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Shovelling Snow Tips - Winter Health - Ottawa Holistic Wellness

Shovelling your way through winter: Tips on how to do it right!

Winter weather has officially arrived! As the snow continues to pile up, shovelling can seem like a full-time job. Most of us have shovelled at some point in our Canadian lifetime, but many are unaware of the tiresome effects it can have on our bodies if done incorrectly.

Incorporating physical fitness into your weekly routine will help keep your body healthy and able to comfortably withstand winter tasks such as shovelling. 

Did you know that the average shovel weights 6 pounds? That may not seem like a lot, but if loaded with snow and lifted over-and-over, the body is put under a lot of stress.

My Shovelling Snow Tips

Before you start Shovelling:

  1. Dress warmly and in layers: once your body warms up, you can quickly shed a layer.
  2. Hydrate: Even though we don’t sweat as readily, we can still get dehydrated in the winter. The cold weather causes a decreased thirst response, so, remember to drink up!
  3. Active Stretching/Warm-Up: It is a good idea to warm up your body before starting. For example, take a 5-minute brisk walk around the block before embarking on your snow mountain.
  4. Don’t let the snow Pileup: The less snow you have to shovel, the better.

Proper Shovelling Techniques:

  1. Use a lightweight shovel: you want a shovel that you can push. Metal shovels are heavy, and snow tends to stick to them.
  2. Push, don’t lift! : Push the snow forward and to the sides. Trying to pick up and throw a hefty pile of snow can be dangerous.

Pushing will minimise the amount of bending and twisting your back has to do. If you must pick up the shovel then here are some more useful shovelling snow tips:

  1. Make sure you flex your knees to take stress off your joints.
  2. Switch Sides: Switching from left to right will help prevent one-sided muscle fatigue.
  3. Take a Break: Regular breaks will prevent your body from getting too tired and avert next day soreness.
  4. Cool Down: do a similar cool down as you did warm up. Another short walk around the block is a great idea.

Happy Shoveling!

Disclaimer

This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Noticing and Savouring the Positive to Help You Get Through Winter

Noticing and Savouring the Positive to Help You Get Through Winter

Most people in Ottawa seem to love summer and enjoy the natural beauty of fall, but there seems to be less enthusiasm for the next season of winter. 

As the days get colder and shorter, we start the small talk of wondering how to get through dreaded winter. It can feel like life gets harder as we have more to contend with because of the weather and darker days.

As a human race, we have evolved to focus on the negative in order to problem-solve and survive, but when we can turn our attention to intentionally notice the good everything can seem more bearable. We can enhance the influence of the positive moments in our lives to build up our resilience for when the negative moments come because life contains both positive and negative moments.

Negative winter moments aren’t always so bad, maybe just more inconvenient, but an accumulation of them can really bring us down.

Noticing what didn’t go wrong

Take, for example, a winter moment like the unexpected blizzard that delays you in traffic and makes you late to meet your friends so that you lose your dinner reservation.

When something like this happens, how many of us will retell the story of how frustrating this was and end up reliving it each time we talk about it?

On the other hand, how many of us will retell or relive the experience of leaving work on time and having nothing keep us from getting where we need to go?

This may seem like a silly question because these kinds of moments don’t make very interesting stories to tell to others and that may be why we usually take them for granted. However, these moments are worth retelling ourselves because when we intentionally look for moments like this and then relive internally how nothing went wrong, it is a way to help us see life more positively.

In this example, recognising the ease with which you were able to leave work and drive to the restaurant to meet your friends will do you good, especially if you can savour the experience as well.

Savouring the positive

Savouring is an exercise where we focus our attention on fully experiencing through our senses.

It can be something we do in a mindful present moment when we notice the good or a way to bring to mind a positive moment from the past.

Savouring the positive starts with you bringing to mind the specifics of what you are experiencing or that you experienced through your senses.

If you are savouring a positive experience from the past you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • What did I see that I enjoyed?
  • What did I hear that was pleasant?
  • What smells and tastes did I notice and like?
  • How did my body feel in the moment?

As you answer each of these questions and notice or replay the scene in your mind’s eye in as much detail as you can, relish the experience and revel in it.

You can learn more about savouring at http://www.thepositivepsychologypeople.com/the-art-of-positive-savouring/.

Anytime and anywhere

Savouring is something you can do anytime including during annoying winter moments like scraping ice off your car, waiting for a bus, or trudging through the snow.

Reliving the positive moments will also help train your brain to notice the positive in the everyday.

Everyday positive moments such as a stranger’s smile, a favourite song on the radio, or a kind word in an email; and before you know it spring will come.

If you find that it is very hard for you to notice anything positive in your life or find that there is nothing you can think of that you have recently enjoyed, you may be suffering from depression. If this is you, please consider setting up a free meet and greet session with me to see if our working together could help.

Wishing you all a happy holiday season with many positive moments to notice and savour! 

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Reiki and energy healing for the winter blues

Reiki and energy healing for the winter blues

Are you one if the people who suffer from the winter blues in the winter? Or perhaps you just feel tired and run down? 

Many of us experience reduced energy, sadness or even full-blown depression during the long winter days. Some also have increased pain and insomnia.

During this time there are several ways in which to improve your winter blues.

Reiki and the winter blues

I have many clients who find no need for my services during the spring and summer but who will seek me out during the late fall and winter months. I know once the days start to shorten their mood will darken, their energy levels decrease and they come to me for rebalancing and recharging.

The lack of sunlight and decrease in activity lead to blockages and stagnation of our energy. Using Reiki and energy healing can re-establish the flow of your energy, release the blockages and bring a deep sense of calm and balance.

Reiki and energy healing work to channel the universal energy that exists all around us. It can fill you with a sense of energy, light and wellbeing. Some of my clients have described a session to be like charging their batteries and turning up their capacity for fun and enjoyment.

This comes along with an increased ability to cope with the added stresses of the holiday season and the following winter months.

Better balance will also strengthen your body and may help boost your immune system, making it less likely that you will succumb to the winter colds and flu.

Reiki and energy healing can also assist if you do become sick. By improving energy flow, bringing relaxation and better sleep it increases the body’s ability to fight and to heal. It addition it can help relieve symptoms such as a headache, muscle aches and blocked sinuses.

Alongside this, you may wish to seek advice from a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Naturopathic Doctor or Functional Medicine Practitioner. They will complement the Reiki and energy work by addressing nutrition, allergies and lifestyle factors that may be impacting your immune system and your mood.

Reclaim your life and Enjoy Winter!

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flu

Beat the colds, flu, and blues!

Feeling under the weather? Tired, congested, and not feeling like your usual self? Chances are good that your immune system is lacking its true capabilities this winter, and you might be getting a cold or the flu!

The Nasopharynx–the area where the nose, mouth, and throat meet–is where most colds start because common bugs can travel in through your eyes, mouth, and nose.

How do they do this?

Well, pathogens that cause the cold transmit through people’s various secretions, ending up on shared surfaces like desks, the water cooler where people congregate to catch up on each other’s lives, and eventually onto your unwashed hands. When you rub your eyes and nose, the pathogens can travel into your body and take up residence in your nasopharynx.

Colds

The most common culprits in the development of colds are rhinoviruses that thrive in the conditions and temperature range of your nose. Typical symptoms of a common cold include coughing, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, fever, and a headache. Many people know that the common cold can affect your nose, but it can also lead to issues in your throat, sinuses, and even rob you of your voice.

Sinusitis

This common winter malady can develop from a history of allergies, colds, anatomical malformations like a deviated nasal septum (the barrier of cartilage that sits between your nostrils), and lifestyle factors like smoking which is very addictive.

Typically, people who suffer from sinusitis have pain and swelling over the affected sinuses which can cause a painful headache. Sinusitis is worse in the morning since mucus in the sinuses finds its way into your throat through post-nasal drip while you sleep.

Smokers have an increased risk of sinusitis because smoke can increase thick mucus production and impair your body’s ability to clear it. Even second-hand smoke can cause an increased risk of upper and lower respiratory tract infections.

Ear infections

These usually affect children with a cold or flu. Symptoms include ear pain, ear discharge, and fever. Bugs can travel through the eustachian tube–a passageway that links the nasopharynx to the ear in order to equalise pressure on either side of the eardrum.

Certain strains of H. influenza, a bug that waits until the immune system cannot hold them off, can cause ear & eye infections, sinusitis, and pneumonia in children.

Last, but not least, influenza!
The flu usually manifests with symptoms of fever, eye infection, runny nose, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, fatigue, coughing, and nausea/vomiting.

H. influenza is not the main culprit here, despite the misleading name. Influenza viruses A, B, and C all contribute what we know as ‘the flu’ in both humans and animals.

Type A causes all known flu pandemics, the most well known being the Spanish Flu of 1918.
Type B only affects humans but has less potential to mutate than Type A.

Type C usually affects children but is less common than Types A and B.

Unfortunately for our immune systems, influenza viruses mutate at a rapid rate. What this means is it is very difficult for the Center for Disease Control to predict which strains will appear each year, rendering the vaccine from the previous year ineffective. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the flu vaccine for this year will match the strain that becomes most prevalent.

To add to the problem, it’s usually very difficult to tell the difference between an influenza illness and an influenza-like illness.

Could it be allergies?

Is the mucus from your runny nose watery/clear in colour? Usually, colds and flu result in yellow/green coloured nasal discharge while an allergic response to airborne allergens results in clear/watery nasal discharge.

People who suffer from allergies also tend to have itchy, watery eyes and an itchy skin rash that goes away when no longer exposed to the allergen. For other forms of severe allergies, it would be better to consult with a medical practitioner before you to treat your nasal problem.

Strep Throat

If you have a sudden onset of a very painful sore throat, but strangely no or very little coughing, a fever greater than 38C, tonsillar pus, and swollen lymph nodes in your neck chances are good that you might be suffering from Strep throat.

Strep throat is caused by a nasty bug called group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus (GAS). Streptococcal infections can be invasive and spread to your blood and organs if left unchecked. GAS is estimated to cause half a million deaths worldwide per year, and the most at risk for developing a GAS infection are those with compromised immune function (children, the elderly, pregnant women, etc).

Currently, there is no vaccine for Streptococcus, but good hand hygiene goes a long way!

Epiglottitis

Another emergent situation I want to discuss is called Epiglottitis. The epiglottis ( the between angry bit at the back of your throat) is like a valve that controls the passage of air into your trachea (windpipe) and food or drinks into your esophagus.

It stays open while you breathe normally, and closes off the trachea when swallowing foods and drinks. Interestingly, your epiglottis has tastebuds!

Epiglottitis, a severe swelling of the epiglottis, is commonly caused by H. influenzae in young children 2-5 years old.

Typical symptoms include uncontrollable drooling, inability to swallow, inability to lie down or talk, and restlessness.

Epiglottitis is life threatening, and can lead to death from an obstructed airway, so if you suspect epiglottitis in a young child take them to the emergency department immediately.

How to reduce risk

Wash your hands with soap and water before touching your face.

Hand sanitizers are okay to use if you don’t have immediate access to soap and water, but make sure the products you are using contain at least 60%-95% ethanol, since this formulation is most effective in killing those bugs! Unfortunately some commercial grade hand sanitizers, despite bold claims of killing a high percentage of germs, only contain 40%-60% ethanol. As a result, these products simply act to spread bugs around instead of killing them.

As a general rule of thumb, the combination of hand sanitizers and regular hand washing is better than using hand sanitizers alone.

In 2011, Stebbins et al. conducted a randomized controlled trial of 3360 school children to determine if hand sanitizer use could combat transmission of influenza infections. The study used the slogan “WHACK the Flu!”:

  • Wash and sanitize your hands
  • Home when you are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Keep your distance from sick people
  • Researchers found a 52% reduction in influenza A virus infections in children who received this program versus those who did not, and a 26% reduction in flu related absenteeism.

Using this simple acronym is a powerful tool in your fight against the common cold and the flu!

What else can I do?

Great question!

Exercise

An easy way to strengthen your defenses is to find a fun form of exercise. Exercise can improve your mood, energy, and resilience to stressors; keeping your immune function strong.

Sleep

Getting a good night’s rest also helps your body’s immune system to recharge.

Supplements, herbs and foods

Always consult your doctor before beginning any new supplement or medication to find out if it is a safe option. That being said, there are a few good remedies sitting in your pantry!

Peppermint

Peppermint contains the essential oil menthol. Menthol is an excellent anti-spasmodic–meaning it relaxes spasming tissues and can relax the airways to relieve nasal and sinus congestion.
Furthermore, peppermint can ease nausea, gas, and bloating by relaxing the digestive system. It’s important to cover your peppermint tea while it steeps since the essential oils can evaporate!

Ginger

Ginger is an excellent herb for nausea, and it can strengthen your digestion to combat a loss of appetite and vomiting. Additionally, ginger tea can be used as a gargle for sore throats.

Thyme

Yes, it’s time for some thyme!

The active constituent in thyme, similar to peppermint, is an essential oil called thymol. Thymol can relax a spasmodic cough and relax the airways to clear mucus.

Thyme also contains carvacrol, an anti-microbial oil that is excellent at killing bugs. Try adding more thyme to soups and stews, as well as on meat.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

So, you’ve come this far, and your cold or flu is on its way out but you still don’t feel like yourself. You might be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD has a host of depressive symptoms that tend to occur at the same time every year, usually during the winter. People with SAD tend to have difficulty waking in the morning, overeating, oversleeping, nausea, withdrawal from friends and family, difficulty concentrating, and decreased sex drive.

If you can’t afford to go on vacation and soak up some sun to combat SAD, try gratitude.

What’s so great about gratitude?

Gratitude towards others increases activity in the brain’s “social dopamine circuits”, making social interactions more enjoyable.

Focusing on positive aspects of your life also boosts the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin. If sitting down and making a list of the things you are grateful for seems like too difficult of a task, don’t sweat it! It’s actually the activity of searching for what you’re grateful for that counts.
Searching increases emotional intelligence, which in turn makes your brain more efficient at this activity. With higher emotional intelligence, gratefulness takes less and less energy over time.

Still having trouble? Don’t dismay! Just label how you’re feeling:

Sad? Angry? Anxious?

Consciously labelling and validating how you feel reduces the impact your mood has on your daily life. Believe it or not, your brain can recognize the difference between suppressing, or labelling your emotions.

To put it a different way, the only bad emotion is the one you don’t express.

Remember, there is a lot you can do to take control of your health and fight back against the colds, flus, and blues!

Have a safe and happy winter.

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healthy ottawa winter

5 Simple Ways To Stay Healthy During The Ottawa Winter

As I am writing this blog I am watching the sleet and snow of the first storm of the Ottawa winter 2106/17.

Winter is often associated with a downturn in our health. All our aches and pains seem to be more evident and of course, we are more prone to colds and flu.

But does it have to be to his way?

Below are 5 ways you can stay healthy and vibrant despite the Ottawa winter:

1. Sleep don’t hibernate

When the freezing rain is sticking to our bedroom window the tendency is to turn over and hide back under our duvet.

Research from the Form Clinic has shown that adequate sleep is essential for our health but too much shut-eye is equally as bad.

Scientists have established the optimal amount of sleep for an adult is between seven and eight hours. More than that is too much.

2. Stay active, stay healthy

For many of my clients, their activity levels tend to drop off during the Ottawa winter months.

Exercise, as we all know, is essential for a healthy body and mind. It can prevent you from adding those winter pounds as well as elevating your mood.

When I ask my clients whether they do any regular exercise they tend to mention going to the gym.

Personally, I hate gyms. For me, they are impersonal and unmotivating places.

I like to do my exercise preferably in a group.

I find groups more motivating and you get the added health benefit of connecting with other people.

My favourites are hot yoga and soccer but there are many others.

Do not forget to drink water

The human body is composed of seventy percent water. It is vital for the optimal functioning of our physiology.

So if we fail to drink or consume adequate amounts of water our body and mind are going to slow down.

We will get fat and depressed. Making sure we drink enough water, for obvious reasons , is tricky during the winter.

We also tend to lose just as much water through perspiration during the winter because of our heated environments.

To help my clients remember to drink more water I recommend using water app on their smartphone.

The app I use called Waterlogged alerts me every hour to drink a glass of water.

Manage the Winter stress

The shorter days and freezing temperatures add to our overall stress burden.

Stress is probably the most common root cause of my client’s health concerns.

Just like making sure we drink enough water being extra mindful of managing our stress is important to remaining healthy during the winter months.

When your body experiences any type of stress it will release the hormone cortisol into the blood.

Long term stress and production of cortisol can have detrimental effects on our health.

Ensuring adequate exercise and sleep have been shown to lower cortisol.

If you are open to taking supplements both Vitamin C and Fish oil help to lower cortisol.

Be with people

Humans are social animals and being so is vital for a healthy existence.

With the advent of social media, we have become much insular and this can be easily amplified during the winter months.

Making time to spend time with friends and family is important.

If you don’t have many friends or family nearby then try joining a group.

There are tonnes of meetup groups you can try in Ottawa.

I suggest having a look on meetup.com.

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