How to Stay Sane During the Hectic Holiday Season

This week is Thanksgiving!  Besides lots of food and friends, it also means that the start of the hectic holiday season is officially here. While it’s one of my favourite times of the year,  I tend to easily get swept up in all of the excitement. While this might not seem such a bad thing, it often leaves me feeling unbalanced, spread too thin, and unnecessarily stressed. Add a few long-distance flights into the mix and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Between holiday decorating, gift shopping, and festive get-togethers my free time slowly diminishes. Once the holidays arrives I feel extra pressure to make the most of it. Because I don’t get to see family and friends in the US very often, I feel like I have to pack every possible minute into every trip, which only makes me even more stressed. To ease some of the pressure I feel to make the absolute most of every minute, I use the list below to make sure I stay balanced and grounded when things seem like they are getting a bit too hectic.

  1. Schedule Strategically 

I’m always tempted to pack each of my trips home full of back to back activities with friends and family, but over-scheduelign can be just as bad as under-scheduling. I’ve found that planning one main thing with each person I want to spend time with– whether its a coffee date or group dinner– makes me way less stressed. Knowing I have at least one thing planned lets me relax a little more and really enjoy the time since I’m not worrying about what’s next.

2. Stick to You Routine

This one seems like a no-brainer, but at some point during the holidays I inevitably lose track of my regular routine. While it’s totally fine to let my regular a.m. yoga session slide for a day or two, any longer and I start to feel a little on edge.  The same can be said for my sleep schedule– as tempting as it is to spend more nights out with friends (and wine!), keeping my nighttime routine helps me stay well-rested to enjoy my time at home. Making sure to stick to my day to day schedule helps me stay grounded and calm. Which takes me to number three…

3. Sleep

Of course I manage to  squeeze in some sleep, but this one is more about making time for enough sleep. I like to wake up early, but the rest of my family are night owls, and when I’m home the time after dinner and before bed is one of the main times we all relax and catch up together. This means either getting less sleep, shifting my routine a little bit. It’s taken me years to find the balance, but now I try to have a mix of early (regular) bedtimes and later ones, so I get to enjoy time with my family. Prioritising a good 7-8 hours of sleep helps me manage the holiday stress and stay a happier version of myself all year.

4. Take Notes

I’ve had an on again/off again relationship with journaling since I was in high school, when the thought occurred to me that one day I would want to read back through and remember what my life was like. During college I got a lot better at regularly recording my life, but I make an extra effort to put pen to paper around the holidays. Not only is there so much to be thankful for, but holiday memories are some of the most precious. Knowing that I have more than just my mind to keep my holiday memories has the added benefit of keeping me ‘present’ so I can record things later.

5. Breathe

Making time for even one minute of conscious breathing in the morning and before bed is good practice for staying ‘in the moment’ when the list of things to do to prepare for the holidays seems to be exponentially growing. I’ve been loving the Breathe App on my apple watch, but even just a good old fashioned timer is a great way to carve out a few minutes to decompress. A quick meditation is also a great way to combat stress and anxiety when dinner table discussions get tense, or when you’ve answered the same question for the hundredth time.

 

Hopefully at least some of these help you stay balanced during this holiday season. While its easy to get caught up in all the preparation, the best parts of the holidays is everything that happens in the down time. I don’t remember what my holiday meal was last Thanksgiving, but I do remember laughing at the dinner table with friends, and singing along to Adele after several glasses of wine.

This year I’ll be celebrating away from home, but am looking forward to a belated ‘friendsgiving’ at the weekend.  How are you celebrating this year?

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

DIY Cinnamon Sugar Scrub

Every winter I run into the same problem of chapped lips and dry skin that drives me crazy. Preventative measures work up to a point, but eventually I need some light exfoliation to get back to normal. This super-simple, three-ingredient scrub has worked wonders for turning my scales back into smooth skin, plus I know exactly what’s in it (no micro beads for me!).  I also love that it uses three ingredients I always have in my pantry.

The three ingredients are just coconut oil, cinnamon, and sugar. While these might sound like the beginning of a delicious seasonal dessert, they actually make a fantastic scrub that smells amazing, and leaves your skin super smooth. It’s like a little bit of holiday indulgence without the guilt.

Here’s why the three ingredients work so well together:

Coconut Oil:

I know coconut oil is being used for just about everything, and while it may not be the solution to all of your problems, it’s probably a pretty good solution for some of your winter beauty dilemmas. It’s a healthy choice for cooking, both because the medium-chain fatty acids are easier for your body to digest and burn off than long-chain fatty acids, and because the lauric acid that makes up almost 50% of raw coconut oil is converted to monolaurin, an immune-supporting substance that helps your body fight viruses and bacteria. Try adding some to smoothies or oatmeal for some healthy fats in the a.m.

But there are benefits to topical applications as well– not only does it make a great hair mask, it is also surprisingly effective at removing waterproof makeup and lipstick naturally and gently. It is also a great base or carrier oil for a scrub, both because its relatively gentle, and its unique properties add to the benefits of the scrub.

Cinnamon:

Like coconut oil, cinnamon has a mild anti-bacterial effect, which makes it a great ingredient for acne prone skin. It’s ‘spicy’ quality can also spark an increase in blood flow, which makes it great for skincare because it stimulates nutrient-carrying blood to the surface. Using this as a lip scrub has the added benefit of a subtle enhancing your pout sans injections or scary chemicals.

You may have seen cinnamon and honey masks, but I find them too strong on my relatively sensitive skin. The cinnamon in this scrub is less concentrated, but if you prefer a stronger feeling you can always add more. Be sure to patch test a little bit on your arm before trying it out anywhere on your face though, just in cause you also have a strong reaction.

I also love the warm, spicy scent, which feels especially seasonal. But the benefits go beyond this– the cent of cinnamon can also help to relieve headaches, and increase alertness.

Sugar:

While I try to avoid added sugars in my diet, they are great for scrubs because the particles are less abrasive than salt, but still pack some powerful buffing qualities. This means that this scrub should be safe to use on your face (as long as you use a very light touch) as well as hands or other areas that tend to look a bit dull or feel chapped in the winter.

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Ingredients for Scrub:

3 tsp coconut oil at room temp. (It should be soft, but not melted)

1-1.5 tsp ground cinnamon. (The fresher your cinnamon the more it will warm your skin, or cause any irritation, which is why patch-testing is so important)

2 tsp sugar. A finer grind is generally better here, especially if you are thinking of using it on your face. For body scrubs I like a coarser sugar, or even salt to really slough off any dead skin.

Directions:

  1. Combine in a small bowl or container, mixing thoroughly. The consistency should be like a paste, so you may need to make minor adjustments accordingly.

When I use this as a lip scrub I like to remove any lipstick or balm with a little bit of coconut oil and gently wipe away with a face cloth. Then I follow up  with a small amount of scrub, using my index finger to make small circles before gently removing. Don’t worry if you accidentally ingest some– that’s the benefit of using things from your kitchen!

When using this this on my face I like to first remove any moisturiser or leftover makeup with a mild cleanser (like Lush’s ultrabland), then apply a fine layer of the scrub (avoiding the eye area), massaging my face very gently with my fingertips. To remove I use a face cloth and warm (not hot!) water to gently wipe away the scrub.

The most important step to remember when using this scrub is to follow up with another layer of moisture once its removed, whether on your lips, face, or hands. Also, when removing, be sure you use warm water to remove the coconut oil throughly. It’s important that the water not been too hot though, as this can cause redness and irritation.

This will keep for a few weeks if stored in your fridge (just be sure to thaw it thoroughly before using), but because it’s so simple to make you could also easily mix a small amount as you  need it and use extra-fresh cinnamon each time. Let me know if you give it a try in the comments– I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Winter Wellness Teas to Keep You Healthy

As the temperature begins to dip even more I’m always reminded how much I love that winter is a time for slowing down. Rather than hectic, never-ending days, these early sunsets make get to sleep earlier, and shorter days mean I prioritise, rather than try to do everything. Cold weekend mornings become decidedly more lazy, with slower yoga sessions, and warm, hearty breakfasts that feed my body and soul (baked oatmeal? Yes, please!). Warm drinks are a must– wether my essential cup of coffee in the morning, a few cups of tea through the day to keep me going, or a turmeric latte (or occasional hot chocolate) to wind down in the evening. Not to mention favourites like mulled wine and spiced cider!

A warm drink in the winter is often the perfect opportunity for a bit of a pause, wether in the middle of the day, or as I try to relax in the evening. While a cup of tea is lovely any time of year, there are a few I especially crave as the air gets chillier. Not only are they comforting and warming, but each has a few unique benefits of its own from immunity support, to anti-inflammatory properties, a cup of tea can be a great way to practice self care. One study even found that keeping your neck and throat warm can help you fend off colds!  If that’s not a reason to keep warm with a cup of tea (and a cute scarf!) I don’t know what is.

Chamomile

This is by far one of my favourites, especially for colder months. I like to steep longer than recommended to get a stronger flavour, and then add a tiny bit of agave or raw local honey. It’s wonderfully calming, and is my go-to for when I’m feeling stressed, wanting to wind down in the evening, or if I have an upset stomach. I’ve also used it to make a really lovely hair rinse to bring out natural highlights– but that a topic for another post.

Echinacea 

A classic immune-supporting tea,  Echinacea is great for both fending off, and reducing the symptoms of a cold, so I like to brew a cup at least a few times a week in the winter. If you’re curious to know more about echinacea’s many benefits, this article is a great resource, and also has some brewing tips to get your best cup. Sometimes I like to brew a blend of echinacea and chamomile for an extra herbal blend that balances some of the astringency echinacea can sometimes have. Echinacea also makes a really delicious hot toddy (just brew as normal, then add a bit of lemon, raw local honey, and a shot of whiskey).

Chai

The blend of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and other spices is perfect for winter! It’s delicious on its own, but is also great with a bit of warmed coconut milk for something a bit more indulgent. Black tea is a great source  antioxidants, and the added spices are a great way to support your immune system, especially if you steep them at home.

Turmeric 

While this one isn’t technically a tea, it’s just as lovely and warming. It’s recently seen a boom in popularity, but has been around in South Asian cultures for centuries as a health drink. Turmeric not only tastes delicious, but also has some pretty potent anti-inflammatory properties, and may reduce the severity of viral infections (aka the common cold). There are tons of recipes for turmeric tea/ turmeric lattes, but this one is a great place to start.

 

While these four are my favourites this time of year for their amazing taste and wellness-boosting properties, there are plenty of others that are just as delicious and good for you. Really, any way you manage to add a little bit of self care to your routine, either for a five-minute tea break midday, or by incorporating a lovely turmeric latte into your evening routine you can make the most out of this slower time of year, and recharge your batteries a bit before the busy time around the holidays.

Happy sipping!

 

What is your favourite warm drink in the winter? Do you have a favourite recipe for a hot toddy or chai tea latte? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!