The fall Equinox was Thursday so we are officially into fall now! And for so many of us, shorter days and longer nights means a dip in our mood.
Fortunately, there are lots of great things to do to get prepared as the seasons change. Of course there are things like pulling out your sweaters and boots and knitting a scarf or two and planting a winter garden and getting the fireplace cleaned that you might look forward to this fall.
But one thing that I get every year, and absolutely never look forward to, is a drop in my energy level and mood as the days get shorter.
So I want to share with you today my annual fall post with a collection of 11 important, personal things that I do to prepare my body now for a smooth transition to winter. It works. Give any or all of these a try and let’s have your best fall yet!
11 Essential Fall Health Questions To Ask Yourself:
1. Do you have a way to stay grounded, even as the weather outside gets colder?
Make your plan now for how you can still get outside and soak in the fresh air, sunlight, and healing earth energy even as the temperature falls. Getting outside in even the cloudy grey days for a mid-day walk is better than staying inside even under the brightest artificial lights.
Even if the sun appears not to shine, your pineal gland senses the light in the environment and needs this pick-me-up to function best this fall and winter. Make a commitment to get morning or mid-day light (sunshine if possible!) every single day.
Slip off your shoes for a few minutes, or, if it’s too cold, just use your fingers to hold onto a tree that is grounded in the earth. I even have grounding gloves waiting for you so you can keep your hands inside a warm glove and still be grounded while touching a tree branch, cement, a rock, the earth. Same with socks that allow you to be grounded through your feet without ever exposing your toes to the cold! And organic grounding throw blankets that ground you while wrapping around you in warmth! Even an organic grounded hot water bottle, which is my absolute favorite way to ground indoors in the winter. Or, maybe this is the year you invest in a way to sleep grounded indoor all winter long… supporting your body’s well being all night long, every night.
As I talk about in this video here, connected to the earth each day — particularly around transitions such as the equinoxes and the solstices — allows your body to be oriented to the season and more seamlessly adjust to it.
The time spent grounding to the earth will refresh your body and soul. This one daily practice is probably the single best thing you can start right now to smooth your fall transition.
2. Do you make enough serotonin naturally?
Less daylight can mean a palpable drop in the mood boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. If you happen to be serotonin depleted, the winter blues are more likely to hit you harder than other people.
You can address this in two ways:
One, by taking supplements that help boost your natural serotonin levels. If you get a mild case of winter blues, you likely don’t need to take prescription medications for that. Instead, you can make sure that your body is getting all it needs nutritionally in order to make its own, healthy levels of serotonin. To do that, it needs something called 5-HTP.
A precursor to serotonin (the positive, mood enhancing neurotransmitter that most antidepressants are targeting, in the hopes to elevate brain levels) 5HTP is a nutritional supplement that makes sure your body is getting the building blocks it needs to make serotonin as efficiently as possible.
If you feed your body what it needs (most of us don’t get enough of this precursor as it is) then you have the best chance to naturally create the serotonin you’ll need to keep your spirits up as the light fades. I have 5HTP and several other supplements that have been shown to support seasonal affective disorder in my Mood Support Protocol right here.
Or alternatively, if you want something to prevent the winter blues and boost serotonin without taking a supplement, Light Therapy is medially proven to not only prevent and treat the winter blues, but it actually treats all forms of depression (and even treats fibromyalgia!)
My very fav, compact, therapeutic light box is clinically proven and is waiting for you right here. And yes, you can absolutely do both — take the supplements in the Mood Support Protocol and use a light box simultaneously for the best support.
3. Are you sleeping enough?
Allow yourself to re-connect to the natural rhythm of the earth, which means you sleep longer in the fall and winter when nights are longer.
These days of bright artificial lights and TV channels that blast shows 24 hours a day can keep us feeling like there isn’t much difference between the middle of the night and the middle of the day. But there is. To your body, to your pineal gland, your hormones, your muscles, your brain… the difference between night and day is iron clad. You are meant to sleep at night, and you are meant to sleep longer in the fall and winter months.
Allow your body to get an extra hour of sleep each night during the winter… at least give it a try this week: vow to sleep an extra hour each night this week and see if your mood, energy level, eating habits, activity level and joy all get a boost!
One way to do this is to lower your EMF exposures in your bedroom at night following this free 25 point EMF reduction checklist. Another way to do this is to wear blue light blocking glasses starting 2 hours before bedtime, if you absolutely need to be on the computer, on your cell phone, or watching TV to unwind.
Another thing to consider is that those of us who tend to be low serotonin (and get the winter blues) also tend to have trouble making enough melatonin naturally. This is because melatonin is actually made from serotonin… so folks who are low serotonin are generally low melatonin, and these levels dip in the winter because of the shorter days.
So just as serotonin can dip in the winter, adding to the winter blues… your melatonin levels can dip too, wreaking havoc on your nightly rhythm. Even though the darkness makes you feel more tired and ready to turn in earlier, oddly enough you may find sleep elusive just when you crave it most.
While 5 HTP may helps boost daytime serotonin, at night you can take melatonin, as the sun sets, to boost your nighttime levels of melatonin. Taking melatonin in the fall when the days grow shorter (and you can combine this with using the light therapy box we discussed above!) will help your body re-set to its natural rhythm once winter peaks. Sleeping well at night is an easy way to feel brighter during the day, beating those winter blues. My favorite melatonin as well as tons of other suggestions on improving sleep are waiting for you right here in my Sleep Restore Protocol.
3. Do you need to detox?
Like I do every year when the earth begins to transition to cooler temps, leaves changing and shedding and the earth diving inwards for renewal, I have a natural urge to dive deeper and detox my own body, from the inside out.
There are a million ways to do this… strict raw food diets and prolonged fasting and colonics and a ton of wonderful different ways to feel like you are starting fall with a new you. For me, I go with a very easy and very simple detox.
I’m literally aching to do my gentle 5 day detox again, like I do every fall… and this year I want to do it with you! So I’m giving it to you for free as an instant download, right here. Take 5 days to reset your body for the fall. The earth is getting cooler, the days are getting shorter, and our bodies are going inwards for a period of renewal. So Gentle Restart Detox, here I come. It’s time.
5. Are your magnesium levels good (i.e. are you pooping enough? Are your muscles tense?)
Many of us are magnesium deficient and we don’t even know it. Magnesium is absolutely essential to 300+ different biochemical reactions in our body, like muscle function, nerve function, maintaining healthy blood pressure, blood sugar levels and more.
Without enough magnesium, we can have muscle pain, irritability, insomnia, constipation and even heart arrhythmias. So ask yourself… are your muscles tight? Do you feel anxious or have trouble relaxing into sleep? Are you constipated?
If so, consider boosting your magnesium intake. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, so taking a magnesium supplement at night is one of my favorite recommendations for anyone with difficulty relaxing due to muscle tension or soreness, such as issues with tension headaches, fibromyalgia, grinding teeth at night, TMJ, etc…. so this is why I have magnesium supplementation included in my Sleep Restore Protocol.
You can also soak in a nightly bath filled with magnesium rich Epsom salts, which will relax your muscles before bed and is a great treatment for restless leg syndrome, tooth grinding at night, and other issues with muscle tension such as fibromyalgia. You can then layer on a magnesium rich topical lotion to really relax and soothe sore muscles, here is my favorite magnesium lotion to help soothe tense or sore muscles.
If you are constipated, I would recommend taking magnesium internally, not just topically through baths and lotions, because it will naturally help loosen your bowels. My favorite way to do this is to drink a magnesium drink before bedtime (I like to drink mine in hot water, sipping on it like a nightly tea!) to help relax your body, loosen your muscles, soften stools, deepen sleep, and create a lovely evening ritual all fall and all winter long. That’s why I have included a magnesium drink in my Sleep Restore protocol here.
It’s normal for everything to slow down in the winter, so if your bowels are feeling full of rich and hearty winter meals and you are feeling dense inside, you should also up your water intake, take tons of healthy fish or flax seed oil, eat a prune a day and ground on the earth each day to help restore your daily rhythms. But if that’s not enough, upping your magnesium intake will help!
6. Do you get enough Vitamin D?
Yes, you will get some Vit D when you go outside to get grounded each day… but most of us are deficient in Vit D even during the summer, so nearly ALL of us fall deficient in the winter.
Not only is Vit D a powerful antioxidant, it prevents cancer, stroke, heart disease, boosts weight loss, decreases pain… you name it… we need it. My favorite are Carlson’s Solar D Gems, found in my trusted online dispensary here. I love these the most because time and time again, when a patient comes to me with Vit D levels that are low despite supplementation with other brands, when we switch to the Solar D Gems, the levels return to normal. Woot!
7. Are you drinking twice as much water in the winter as you do in the summer?
Hopefully you’ve kept yourself well hydrated during the summer, when hot temperatures and sweating drive us to remember to drink water more than at any other time of the year.
But in the cooler temps, ones in which you are shivering, not sweating… it’s more important than ever before to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Dry heated air, dry cold outside air, wind chapping our lips, and no internal drive to remind us to drink leads to mid-winter dehydration, brain fog, and a sure-fire road to BLAH.
You can get so dehydrated that you actually feel semi-nauseous all the time and a bit depressed. Drink water and then drink some more… and start right now. I take the time to filter out the fluoride and chemicals in my water… I’ve got lots of articles on why I do that (you could start with this one if you want to read more) and here is the water filter I personally use in my home.
8. Are you allowing yourself gain a few pounds?
You might be an enlightened buddha thriving off the energy of the universe, but your body is an organic, human thing that is connected to the physical earth and responds to the rhythms of the seasons and needs nourishment.
So every winter it is normal to slow down and allow a few extra pounds to sustain and warm you.
It is like-wise just as effortless and natural to lose several pounds in the spring as the world awakens and we are drawn to more physical labor such as preparing garden beds, trimming the lawn, spring cleaning our homes, and walking barefoot on the beach. If we don’t attach all the typical BS to our weight that we usually do, the few pounds that warm us in the winter will be shed without a second thought in the spring.
This is the natural rhythm of the world all around you.
The first half of winter, while food is still plenty and days grow darker, are a time to allow yourself to find nourishment in foods and warmth under your blankets, eating more and sleeping longer.
In a few months, as the pantry empties out and the holiday parties are long gone, there will be a natural thinning time, a time when the days become noticeably longer and your thoughts turn to the fresh spring salads that will be popping up in your garden.
It is only when we attach a negative meaning to our weight that adds to the heaviness and permanency and bulk to it… and these pounds become a part of how we see ourselves forever. We get locked into battle with them and they fight to stay and add and grow, year after year after year. As a result, most people tend to gain a few pounds a year (despite being locked in constant battle and fighting against it the entire time) and accrue this mass permanently, instead of easily gaining and losing a few pounds with the seasons. It just shows that fighting weight isn’t the way to go.
If we dropped all our mental baggage around this rhythm, a rhythm of ebb and flow, of nourishment and lean times, of seasons, we would not gain weight year after year after year, instead we would gain and release. It’s only our society that fears weight gain that makes it almost *impossible* to drop the pounds without thinking twice about it late winter and early spring.
Now is not the time to allow our culture’s baggage to taint what should be a natural time of celebration, stocking up, and preparing for the winter ahead. If you welcome this seasonal change with gratitude, you will be healthier for it. For more guidance on dropping your resistance to a seasonal weight gain, you might want to start with this article I wrote for you on how having a few extra pounds can offer a survival advantage.
9. Are you getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids?
I’ve already blogged a bit about how Omega 3’s can:
- effectively treat ADHD
- save your brain from atrophying (and decrease your dementia risk!)
- stabilize your mood so much that it can literally prevent psychosis
- help relieve constipation
- decrease prostate cancer risk
- prevent a fatal heart attack.
- and even cut your risk of diabetic retinopathy in half!
Omega 3 fatty acids are such an important whole-body nutrient that comes even more into play during the colder months. Winter means everything from a permanent brain fog to dry tight skin. Omega 3 fatty acids support brain function, digestion, circulation and skin… all things that we need help with in the winter.
Although I absolutely recommend fish oil supplements not just for seasonal affective disorder support, but year round. If you don’t already take them, plan on starting to take them in the fall and it will help prep your skin for the dry air to come, protect your brain for the dark days to come, soothe your circulation for the colder winds to come, and smooth your digestion for the heavier, thicker, richer foods to come.
10. Is your skin prepared for the winter ahead?
Winter can be a tough time for anybody’s skin… painfully dry hands and cracked heels galore (ouch!). Dry heated air dehydrates and cracks your vulnerable skin while you are inside staying warm, and combine that with whipping cold winds that chaff skin when you are outside and winter is just no fun on your skin, especially if you suffer from chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema or other forms of dermatitis.
Drinking twice as much water as usual and taking fish oil supplements will absolutely help from the inside out… but if you have specific trouble spots you might want a topical barrier cream to apply directly on a daily basis for protection. And luckily, if you like the barrier protection of petroleum jelly but don’t want petroleum by-products anywhere near your body, it’s super easy to make your own!
Today I want to share with you the recipe my daughter and I whip up each winter to use on our poor cracked hands and feet. We have enjoyed this for several years now… thank you so much to One Good Thing by Jillee (which is where I first saw this recipe!)
Homemade (Un)Petroleum Jelly.
- 1/4 cup Beeswax Pellets
- 1 cup Olive Oil
Melt together over very low heat in a saucepan or double broiler… once well combined, pour into a jar or recycled container and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
I keep a jar by my bedside and by my kitchen sink to us on my winter cracked hands and heels.
11. Are you feeling burnt out?
Fall is the perfect time to turn inwards, nurture your adrenal glands, boost your internal energy reserves, and emerge this spring feeling better than you may have felt in many many years. It’s okay to take these upcoming months slower, to tend to our inner needs more, and to make sure we are getting lots and lots of sleep. It’s not only okay, it’s what we are *supposed* to be doing.
It’s like Mother Nature hand carved these months out for you to repair your adrenal glands and nurture your energy reserves so you can emerge this spring feeling triumphantly energetic! Repairing your adrenal glands is actually the easiest to do in the fall and winter.
It’s easier to sleep longer with the days getting shorter, easier to prepare and eat warm foods like soup, roasts, stews, etc… rich with fat, protein and salt (all absolutely crucial when repairing your adrenals) and easier to cocoon in and nurture your body, with less exertion and more repair.
Emerge this spring feeling better than you have felt in many many years! Ready to eat lighter, sleep stronger, lose weight, move your body more. To help, I am sharing my Adrenal Repair Book with you for free, right here. In it I have tons of fun, uplifting, actionable things you can do right now to address adrenal fatigue.
A nice combo to do is start with my free 5 day detox plan and then move on to the free adrenal repair book immediately following the detox — this is an amazing way to head into the winter months feeling your absolute best, with several weeks of absolutely free holistic health support from me:
- Free 5 Day Detox Plan — download by ordering it here
- Free Adrenal Repair eBook — download by ordering it here
Let’s get you feeling better than ever… and enjoying this cooler weather and the beautiful fall colors that surround us.
I’ll be here for you all the way through it!
xoxo, Laura Koniver MD