Winter Wellness with Helen Mead

The winter season can bring many challenges when it comes to our wellbeing. Darker days, feeling cold, central heating, having more social engagements and winter flu and colds can all contribute to us feeling below par as we approach the holiday season.

We recently caught up with our Notting Hill therapist Helen Mead who joined us for a Facebook Live on the topic of Winter Wellness. If you missed the chat you can still watch it here or otherwise read on for Helen's top tips for optimum wellbeing at this time of year.


What sort of issues do you see in your clinic around this time of year?

Generally people are struggling with tiredness, low mood, colds, sinus issues, flus even. They’re often overwhelmed at what they have to do- keeping up with life. Feeling less joy.

What advice would you give to people who are struggling with exhaustion in the approach to Christmas?

It’s a great time to detox & reboot - better to go with what your body wants to do naturally - rather than go against it.

Your body is designed to eliminate and withdraw at this time of year: look at nature - take your cue and inspiration from the trees - losing their leaves and drawing the sap down into the heart of the tree.

Once upon a time - before the industrial revolution - people working in agricultural communities would virtually hibernate through the winter months! Malcolm Gladwell wrote a wonderful book about it.

The more we tune into what our bodies are telling us the more we can live in harmony with them.

How can the therapies you offer support people’s wellbeing during the winter?

The key ingredient with physical therapies is turning off people’s stress response. Most people are constantly in this flight or fight response and this means that the body can’t get on with self healing or finding an equilibrium.

As soon your parasympathetic nervous system is switched on the whole body sighs! You start to find comfort and ease in the body & everything feels better.

What do you do for yourself to keep yourself well and thriving at this time of year?

Nutrition and lifestyle are key to keeping yourself healthy at this time of year.

I traditionally do a 8 week detox end of summer into autumn - this year I’ve committed to just over three months. I started the second week of September and will finish mid-December.

I keep my diet very clean - no processed sugars or grains, alcohol, caffeine, meat, wheat or dairy.

I incorporate both kidney and liver cleanses and in the middle of this time I also do a herbal cleanse to give my system a deeper clean and reboot.

I also supplement with vitamins and minerals including daily vItD drops, zinc and vitamin C. I also like to eat a clove of raw garlic every few days- usually crushed with olive oil and apple cider vinegar over steamed veggies.

I have a weekly treatment to support myself and really let go - usually either Reflexology or massage/cranial sacral therapy.

I also exercise regularly swimming twice a week, going for a run with 5 minutes high intensity training 2 or 3 x a week, plus weekly Feldenkrais and approx 10,000 steps a day.

I also make sure I get out into nature as much as possible. Being by trees or water makes a huge difference to me - even if it’s the weir by my local canal which is a lovely spot at sunset. I love to watch light on water.

Last -but certainly not least- I have a daily meditation practise - which is one of the single most important factors for looking after one’s immune system & mental health.

If you were to recommend ONE thing that people can adopt in their daily life to improve their winter wellbeing, what would it be?

A daily meditation practise.

It really helps you to understand where you are and what you need to support yourself.

Checking your internal barometer, as Jon Kabat-Zinn (the father of modern mindfulness teaching) phrases it; is so important, so you don’t go against yourself.

It also builds positive neural pathways in your brain so even when it’s pouring outside - you can be happy when it rains!

What are your tips for dealing with darkness? How does the lack of sunlight affect mood, sleep and energy levels and how can we counteract this?

This is something that really effects everybody and some people much worse than others.

Get to bed earlier so you can wake up earlier. Get up early and get straight out and exercise for at least 20 minutes so you can make happy hormones to fortify you for the day.

Supplementing with 5-HTP can be useful for those really struggling with depression -as it is the necessary precursor for the body to make serotonin - you can also add In tryptophan rich foods to your daily diet such as soya, eggs, porridge, tuna, cottage cheese & turkey.

Make sure you take Vit D supplement - it builds in your system so also preparation helps: getting plenty of sun in the summer helps to fortify you - I swim in an open air Lido year round to give the sun a good surface area to work on - as the magic happens in the skin.

It is also important to be realistic about how much you want to get done and be kind to yourself about goals and achieving them. You have got to make sure you’re getting the time to nourish yourself and tell yourself you are doing well (avoid giving yourself a hard time - it will only make you feel worse).

And if you know you’re strongly affected by the lack of sunlight - prepare upfront - book yourself a holiday in the sun over Christmas or New Year or in Jan/Feb so you have something to look forward to and a chance to soak up that sun!

CBT can also be a very useful tool - I remember seeing my first conker a few years ago on a still summery day and it was like my heart completely plummeted - the more you are aware of your thoughts the more you can be aware of how they make you feel.

So finding an autumn starting Mindfulness-based Cognitive therapy (MBCT) course would also be smart - mostly they divide the class into groups so you also have peers to discuss your experiences with and that can be both illuminating and very helpful.

What about skin care – the effects of central heating, chapped hands/lips etc?

The first thing to remember is that the health of the skin is coming from inside the body and reflected on the outside. Central heating makes the situation worse- but your first questions to yourself should be am I getting enough water and if you can honestly say yes - and that means 2litres a day; then ask yourself are you getting enough omega 3s whether from fish, flax or algae?

For extra care my favourite lip balms are raw and made from coconut, so check out HURRAW! I love their Moon Lip Balm & coconut for daytime. My favourite hand cream is Lavera’s Shea butter and argon oil creme which is absolutely delicious- and can also be very effective for soothing eczema- I’ve known it perform absolute miracles to very severe patches of eczema, alongside changes in diet.

Many find themselves craving carbs and sugar more as it gets colder. What are your tips for eating a balanced diet that supports energy levels and counteracts cravings?

There’s nothing wrong with your body wanting more carbs this time of year - your body wants a little more fat to help with the cold and keep us going during harder times. The question is how you fill those cravings! Never eat refined carbs your body will automatically call for more of the same as its looking for the missing B-vitamins that have been taken away! Make yourself wholesome treats banana & pumpkin bread, almond and coconut flour cakes, crumbles with rye flour and oats, nuts and seeds topping nothing but fruit Bramley apple and blackberry or plums are delicious combinations - enjoyed with oat or almond cream.

Another question to ask yourself when you experience carb cravings is are you getting enough good fats? Often you can be missing fats - get plenty of coconut fat in your diet, as well as nuts and seeds - this will often curb the cravings.

While also keep an eye on your blood sugar - most of us need far more fibre in our diet than we eat. I love kale & other winter dark green leafy veg. These are perfect vegetables for adding fibre and calcium. You can also supplement with psyllium which helps to clean your body too.

Lots of us overindulge at this time of year and around Christmas – what do you recommend to counteract the effects of this on our energy levels, digestion and anxiety levels?

My first rule is: Never drink on an empty stomach it will stop you from over-drinking.

Always look for a day off from drinking alcohol the day after you drank - that way you are giving your liver the best chance to clean between parties.

Alcohol is a depressant and destroys B vitamins without which we feel more stressed and potentially down. So really choose your times to party - certainly not before a major presentation you are already worried about!

Make sure that you DO have windows for a lie-in and reboot at least once a week.

And make sure you are scheduling seeing those you want to see - that will lift your spirits without the need for extra help and indulgence.

Ultimately be in the spirit of Xmas: be kind to others and yourself - festive spirit doesn’t come out of a bottle or from that extra mince pie - it comes from your heart!

Facebook Live: Winter Wellness with Helen Mead

Winter Wellness with Helen Mead

This morning we were joined by therapist Helen Mead, who answered questions about how to improve your wellbeing at this time of year. She covers everything from exhaustion, low mood, increased appetite and how mindfulness can see you through the winter period. Unfortunately we had some technical issues so there is no sound until around 6 mins in. Helen offers a range of holistic therapies at Notting Hill including reflexology, Reiki, nutrition, Indian head massage and Metamorpic Technique - to find out more visit:

Posted by The Life Centre on Thursday, 28 November 2019

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