and some chill time before work.  Figure out what your priorities are and set your intentions for the morning.  Figure out how much time you want to dedicate to these activities, and go to sleep accordingly the night before (see above).  Create a little morning ritual for yourself that incorporates everything you would love your morning to include.  A ritual is an amazing way to create and stick to a new habit, injecting it with calm and meaning (check out my article, The Power of Ritual!).  Here’s my morning ritual:  I wake up, walk the dog, feed him, take my morning vitamins, meditate for 15 minutes, make breakfast and watch the news for about 20 minutes… all before even starting to get ready for the day!  I set my alarm to leave myself time for my ritual, and make sure I get to bed at the right time to allow myself at least 8 hours of sleep (preferably 9 ; )

3.  Leave yourself plenty of time, and stay calm.

Regardless of what you want to accomplish in the morning, leave yourself enough time to do it all calmly.T he number one way to ruin your morning is to rush, or even just to feel rushed.  So always give yourself a buffer to account for any unpredictable events, as well as all the basics of getting ready.  The more time you feel  like you have, the calmer you will be.

4.  Save room for pleasure.

Make sure your morning includes something you find pleasurable (like meditation, checking your favorite blogs, or watching the news).  You’re not going to be motivated to get up early for your awesome mornings if they’re not pleasurable, or if they’re filled with more stuff you have to do.  Morning is an amazing time to start the day with some you time, which sets the tone for a more  enjoyable and less stressful day. So dig deep and connect to what you’re really craving in the mornings.  Maybe it’s tons of time to do your hair or pick out the perfect outfit.  Or sitting down at the table for a real proper breakfast.  It’s YOUR morning, so make it count!  The more enjoyable your mornings, the more you will look forward to them.  And, wait, what?  Suddenly you’re a morning person.

10 Health Benefits of Sleep

By: Stephanie Heino

10 Health Benefits of Sleep | The Organic Beauty Blog

We are often reminded that we need to sleep at least 8 hours in order to function properly. Rest is a great rejuvenator, so we should all  invest in our health by giving our body what it needs. Here are 10 health benefits of getting your beauty sleep every night:

Sleep helps the body repair. Nothing can revitalize the nervous system like regular and nightly deep sleep.  If we don’t give ourselves that time, our nervous system won’t recharge and will thus be unable to send the correct impulses to our organs for optimum functioning. It is during the time of decreased activity that the body can do the deeper job in terms of detoxification and repair.

Sleep restores the body. When we sleep deeply, the body produces human growth hormone, which encourages the restoration, maintenance of muscles and bones, and slows the aging process! This happens much faster and more efficiently than during waking hours so it is very important to get enough sleep in order for the body to recover.

Sleep reduces inflammation. We are more resistant to infection when we get proper sleep, while those who are sleep deprived see a reduced level of white blood cells which plays an essential role of the body’s defense system.  Not getting enough sleep can lead to digestive problems, fibromyalgia, decreased immunity, and other negative effects.

Sleep regulates your hormones. When we get regular sleep, our body’s circadian rhythm makes sure that our hormones are properly regulated. Adrenaline drops as well as cortisol, and we therefore feel more relaxed and balanced (and lose weight!).  Testosterone and fertility hormones are secreted, helping us to feel strong and vital, as well as sexual.  And sleep balances our production of ghrelin and leptin, the hormones that regulates hunger and fullness, which prevents overeating!

Sleep helps you lose weight. Our metabolic rate increases during deep sleep, so even as we are resting, we work towards getting a healthier and slimmer body. Amazing!  And of course, sleep regulates hunger hormones, which reduces cravings and helps you eat healthy!

10 Health Benefits of Sleep 2 | The Organic Beauty Blog

Sleep keeps you heart healthy. Heart attacks and strokes are more common during the early morning hours. This fact may be explained by the way sleep interacts with the blood vessels. Lack of sleep has been associated with high blood pressure and cholesterol, which are all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Your heart will be healthier if you get between 8 and 9 hours of sleep each night.

10 Health Benefits of Sleep 3 | The Organic Beauty Blog

Sleep reduces stress. When your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it goes into a state of stress, which gives us an increase in blood pressure and produces higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Higher blood pressure increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes, and these stress hormones also make it harder for you to sleep.

Sleep may reduce the risk for depression. Sleep impacts many of the chemicals in your body, including serotonin. People with a deficiency in serotonin are more likely to suffer from depression. You can prevent depression by making sure you are getting the right amount of sleep, approximately 8-9 hours each night.  More than 9 hours, however, can actually increase the odds of depression!

Make November Your Self-Care Month!

Make November Your Self-Care Month! | The Organic Beauty BlogAfter all the stress of the last few weeks, a lot of my friends and clients have been playing catch up, trying to get life back to normal. In all the hullaballoo of to-do’s and appointments, the first thing to go is almost always self-care. We invariably spend more time on work and the house and running around from thing to thing than on the one factor that will consistently give us the energy, calm, and presence of mind to get it all done! And then of course we wonder why the weight keeps packing on, or why we’re bloated and frazzled and craving all kinds of god awful, crappy foods. This cycle of craziness needs to stop!

This month, I challenge you to make self-care your NUMBER ONE PRIORITY in life. I know, I know, I can hear you already thinking of all your “but’s” — the bills! the kids! your work! Consider this, a frazzled, tired, stressed out you makes a much worse parent, provider, and employee than a happy, balanced you! You OWE it to your family, your friends, your partner and your co-workers to be better, and the only way to accomplish this is to take care of number one.

Below, I’ve compiled some great resources around the blog for you to start sleeping better (and by better, I mean a full 8-9 hours every single night!!), minimizing stress, and simplifying your life. The less clutter you have in your brain and your environment, the better!

I’ll let you in on a little secret… Self-care is not a luxury only afforded to New Jersey housewives, trust fund kids, and actors. It is a fundamental need that all of us have, as vital to our health and longevity as water, and air. No, you won’t immediately drop dead if you haven’t had some down time, a good night’s sleep, and a yoga class, but the effects of consistently skimping on the lifestyle choices that help you feel calm, relaxed and taken care of add up! Stress and consistent lack of sleep have been identified as among the top contributing factors to higher risk of cancer, inflammatory disorders, hormonal imbalance (including infertility!), premature aging, and a slew of other unpleasant things. So if being happier and more balanced isn’t enough motivation for you, hopefully that will be.

So let this month be THE month. The month you get your act together and start taking care of that phenomenal and complicated machine that is your body. Below, post your favorite ways to take care of yourself, and publicly state your goals and intentions for increasing these activities in your life, even if it means cutting out something that isn’t serving you. And as always, please be in touch if I can support you in any way!

Check out:

How to Sleep Better, Naturally!

8 Ways to De-Stress and Simplify Your Life

Less Stress and More Energy Through Breath!

How to sleep better, naturally!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

How to sleep better, naturally! | The Organic Beauty BlogIf you have trouble falling asleep at a healthy time, the culprit is often everything that’s happening in the hours leading up to bedtime.  The late evening (on weeknights) is not a time for high energy, intensive activity, doing work, or eating heavy, hard-to-digest foods.  It’s a time to naturally wind down after your day, and start to calm the body and mind.  Follow this pre-bedtime timeline to insure a great night’s sleep, and shoot for being in bed, ready for sleep no later than 11pm.  Adjust your timeline accordingly to make this happen!

  • 3.5 or more hours before bed:  Eat a light, healthy meal that is quickly and easily digestible.  Soup, a salad, or some cooked veggies work best.  Avoid anything super greasy, fatty, salty, sugary or high in protein.
  • 30 minutes to 1 hour before bed: Turn off the TV, your phone, and any other electronic devices.  These interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, and can be really stimulating for a brain trying to gear up for sleep.  An obvious no-no is doing any work, checking work emails, or anything like that before bed!
  • 45 minutes before bed: Take a hot bath and/or drink a cup of chamomile or Kava Stress Relief teaall of which are deeply relaxing for mind and body.
  • (Optional) 30 minutes before bed:  Take an herbal sleep supplement.  If you need a little extra soporific action, opt for a natural sleep formula that combines melatonin, valerian root, GABA, hops, and L-Theanine.  My favorites are Natural Balance Herbal Slumber and Schiff Knock Out.
  • Get in bed and do this 5 minute yoga routine.  Doing some light, easy stretches before bed helps to get you out of your head, and to relax tense muscles.
  • If you’re still not ready for sleep, take out a somewhat boring book (now would be a great time to brush up on your Kafka!) and read until your eyes start closing.  Don’t read anything super exciting, engaging, or steamy (Game of Thrones and Fifty Shades of Grey are obvious no-no’s!).  And no reading on your iPad or other eReader!

Click below for my amazing, quick yoga sequence that helps to improve sleep and increase relaxation of both body and mind. Complete this routine right before going to sleep, in your bed.

5 Ways to Stave Off Winter Colds, Boost Immunity and Energy!

5 Ways to Stave Off Winter Colds, Boost Immunity and Energy! | The Organic Beauty BlogWinter really is the time to go a little extra distance in terms of self-care.  But committing to take these few simple, holistic steps will cut down on those sick days, help cure winter blues, and get you through these cold, dark days in one, happy, healthy piece!
  1. Sleep: This is where we should take a page from the books of our large furry mammal friends.  Our bodies use a lot of energy to keep us warm in the winter, and that, combined with more bugs floating around, and the lack of sunlight equals a need for a LOT more sleep.  Even if you’re a “I’m fine with 5 hours” kind of person, really opt for 8 hours of sleep a night MINIMUM during the cold months.  You’ll have more energy, higher immunity, and less tendency toward seasonal blues! Opt to sleep between the hours of 10pm and 7am, which is the most restful time in the body’s cycle, and also ensures the most exposure to those scant daylight hours.  I promise, the party life will still be there for you come spring!
  2. Bundle Up: Contrary to some misinformation floating around out there, you really can get sick from exposing yourself to the elements (and I don’t even mean the full monty kind of exposure).  Wearing clothes that aren’t sufficiently warm, leaving your throat, head, and nose exposed to cold winds all can affect both your body’s ability to retain it’s heat and your mucous membranes’ ability to keep out nasty bugs.
    • Aim for dressing warm enough so that when you’re standing outside, you’re pretty comfortable (i.e.: not shivering, hunched up against the cold, and cursing the gods of winter).  This means sweaters, scarves, hats and gloves.  Worried about looking like an abominable snow-person?  Opt for layers that go a long way, like thermal undergarments, tights or leggings under your jeans, and warm top layers that you can peel off once inside.
  3. Stay Lubricated: Once you’ve got your giggles out of the way, consider this: Dry, cracked skin on your hands, face, and in your nose is like leaving big gaping holes for germs to get in through.  In the winter months, it is even more important than usual to stay moisturized, inside and out.  This means using a humidifier a night (to keep your nasal passages, throat and skin moist), using a good quality moisturizer on your face and body every day (I like Desert Essence Organics Sweet Almond Moisturizer), and drinking lots of water and hot teas throughout the day.
    • Water hydrates and lubricates your system from the inside, and also flushes out toxins to keep you from getting sick.  Opt for warm or hot water instead of cold in the winter months… it is much easier on your system, warming and psychologically more comforting, and also very detoxifying for the lymphatic system!
    • Hot teas can have a similar effect, and many herbal teas like ginger, echinacea, slippery elm bark, and elderberry have wonderful immunity boosting effects!
    • I am also a fan of Emergen-C or Airborne during the winter months as well, especially if you find yourself in crowded areas like trains and airports, or if you’ve been in contact with a sick or sniffly person.
  4. Let Food Be Thy Medicine: Especially in the winter months, don’t underestimate the power of great diet.  Eating antioxidant and nutrient rich foods, healthy plant proteins, and lots of quality oils in the winter will go SUCH a long way toward keeping you healthy.  Stock up on garlic, dark leafy greens, all kinds of beans, and hearty root veggies for the winter, and try to eat home-cooked food as much as possible.  Not only is eating this way going to ensure the biggest nutrient-bang for your buck, but home-cooked meals are also substantially more nourishing, which has positive psychological effects as well.
    • Opt for hearty soups and stews (like this Thai Sweet Potato Soup), and increase your intake of healthy fats, like nuts, olive, coconut, and sesame oil, fatty low-mercury fish, and avocados .  These foods will nourish you from the inside out, give you much more energy to burn, warm your body, and heighten your immunity!
    • If you start to feel a little sniffle or tickle in the throat, chow down on some major immune-boosting foods, like this Yummy Cold-Busting Salad, jam packed with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-microbial nutrients!
    • The one vital winter nutrient you just can’t get enough of from food is vitamin D, which is super important for immunity, mood, and energy.  Supplement with a high-potency sublingual vitamin D drop like Bio-D-Mulsion Forte to make sure you get enough, especially if you live in cold climates where you can’t get 15 minutes of direct exposure to sunlight every day.
  5. Keep Moving: It’s easy to let your typical workout routine fall by the way side when it’s 25 degrees outside, but it’s important to find ways to keep moving and fit some exercise into your routine every day.  This might mean finding a workout video (Netflix has some great ones!) to do at home, or finally getting your courage up to try bikram yoga if getting to the gym fills your with thoughts of shivering torment.  If you do get yourself to the gym, make sure to finish your workout with a steam in the sauna, which helps to raise your body temp, sweat out those toxins, and nourish you to the core.  Even if you only do 20 minutes a day, maintaining a regular exercise routine in the winter will boost your energy, increase serotonin levels, and help keep your immune system on top of its game!
    • For an extra mood and energy boost, pick a sunny weekend afternoon to bundle up and get outside for some skiing, a snowball fight, sledding, or just a brusque winter walk.  The sunlight will boost your mood, while the heat from moving around while layered up will help warm your body and burn off extra calories.

Better Sleep for A Better You

 “We have in our society this idea that you can just get by without sleep or manipulate when you sleep without any consequences,” said Lawrence Epstein, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “What we’re finding is that’s just not true.”
Better Sleep for a Better You | The Organic Beauty Blog
Somehow, in the last 20 or so years, the notion of working hard and playing hard, at the expense of our own health has become the supposed tagline of successful, motivated people.
We proudly declare how little sleep we got the night before, as if it’s a badge of how hardcore and dedicated we are.  Truth is, by robbing ourselves of sleep, we are in actuality robbing ourselves of health and longevity, which is quite a sacrifice to make in the name of dedication to our work.
Good quality sleep is a major foundation of health, equally important as nutrition.  You can eat all the organic fruits and vegetables in the world, exercise like clock work, and drink ounce upon ounce of water, but if you’re not getting enough sleep, all of that is for naught.  Weight gain, skin problems, inability to manage stress and emotions, high blood pressure, and increased risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and other life-threatening illnesses are just some of the negative effects that too little or poor quality sleep can have on your body.
All this in addition to the simple fact that insufficient sleep makes it impossible for you to perform at your best.. at work, on stage, in bed, or simply as a human being.   The old adage, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” takes on a creepy ring of truth when you consider that  neglecting your sleep will bring on that rather final state sooner than you think.

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