For some of us, it feels like summer is over because it's back-to-school time, but in reality, we have a whole month of summer left to enjoy. Even if you can't vacation and continue with a flexible schedule, you can still do a few things that will have a major impact on your health and quality of life...
Enjoy the long summer days by taking in 15-30 minutes of sunshine (as much as you can tolerate without getting burned without sunscreen), especially in the mornings and evenings when the UV rays aren't as harmful. All that vitamin D is great for your immune system, hormonal health, and helps you to avoid feeling run down just when life is starting to pick up the pace. Plus, it's a major mood-booster! If you're sensitive to the sun, you can still reap the benefits of sunlight exposure through a window, by letting in as much sunlight as possible, early in the morning, focusing on sunlight coming in to your eyes (not directly). This, just like being in the sun, helps your circadian rhythms so you send your body a clear message that it's time to be awake and allows your body to produce melatonin when the sun goes down so you feel sleepy when it's time to go to bed. And take off those sunglasses if it's not too bright outside! Every bit of sunlight we can let in our eyes helps with our circadian rhythms so we can rest well at night in order to play hard, full of energy during the day.
Enjoy the outdoors for a good dose of "medicine," in the form of serotonin. Studies show that time in nature boosts our serotonin levels, one of the "feel-good" neurotransmitters in our body. In fact, Japanese physicians are prescribing it to patients for all kinds of ailments, including overwhelm, anxiety, and depression. I always come back feeling refreshed, with a new perspective on my problems, and full of ideas! We ignite our own creativity by being among God's creations.
Breathe deeply when in nature to take advantage of the extra oxygen to your brain and to really clear your lungs of stale air. Ventilation has been shown to improve our body's ability to fight respiratory illnesses, so this is really important now, when we have heightened exposure to a particular virus.
Let this season's heat help you detox by moving your body to sweat. I love that in the summer you can go to work and still have time to come home and eat a meal then get outside while it's still daylight! That's so much more enjoyable and rewarding than watching your favorite TV shows for hours. You deserve better than that, my Friend! Movement is a great way to get your lymph system moving and sweating helps you detox. Then you can jump in the pool, a lake, or the ocean and cool off afterwards! Toxins only make it harder for our body to maintain good health. ("The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.")
Enjoy produce that's in season to feed your body what it craves and needs right now. Both Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine teach the same principles of homeostasis or balance. Our bodies are best nourished by foods that are in season. So keep those light, hydrating foods coming while you sweat it out. Now is the best time to enjoy salads and raw fruits and vegetables. If you can buy local food that will help with your allergies as well as the environment. I love summer and fall weekends for taking trips to the local farmers market, and that's a great way to teach children where our food comes from and to be grateful for our farmers and the variety of produce they offer us here in the U.S. Just be sure to ask the vendor where the food was grown. I've seen some Kentucky farmers selling produce from California or Canada. That's not local!
Enjoy refreshing drinks that hydrate and cool you down! Did you know that alcohol, caffeine, and sugar are dehydrating? If you're going to sweat it out, you need proper hydration. Besides, hydration helps our bodies in so many ways, from preventing headaches to helping with weight loss and maintenance! I'm not saying you can't enjoy a cup or two of iced coffee (I sure do and it has antioxidant properties!), but you need to drink more water to re-hydrate. The biggest question is what's in your coffee? -Dairy can cause the formation of mucous and acne, as well as digestion problems. -Sugar just packs on the weight, detracts from the absorption of other minerals, weakens the immune system, gives us night sweats, causes food cravings thus further weight gain, dehydrates us, causes hormonal and mood imbalances, contributes to type 2 diabetes, encourages cancer cells to proliferate, and the list goes on! -Alcohol, like caffeine, is dehydrating, but it's also toxic. While I'm not saying you can't enjoy it every now and then - and I do know how a good beer quenches thirst - it shouldn't be a prominent choice for it's anti-health properties. Yes, even wine. Just enjoy it sparingly, and for some of us, we're better off avoiding it altogether. -If you're thinking you're making a good choice with a sugar-free drink made with artificial sweeteners, think again, my Friend. They can also be dehydrating and studies show they're toxic, carcinogenic, and can cause weight gain. I know, what a shocker! A better alternative would be real fruit or natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit. Raw honey, maple syrup, and coconut nectar can also be used, but they will impact your blood sugar levels, so don't be too heavy handed with them.
If you got out of a routine during the summer, back-to-school time is a great way to get back into healthy routines, particularly self-care. Sometimes we tend to "let ourselves go" in the summer when we might have more free time, but junking our bodies is a sure way to get sick and feel depressed. Let's face it, most of us wasted time in 2020 just waiting, holding our breath for the next piece of news, and some of us were even sick or emotionally traumatized. All of those things might have set us back temporarily, but there's still time to take advantage of these longer days to do the things that matter to us, that will have a reward, some immediate, some long-term. So set some self-care habits for yourself so you'll be ready for the busy season of the fall that's right around the corner, both looking and feeling your best! And this leads me to my last tip...
Play an active role in your health and your family's by making it a priority to share nourishing meals together. The best way to execute looks different for all of us, but meal planning is almost guaranteed to give you more success. Involving young ones teaches them the importance of self-care and responsibility, as well as a gratitude for and joy of preparing nourishing meals. These are essential life skills that can only be taught at home. The school year is usually a time for a lot of grab-and-go foods, fast-food, and take-out, but it has a cost. Take advantage of these longer days to make meals with purpose and meaning, to put food on the table and spend time together as a family. Quarantine has meant families see a lot more of each other, but it's about the quality of that time, over the quantity. Focusing on the quality of activities together will pay dividends in the long-run and can also help parents not to feel so overwhelmed when they involve their children in the household responsibilities.
Here are a couple of tools I've made for you:
1. I invite you to take my Self-Care Quiz to learn your Self-Care Type and get customized ideas for implementing a good routine for yourself based on your type.
2. Take advantage of my Summer Mix 'N Match Meal Plans, created with you in mind! You can choose from a wide variety of options based on your end-goal and really get the most out of these last summer days. Of course, you can use the plans during any season, but they take advantage of foods that are in season during the summer months, which is great if you're buying local. Otherwise, you can almost always find most produce year-round in grocery stores within the U.S. These plans will help guarantee you get those nourishing meals on the table, and some of them are really quick and easy!
May you and your family enjoy squeezing out every last drop of the goodness this season has to offer us! In a world full of fear, hatred, sadness, struggles, and divide, you can still choose peace, love, and joy, as you nurture yourself and your family through all that's been provided to us. In a world of ingratitude and selfishness, we can express our gratitude by slowing down and enjoying God's creation along side Him. He tells us to Be Still and Know that He is God. If we're to be still, we don't need to constantly strive. We can rest in Him and the love and rejuvenation we receive during that time with Him then allows us to selflessly serve others with the same love and energy.
God's blessings to you and your family!
In Love & Service,