Beware – Autumn is coming! Don’t get me wrong, I adore the splendor of Fall, especially here in New England. We have the most glorious Autumn in the world. The leaves are like gumdrops against a backsplash of dark green. To say I’m a bit photo-happy during this time is an understatement. I can’t wait to hike in the woods and take photos of the changing splendor in the Fall. But the key word is change.
The environment is changing and we are in our own ways susceptible to those changes. I seem to be more sensitive to environmental changes then I used to be. I’ve never been told that I’ve had allergies but I’m certainly having more of a reaction to Fall than I used to. Itchy eyes, sneezing and runny noses are commonplace this time of year. It’s not pleasant and saps our energy, which challenges our immune system and our productivity.
We are in a drying season. Don’t let the rains deceive you, the environment is beginning to dry out. Leaves will soon die and decay. As we work our way toward winter, we will find that our skin and nasal passages will also begin to dry out. As the environment changes other allergens find their way into the air, affecting many of us. Further, it’s a busy time too. Kids return to school, activities begin, work picks up its pace. Workplace travel tends to increase in the seasons of transition – Fall and Spring. Life in general speeds up. Too fast a pace can leave us susceptible to stress, which further dampens our immune system.
I am always working toward identifying the daily rituals that allow me to at least minimize the time or intensity of my own seasonal sensitivities. Many of my efforts are oriented toward maintaining a strong immune system.
This is a simple one to forget this time of year. It’s not that warm and so it is easy to forget to drink enough water. The rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces. If you enjoy a hot sweaty workout or yoga practice like I do you’ll need to increase that amount and also consider adding a scoop of electrolytes into your water to replenish. The brand I use is called Ultima found at Whole Foods.
Do a Nasal Rinse
Consider a nasal rinse. Flushing the nasal passages using a neti pot or using a sterile nasal mist helps to rid the passages of environmental irritants. If stuff in the air is problematic for you, allowing it to stay in your nose isn’t helpful. So, rinse it out. I use a spray I find at CVS because I don’t want to take the time to boil my own water for the neti pot. You must use sterilized water. Rinsing the nasal cavity takes a bit of practice. It involves tipping the head forward and angling the chin down to find the right position but it’s not that hard. I probably should do this more often than I do. I usually wait until I’m having a reaction but it may be even better to rinse daily before having a reaction.
Oil everything especially in the Fall and Winter. For years, I’ve been using refined sesame oil on my body, which does a great job preventing the very dry skin of winter from appearing. Sesame oil is nutrient rich and healing and has been used for thousands of years by Mediterranean cultures. It’s often recommended to warm it but I simply slather it on my skin at room temperature as one would lotion. It does have a sesame smell but it fades and I don’t even notice it anymore. Since your body absorbs what you put on your skin, I feel like I’m giving my skin a healthy supplement.
Nasya oil is an herbal-infused oil used to lubricate the nasal passages. It helps with congestion and fluid build-up. Only use nasal oils from trusted retailers because you are putting it up your nose! I trust Banyan Botanicals out of New Mexico and use their nasya oil and sesame oil. The base oil in their nasya blend is also sesame oil. To use a nasal oil, I tip my head back then squeeze at least five drops of oil in each nostril while holding the opposite nostril closed so I can sniff in the oil in as I’m dripping it. I’m trying to get the oil far back into the nasal passages so it can do its job and so it doesn’t spill out. You can also do this practice lying down and then remain there for five minutes allowing gravity to draw the oil into the nasal passages. Or simply use it before falling asleep at bedtime. It’s best not to blow your nose right away. I find the process helps to loosen and clear the sinus cavity. It also helps to prevent dry or itchy sinus cavities. Further the oil will trap some of the air-borne allergens and viruses, helping to protect from allergic reactions and colds. Finally, some people find it helps with nosebleeds, which are more common when the nasal passages are very dry.
Keeping the immune system strong is increasingly important when our bodies become taxed by both environmental changes and the onset of the season of colds and flu. Nutritional deficiencies can create imbalance and challenge the immune system. My integrative physician conducted a nutritional profile on me so I supplement exactly what my blood is lacking. Taking a food-based multi-vitamin isn’t a bad idea if you don’t know what you need. Vitamin C is widely held as an immune support. Some people drink herbal teas or juice blends that have immune boosting properties as well. I’ve also heard that a shot of fresh squeezed lemon juice from one-half a lemon offers a nice immune boost. Remember to keep your gut healthy too with probiotics or fermented foods. I take a daily probiotic and typically take Airborne when I’m beginning to feel that my immune system is challenged. For several years I have been putting Doterra’s therapeutic grade essential oils, Oregano and OnGuard, on my feet before bed as an immune support.
Find Balance with Downtime
In the frenzy of the season it becomes more important to force self-care into the schedule. Pepper in time for downtime to compensate for the uptime. It’s the only way to keep yourself balanced, not stressed, and in a place where your body is in a state of growth and repair keeping the immune system stronger. Consider massage, yoga practice, warm baths, or anything where you can truly relax and wind down.
Movement, Diet and Sleep
Don’t forget the basics! They are more important than ever. Move your body regularly by exercising, taking a yoga class, running or hiking. Make helpful choices that keep you balanced in body and mind. Remember to eat a healthy, primarily plant-based diet. Regular movement and a healthy diet will help to keep the immune system strong and boost your stores of feel good hormones as well. And get your Z’s! All of them. I believe a solid night’s rest is the most important thing you can do to keep your immune system strong.
The more we can keep seasonal allergies and colds at bay the better we can perform at work and in life. It’s hard to focus with drippy eyes, nose, and sneezing. It’s also difficult to keep a clear mind when the head is foggy. And when we feel good, we treat people better. We connect better with our families and our teams. Health is holistic. Consider the effects of the seasons on your wellbeing and take good care of yourself. I have found that my immune-support practices have protected me from the many colds that my young kids bring home. Now that I’ve shed some light onto some of my rituals I hope this may help you to manage the Fall season with more grace and ease.
What are your secrets?
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Tarra Mitchell is incorporating her distinctive background in business and yoga to contribute to the great conversation around leadership and consciousness. Her upcoming book, The Yoga of Leadership, shows how personal wellbeing is connected to success to inspire and empower leaders to lead healthier, happier lives, and better connect with and engage their teams.
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