These tips are designed to help you support yourself and your family with some simple, affordable, natural, effective and safe ways to live a more natural, healthful and vibrant life.
Fresh air: the wonders of an open window, even in winter!Try it now, stand up, walk over to the nearest window and open it. Take a deep breath, look up into the sky or let your eyes settle on something green, a tree, a flower bed, a pond, a hedge or a bird. Take another deep breath, notice the difference. A little act of self-love like this has a multitude of benefits. Fresh air helps lower your heart rate, gather your thoughts, its calming and helps to lower our stress levels too, make a habit of it, it’s definitely worth it.
Herbal footbathWe often feel stressed in our heads, herbal footbaths are a great way to de-stress, relieve headaches and tension and connect with our bodies to give our heads a rest, they are especially good when we are feeling physically and mentally drained.
You can really use any combination of fresh or dried herbs (kitchen herbs work great too) or essential oils if you have them, even Epsom, table salt or a cup of oats works wonders. All you need is a large pot or tub of any kind that will hold water. Herbs that are helpful are, Ginger, sage, rosemary, mint, lavender or rose petals you can use 10-15 drops of an essential oil.
Directions: place the herbs you have in a large pot/tub and fill with hot water, allow them to steep for 10-15 minutes (cover the tub if you can with a tea towel or whatever you have on hand to prevent the herbal steam from escaping)
Adjust the temperature and check it with your hand (carefully) before you put your feet in but keep the water as hot as possible, so your skin is tingling for the most therapeutic results.
Get yourself comfy in the softest cosiest chair you have, slowly immerse your feet into the water, cover the tub with a thick towel to keep the heat in. While you soak, listen to relaxing and uplifting music, podcasts or read, you may just like to put your head back and enjoy the peace and quiet. Soak your feet for at least 20 minutes, towel them dry and moisturise!
Up your calcium intake to help with stress:
Calcium is well known for its role in building strong healthy bones and teeth but it’s important role in supporting the central nervous system and helping us cope with stress is less well known, calcium is essential for healthy nerve function. Without enough calcium in our diet we can often feel irritable, nervous and suffer from insomnia. Calcium can be found abundantly in lots of foods so make sure you are having enough calcium rich foods in your diet such as seaweed, yoghurt and cultured dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, parsley, kale and beet greens, also almonds, sesame seeds, watercress and oats are a great source.
Hawthorn (crataegus species)
Parts used: leaf, berries, blossom
Hawthorn is an ancient plant that grows all around New Zealand and throughout the world, its often used as hedging and grows wild too, you will know it buy its thorns and bright red berries. Hawthorn has been used for centuries for toning and strengthening the heart and improving circulation, it is said to work physically by helping to improve the elasticity of the heart muscle but also emotionally by supporting matters of the heart such as grief and loss, making it a wonderful remedy for ‘broken hearts’ depression and anxiety.
Hawthorn is a tonic and apoptogenic herb which means that it helps us cope with stress and its most effective when used over several weeks or months. As a heart tonic it is often taken as a tea or the berries can easily be made into fantastic jams and chutneys.
Hawthorn makes a delicious tea, simply pick the berries, leaves and/or flowers (berries and leaves in winter and blossoms in spring) these can be used either dried or fresh. You can dry them by leaving them in a warm place away from sunlight for several weeks. Roughly chop berries and leaves, pour 1 cup of boiling water over a tablespoon or good handful of hawthorn flowers, leaves or berries - or a mixture of the two. Steep for at least 10-15 minutes then strain. Add honey if desired and drink 1 cup of the tea every morning and evening over many months. See how good you feel!
Seaweed has been used as an essential part of our human diet all over the world for thousands of years. There are thought to be over 10,000 species of seaweed, reflecting its immense diversity, both in flavour and nutritional properties. We are very fortunate to have so many wonderful edible and highly nutritious seaweeds in New Zealand.
Sea vegetables are full of nutrients and can be found in a multitude of colours, textures, shapes and sizes, all types are a rich source of minerals, such as calcium, copper, iodine and iron. Seaweed is also rich in protein, fibre and vitamins, specifically vitamin K and folic acid, while being low in calories and fat. Seaweeds are more than just an addition to sushi, they can be used in everything from salads to stir-fry’s in just about every meal either as an accompaniment or wonderfully nutritious addition.
The way we breath is vital for good health and impacts our nervous system. If we are not breathing properly and we are constantly using our SNS (sympathetic nervous system) our flight and fright response due to stress and overload, this can lead to poor health. Good breathing and learning to manage stress can help us engage our PNS (parasympathetic nervous system) which helps our body rest, repair and restore.
A simple but very effective way to calm both your mind and your body is to use diaphragmatic breathing techniques as often as you can to enhance feelings of calm, centredness, safety and in feeling in control.
- Find somewhere quiet to sit or lie down.
- Place your hands on your tummy.
- Take a long deep breath in through your nose, as you inhale, send your breath to your stomach and extend your tummy outwards with the inhale, like filling a balloon. You should feel your hands on your stomach rise as you do this. There is no need to hold your breath.
- Exhale slowly through your nose as your belly deflates.
- Repeat this as often as needed to help you feel calm and grounded.
Vinegar (fermented apples) has been used for centuries in cooking and medicine. Apple cider vinegar has some wonderful health benefits, including antimicrobial and antioxidant effects. Research suggests it may offer other health benefits too, such as aiding weight loss, reducing cholesterol, lowering blood sugar levels, and improving the symptoms of diabetes. Vinegar is an inexpensive and simple way to add some wonderful healthful benefits to your life.
Easily made at home, Herbal vinegars not only taste great but they also increase the acidity in your stomach which improves digestion and assimilation, especially with the absorption of minerals. Herbal vinegars extract important minerals from plants and these have such fantastic benefits for our health. I have made many wonderful herbal vinegars out of various green plants such as dandelion leaves, chickweed, puha, nettle, yellow dock leaves and roots, lavender, rosemary, mint, yarrow, elderberry, hawthorn and plantain.
Finely chop the plant material and pack (3/4 fill the jar with the herb) it loosely into a clean glass jar (make sure you have a good fitting plastic lid) Cover the plant material well with a good quality apple cider vinegar (organic where possible) cover with a plastic lid, leave to macerate for 2-6weeks. Strain out the plant material and decant the vinegar into a bottle, use daily, either as a salad dressing or on its own, 1 tablespoon daily with water or honey. Enjoy this wonderfully simple and tasty treat.
Sunlight and serotonin:
Sunlight and darkness trigger the release of hormones in your brain. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping us to feel calm and focused. At night, darker lighting triggers the brain to make another hormone called melatonin. This hormone is responsible for helping you sleep.
Without enough sun exposure, your serotonin levels can dip which can cause things like fatigue and
Exposure to the ultraviolet-B radiation in the sun’s rays helps us make Vitamin D in our skin, it’s important that we all try to get at least 30 minutes a day, even in winter with our skin and eyes exposed (no sunglasses) to help us make this wonderful and important vitamin which has numerous health benefits including helping us sleep, reducing inflammation and helping us cope with stress.
The importance of rest and relaxation:
Avoid staying up later than you absolutely need to, at night, if you don’t wake up feeling rested (unless you are up during the night with children or breastfeeding) in the morning and are chronically tired and depleted, try adding in a couple of extra hours each evening. Turn off any lights, darkness is always best, keep your room cool and all technology out of the bedroom as these are known disruptors of sleep.
Learn to say no, say yes to the things you really want to do and no to the things you don’t, it takes practice especially if we are a habitual ‘people pleaser’ Whenever something seems really important and necessary, ask yourself how much energy it will require, mental, physical or emotional. Remind yourself of the most important things in your life and one of the most essential gifts we can give to our self is letting go, saying no and doing the things we know will help us feel more rested, energised and vital and not overwhelmed exhausted, stretched and depleted.