by Suzanne Wentley
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After a steamy winter in South Florida, I spent the summer months in the cool, mountainous climate of Colorado. My skin noticed — a lot. Despite my attempts at a healthy, clean beauty routine, my face was flaky and broken out.
I realized an important reality: Just as the weather conditions change with the seasons, so must our self-care regime. With the fall equinox, I’ve prepared new fall skincare practices and other changes to my daily healthy habits. I am now living in a more “traditional” autumn climate, but I’m ready to feel great no matter the season.
In some ways, these changes to our skincare routines and diet should be obvious. I know I need more moisturizer when it’s windy and cold out. I need to drink more water during the hot months, especially when I break a sweat just walking to my car. I also know it’s OK to sleep a little more when the days are shorter.
I’m lucky to have a local farmer’s market where I’m living now, so I also know how wonderful it is to eat seasonally as well as locally. Food that doesn’t have to travel far is often the more nutritious option — and tastier, too. Even at the grocery store, produce usually has a sticker stating where it was grown or a display with a recent harvest. (Think peaches in the summer and apples in the fall.)
There’s more to seasonal self-care than eating fresh, whole foods in season, of course. To figure out how to change my products and even my diet as the weather changes, I reached out to my friend Meri Consor, an Ayurvedic practitioner with Sunveda in Florida. Ayurveda is a holistic health practice, originating in India and Nepal, that works to balance a person’s nature and energies in the ever-present face of stress and change in our lives.
What is seasonal self-care if not navigating the changes in our lives?
“Seasonal changes, in general, cause a little bit of stress in the body, so we want to ease into each season,” she said. “Ayurveda is all about living in tandem with nature and realizing we are made up of the same elements and qualities as everything in nature.”
Here are some of Meri's tips for self-care in every season.
For most climates in the country, autumn is a time for windier, cooler, and drier weather. In Ayurveda, practitioners balance everything in terms of three qualities, or doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha). Fall is a time of excess vata, so it’s best to balance this dry, cool movement with warm, soothing activities. These include:
In the fall, look for oil-based moisturizers, rather than creams, Meri suggests. Get in the habit of applying immediately after the shower, since consistency is especially important for fall skincare.
“Creams do not moisturize us the same way that oil does. Sesame oil in the fall is a warming oil. Think of strengthening, nourishing, and bolstering the body,” she said. “In Sanskrit, the word 'shena' is the same for oil and love.”
Drink Hot Liquids
While it’s always a good idea to stay hydrated, hot liquids are especially important to integrate into your daily self-care routine as the weather cools. Meri said hot drinks also help soothe digestion which extra vata can cause to be a little gassy during the fall.
She recommends a heated mixture of almond milk, warm with spices like nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, or a cinnamon stick, and a drop of maple syrup. Warm sweet potato soup with cumin would be good for digestion during this time, too, she said.
Stay Grounded with Yoga
All the changes that come from the leaves and the ramping up of back-to-school energy can subtly cause you to feel a little overwhelmed. Try taking a yin yoga or restorative yoga class that can provide the grounding effect you need.
“Practicing focus and gentle movement will help bring you down to Earth." —Meri Consor
As the temperatures drop and you settle in for the winter, the overarching qualities change to kapha, Meri explains. Acknowledging how your body relates to the climate outside is an important self-care practice of mindfulness. Remember: Like reinforces like and opposites balance in Ayurveda, so start stoking the inner fire and donning cozy scarves can combat colder, windier conditions.
Keep Lips Healthy
Meri recommends a daily self-massage from scalp to toes with coconut, almond, or sesame oil every day before getting in the shower. But once you’re out in the winter elements, you’ll definitely need a lip balm on hand. Make sure yours has a high SPF factor since it can still be very sunny during the winter months. (Orianna loves anything by Dr. Bronner. This is a nice Dr. Bronner lip balm variety pack.)
Use a Humidifier and Light Therapy Tools
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, impacts 10 million American adults every year. Treatment includes light therapy, which involves sitting in front of a light box for between 30 minutes and an hour every day. The light has been shown to help elevate mood. You may want to check out this Verilux® HappyLight® as an option. Meri also recommends integrating relaxing scents like lavender, sandalwood, patchouli, cinnamon, and rosemary, too.
Humidity can take a nose-dive in the winter, too. Studies show that high levels of humidity can increase feelings of sleepiness, so invest in a humidifier especially if you find your sleep disrupted in the winter.
Stew Up Some Veggies
Meri said it’s best to stay away from the thick, creamy stews to limit the kapha qualities of the season. However, brothy soups rich in pumpkin and warm grains should soothe without making you feel too clogged up.
Think of the body as a flower blossom, struggling against the inertia (or kapha qualities) of winter to initiate more action, or pitta qualities. Since winter can often linger longer than we may like, make sure you still keep your head, neck, and feet warm during the thaw.
Move Your Body
For a mental health boost, start to incorporate more movement into your day than you had over the cold, winter months. Meri suggests scheduling a daily walk in the sunlight, which can provide an extra dose of Vitamin D.
“This is a good time for anyone who likes yoga to take some power yoga classes,” she said. “Skiing is also great. Anything that gets the heart going.”
Exfoliate and Tone
Clean beauty works best when you stick to a routine. In the spring months, Meri recommends using an astringent toner and a natural scrub to shine. A Vitamin C serum that’s filled with antioxidants is also good during this time. Honest Beauty makes a nice Vitamin C Radiance Serum with Artichoke & Clover Extracts.
“We want to scrape away all the excess kapha, which can express as mucous, tiredness, and indigestion that clogs,” she said. “Make sure you are scrubbing in an upward motion to move all those impurities up and out.”
Try a Cleanse
Give your body a rest from all the rich, holiday party foods by scheduling a cleanse. Ayurveda practitioners like to eat a dish called kitchari made of spices, mung dal, and basmati rice or quinoa. This dish supports digestion and can even help with allergies, Meri said.
“Pay attention when you’re hungry not when the clock says. When you’re not hungry, you’re continuing the problem,” she said. “Everything starts in the digestive tract, allergies included.”
During the cleanse, drink plenty of warm water with lime and honey, then scrape your tongue afterward, she suggested.
Hot, sweaty temperatures and lots of outdoor fun means plenty of pitta, so good news: Cool, creamy indulgences like ice cream can be a wonderfully, balancing part of your self-care summer rituals, Meri said.
Use Lighter Lotions
Although you’ll want to make sure your facial lotion contains a high SPF, look for lotions that are lighter so that you won’t break out. A lot of skin is aggravated in the summertime,” Meri said. “
If you do experience some skin issues, Sibu Beauty makes a light Nourishing Face Cream that is specially designed for problematic skin. Meri shared her own solution—"I swear by a mixture of rosewater and distilled water. I keep it in the refrigerator.”
Take a Moonlit Stroll
You may think of self-care as yet another thing on the to-do list, but Meri recommends slowing down to breathe and notice nature around you. To enjoy fresh air without sweltering summer conditions, try a walk in the moonlight. Bonus points if it’s near a body of water to add some vata qualities to balance out the pitta, she said.
Fill Up on Fresh Fruit
Another way to balance the pitta of summer is with sweet, juicy fruits. Meri said to add in snacks with sweet cherries, peaches, and berries that aren’t too sour. Anything sour will create more acidity, which should be avoided in the summer.
“Also, look for bitter foods. This can mean eating your greens, and we all tend to eat more salad in the summer, anyway,” she said. “If you’re just taking care of your skin, you’re not tackling the root problem. If you’re not eating what’s in season, you won’t have the glow of good health.”
Live in Rhythm with the Seasons
Meri said the key to self-care throughout the year is to start with compassion for yourself. This requires noticing how changes around you make you feel and adjusting your skincare, diet, and other healthy habits accordingly. After all, Ayurveda — like yoga — is based on the recognition of our ability to balance ourselves no matter what is happening around us.
“You’ll feel off if you’re not living in rhythm with the season,” she said. “Most of us are out of balance because we’re not tuned in and taking care of ourselves. We think problems are external, but it could be what’s going on inside showing up in the body.”
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