Authored by Amy Beaith-Johnson @lymph.well
LYMPHIE TIPS TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF WINTER
Hello, beautiful souls! As a self-care strategist, herbalist, yoga teacher, mama, and fellow Lymphedema warrior, I understand the importance of adapting our self-care routines to the shifting energetics of each season. I’ve learned that I must fill my cup up before I can help others, and if I don’t take time for my self-care, the only one who loses out is me. Winter brings its unique set of challenges for those of us with Lymphedema, but, I believe that with a mindful approach, this cold season can be a time of healing, warmth, and self-nurturing.
In this article, I'll explore the energetics of the winter season, signs that you might be out of balance, the perks of the cold season for Lymphies and how to make the most of it, as well as my favourite top ten essential self-care tips! Let's dive in!
Energetics of This Season: Dry, Cold, and Vata (Air + Ether Elements)
Winter is characterized by a distinctive set of energetics. It's a time when the air and ether elements dominate, creating an environment that's dry, cold, and Vata-heavy. Understanding these energetics is crucial for tailoring your self-care routine to the season. Let's delve deeper into what these qualities mean for Lymphedema management.
Signs You May Be Out of Balance in the Winter:
Dry, Flaky, Itchy Skin: The dryness of winter can lead to increased skin flakiness, especially when you remove your compression garments. This is a sign that your skin is craving extra moisture. With dryness often comes itchiness. If your garments are feeling extra itchy, this is a sign to level up your moisturizing.
Brittle Nails: The cold weather can make your nails more prone to brittleness. Proper care is essential to keep them healthy. Wearing gloves when putting on your compression can help.
Dry Hair with Split Ends: Your hair may become drier with split ends during this season. Special attention is needed to maintain hair health.
Digestive Troubles: Winter can sometimes lead to digestive issues such as bloating and constipation. This is a sign that your body needs warmth and nourishment.
Mood Swings: The fluctuating temperatures, shorter days, and increase in dry, wind energy can result inincreased mood swings. This might make you feel all over the place, scattered, anxious, worried, and even hard to commit. You might notice you are starting to skip parts of your usual self-care routine.
Inflammation and Heat: If you haven’t dispelled the heat you gained in the summer months, once the wind element comes in, it’s like fanning the coals of a hot fire! So we may experience more inflammation and warmth in certain areas of our body. Notice where they are and work to cool and moisten your energy and body.
Stiff Joints in the Morning: The cold weather can lead to stiff joints, especially in the morning. Gentle movement can help alleviate this discomfort. Do some gentle stretches and self-MLD before you even get out of bed, so your joints are still warm under the covers
Trouble Falling Asleep: Winter nights can be challenging for sleep. If you find it hard to get to bed and feel more awake in the evening, consider adjusting your bedtime routine, and making sure you get at least 20 min outdoors in the daylight hours to resent your circadian rhythm and help prevent insomnia.
Sugar and Carb Cravings: Cravings for sugar and carb-rich foods are common in the winter months. These instinct are deeply seated in our energetic bodies. It was a time when our ancestors needed to build up fat to sustain themselves through the colder months. These cravings may indicate an imbalance, and it's essential to choose nourishing alternatives. Natural sweets, like dates can be the perfect treat, or some dark chocolate (70%). I made date caramel the other week and it’s to die for!
Cold weather isn’t all bad for us! You may experience some perks of the Cold Season for Lymphies!
I personally love this time of year as my swelling is at it’s lowest. I’m not much of a hot girl summer fan. So, while winter poses its unique challenges, it also brings some unexpected perks for those living with Lymphedema! Bring it!
Less Swelling: The colder weather can lead to decreased swelling. Your limbs might be smaller than they were in the summer, providing you with a reprieve. A great time to get measured for garments, my friend!
Reprieve from the Summer Heat: This reprieve is emotionally relieving! The heat of summer can be particularly challenging for Lymphies, often exacerbating swelling and discomfort. Winter's cooler temperatures can help reduce overall inflammation and make self-care more manageable.
So, what are my top tips for this time of year to help you holistically find your balance, enjoy the perks, and make the most of the season so you can live your life on your terms? You may have Lymphedema, but it doesn’t have you!
1. Create warmth and embrace rest around meal times
Winter is the perfect time to indulge in nourishing, warm, hearty meals. Think soups, stews, and porridge. These foods not only warm your body from the inside but also provide essential nutrients to keep your lymphatic system happy.
Aim to eat only 3 meals a day, leaving space between meals. This helps keep our digestive fire strong optimizing digestion, and lymph flow from our gut. Ayurveda teaches us that lunch should be the biggest meal, while dinner, can be lighter and earlier, finishing up around 6pm. Take time to relax and enjoy your meals. At the time of year, I love to light a beeswax candle at dinner time as a ritual to invite in the warmth of the season, plus I love that it helps counter the effects of that blue light glow from screen time.
2. Keep Hydrated with Warm Beverages
Swap out that cold ice water for warm or hot water. I regularly make myself a warm cup of something each morning like green tea, warm lemon water with ginger & honey, a mug of cacao & cinnamon, or even golden milk are my favorites this time of year. Hydration is crucial, and warm water is like a cozy hug for your insides. Nothing beats the winter blues or a sore throat like lymph-loving ginger honey lemon tea.
- Ginger root, fresh
- pinch of cinnamon (optional)
- Himalayan pink salt
- Freshly boiled filtered water
- Get your kettle going to boil some water.
- In the meantime, chop a lemon and squeeze half a lemon.
- For the ginger root, you can chop it, press it in a garlic press, or grate it. The pressing of it gets the most juice and will taste the stronges>t and chopped ginger will taste the mildest, so pick which one suits you best. I chop up the pressed chunks and add to my tea as well with the juice and pulp pushed through the press.
- Pour freshly boiled water (I let it cool till about 70-80 degrees Celsius, before pouring into my cup. Then, add honey to taste, and a pinch of Himalayan or Sea salt to your drink.
3. Get Measured for Garments in Cooler Months
As temperatures drop, your body might undergo changes, and your Lymphedema limbs may be less swollen. Yay! Relish in this time of year if it brings you relief and get measured for garments!
Measuring yourself when you are your smallest helps you maintain your swelling when your body is at its best. Take advantage of this season and see if you can get more swelling out, with maybe more self-MLD, compression bandages, or wraps on top of your garments, when you stabilize, get measured, ensuring that your compression garments provide the perfect fit.
Always work with your Certified Lymphedema Therapist and Fitter for best results. I wear Bauerfeind VenoTrain Curaflow thigh-high class 3 compression sleeves to keep my swelling in check.
4. Dry Brush the Skin Daily
Dry brushing is a wonderful way to both awaken your inner fire, and move inflammation, out through the lymph and skin. The brush strokes we make with our hands, stimulate lymphatic flow, and keep your skin glowing, as it exfoliates the dead dry skin cells off. This sets your skin up perfectly to follow with moisture like a shower, bath and then moisturizer or body oil, which I'll talk about later. Dry skin sets us up for a greater risk of skin infections, so keeping your skin soft, noticing if you have any breaks, scratches, or oozing, is key to lymphedema self-care. These two tasks are a beautiful ritual to connect with your body while also checking in for any signs of imbalance, not to mention that studies show that when we touch our skin, we activate our skin microbiome, strengthen our immunity, and our body releases serotonin - the happiness hormone.
Yes, you touching your body, causes your own body to respond with love! Keeping our skin clean is super important for lymphies to help prevent infections, which is why I always choose a dry brush mitt made of natural fibers, so it doesn’t scratch my skin, and I can wash the mitt.
5. Spend 20+ Minutes Outside Daily
Nature has a magical way of healing. In fact, forest bathing is helpful year round for balancing our minds and bodies. So bundle up, and take a brisk walk outside for at least 20 minutes during daylight hours. This helps move your lymph, keeps your body in tune with nature's rhythms, and aids in reducing insomnia, by helping regulate our circadian rhythm.
6. Movement is key
No matter what season it is, keeping moving is key to keeping our swelling in check. During the winter months, Switching up your exercise a bit to include some aerobic exercise such as flow yoga, Aquafit, biking, a brisk walk, or jog in the crisp winter air, vigorous exercise 1-2 times a week, balancing aerobic exercise with slow, gentle movement too like yin yoga, stretches, slower walks, etc. This combo can help boost circulation, promote bone strength, elevate your mood, nourish our muscles, and make those winter blues a thing of the past.
7. Go Inwards: Develop a Meditation Practice
Winter is a time for introspection. Develop a meditation, deep breathing, or journaling practice to stay grounded and centered. Create a space in your home, where you can come back to as your quiet zone. Light a candle, journal, get comfy with yourself as company. Connecting with your inner self can be incredibly healing. It’s a good time to look back through your Lymphedema self-care journal entries and look for patterns, reflect on what worked well, what your flare-ups were, etc.
8. Indulge in Warm Baths with Epsom and Himalayan Salt
Treat yourself to warm baths infused with Epsom and Himalayan salt. This not only replenishes essential minerals and micronutrients, but also softens your skin and hydrates your lymphatic system from the outside in. Epsom salt is high in magnesium, so it can be very soothing to our muscles and help us relax and reduce inflammation in the body. To get extra soft skin experience, add in 1-2 tbsp. of oil to the bath to experience dual hydration of water + oil to really get your skin soft and supple. Careful getting out of the tub as it will be slippery, but you will be silky smooth! Not up to a full bath experience? Try a foot soak or hand soak and see how your body responds.
9. Enjoy Oil Massages
On days, you aren’t having a bath, practice a warm oil massage to hydrate and soften your skin. You can combine this with your dry brushing time or after your shower. When adding in a new habit, it can be helpful to layer it onto something you already do, like how James Clear explains Habit Stacking in his wonderful book Atomic Habits. When it comes to this ritual, oil massages are a water free experience using a solid body butter, balm, or liquid body oil, or you could simply grab some extra-virgin olive oil, or avocado oil from your kitchen pantry, and that will do wonders too. Warm up the oil bottle in a mug of hot water, to make it a more pleasurable experience.
This ancient Ayurvedic practice is are a beautiful way to not only warm up your body but also keep your skin microbiome intact. Spend some time massaging it in. Aim for ¼ c of oil to do your whole body, take up to 15 minutes and really rub it in, giving yourself some self manual lymph drainage time too. This self-care ritual nurtures both your physical and emotional well-being, washing your nervous system in a calm joy.
10. Try a neti pot
When the cold and cough season arrives, a neti pot can be a trusty companion when you have spent time out in public spaces, flew on an airplane, were in a crowded environment, or around someone who was sick, or when you are feeling congested yourself. Rinsing germs away from your nasal cavities helps maintain your respiratory health and balances your nervous system.
Start with the left nostril and then repeat the ritual from the right nostril. You may feel like you want to blow your nose after each side completes, and that’s okay. Follow this ritual by adding 3-5 drops of oil to your nostrils to get that dual hydration action going again. This is called Nasya, and this practice keeps the skin inside your nasal cavities protected, while activating the immune system response to strengthen your nasal microbiome (1).
BONUS: Harness the Power of Herbs!
Turn to herbal allies like calendula, burdock, dandelion, >cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and tulsi to align with the season's energetics. These herbs can help boost your immune system, detoxify, improve lymph flow, support restful sleep , improve digestion, and enhance your mood as the darker days approach.