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Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing


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A little inspiration for a cold winter week

Inspirational quote for winter.

Photo by Jackie Krage of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.


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Embracing winter wellness

???????????????????????This article originally ran in the Healing Journal newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

If you have a strong opinion about winter, you are not alone.

Love it or hate it, a Minnesota winter is always there to remind us of its presence. Many of us struggle with the season’s shorter days and the challenges of plunging temperatures, snow or ice.

For some, staying healthy seems more difficult in the winter months. The annual ritual of a flu shot reminds of us what’s next: more time indoors and more chances to catch the latest cold, cough or flu. Others struggle with the darkness and expectations of the holidays. For some, seasonal affective disorder brings a constant struggle of more than just the winter blues.

“Around the holiday season many of us set high expectations for what we think we should and need to do,” said Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD, a cardiologist and vice president of Allina Health’s Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. “These expectations are challenging for many of us, but there are ways to remain active and embrace the winter season. There is beauty in the change of seasons, and winter is a time for us to reflect upon and creatively enjoy what is beautiful about our region.”

Eight ideas to help you embrace winter

1. Head outdoors. Embrace the change of seasons. If you dress appropriately, the cold shouldn’t stop you from enjoying time outside in the crisp, cool air. As a physician scientist with the National Institutes of Health, Baechler spent time studying preventive health initiatives in Finland – a country with long, cold and snowy winters. She observed people fully embracing the outdoors during the winter, bundled up and running, walking, socializing and even biking year-round.

2. Make activity part of your holiday rituals. Spend time after a traditional holiday meal doing something active as a group. Going for a short walk or spending time outdoors playing a game is a great way to embrace the change of seasons and create a new tradition.

3. Be mindful. Winter gives us an opportunity to reflect, listen to our bodies and slow down. Be mindful that if you are moving less during the season, you should eat a little less.

4. Think like a kid. Most kids are excited by the first snowfall. Part of the mind, body and spirit approach to enjoying what is beautiful about winter is to enjoy and appreciate the changing landscape.

5. Think small rewards. If you get outdoors and enjoy a winter activity such as walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or ice skating, take some time to reward yourself with a cup of hot tea or some time in front of a fireplace. Taking time for reflection is also a great personal gift.

6. Get creative. There are many options for staying active and fit during the winter. Find an indoor place to walk such as a local mall or sports center. Many schools or community recreation centers offer indoor swimming. Or, try something new such as warm yoga or a community education class.

7. Back to the basics. After the hustle and bustle of the holidays what people remember most is the time spent with others. Most people put too much pressure on themselves to find the perfect gift, to prepare the perfect meal, when what matters most is time spent with others.

8. Think three. Remind yourself of three things you are grateful for each day. Gratitude helps you stay in the moment and be present.

Courtney Baechler, MD, is a practicing physician with and the vice president of the Penny George Institute. Make an appointment with her by calling 612-863-3333, or learn about classes offered by the Penny George Institute


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Combat winter blues with aromatherapy

CitrusBy Julie Streeter, RN, NCTMB, Certified Aromatherapist, learning and development specialist

As the days get shorter and the sun becomes less intense, my overall mood seems to diminish. One way I combat the winter blues is through aromatherapy, which uses essential oils from plants to maintain and restore health.

I love the fresh, clean aroma of citrus oils and find that even a quick spritz of a citrus spray can improve my mood and refocus my attention. An added bonus is that the citrus oils can be used for green cleaning too.

Smell is one of our strongest senses. When we breathe in an aroma, scent molecules travel through the nose to the olfactory membrane. The receptors there recognize scent molecules and send messages to the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system holds involuntary emotional responses, and we assign emotions to the aromas we breathe in.

That is why when I smell citrus, I am reminded of words like clean, uplifting and fresh, and I am transported back to summer days sipping lemonade by the lake.

One of my favorite citrus blends includes the essential oils of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) and lemon (Citrus limon). I make the following citrus spray for a mood enhancer.

Citrus spray: Take a four-ounce spray bottle and fill it with 3.5 ounces of water. Add 12 drops of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), 12 drops of grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) and 12 drops of lemon (Citrus limon) essential oils. When ready to use the spray, shake the bottle and spritz into the air.

Although the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing clinics in Minneapolis and Fridley sell essential oils, they do not carry these particular ones. You can order citrus oils online from Plant Extracts International, which supplies Allina Health with essential oils.

But wait … it gets even better. The citrus oils not only have wonderful aromas that remind us of summer days, they also have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.  Essential oils are made up of many chemical components.  In citrus oils, the main chemical component is d-limonene, which research has shown has disinfectant properties.

During winter months with bacteria and viruses lingering in the air and on surfaces, I use the citrus spray on my countertops and door knobs to fight germs.

When using citrus oils, it is important to note some safety concerns:

  • Citrus oils should not be applied directly to the skin as they can be irritating.
  • If applying to skin, citrus oils should be mixed in a carrier oil (like jojoba or grape seed) or unscented lotion at a 1 percent dilution, or 5-6 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of oil or lotion.
  • Most citrus oils are phototoxic, which means that if the oils are used on the skin and the skin is exposed to sunlight, the ultraviolet rays of the sun are enhanced and sunburn may occur. To be safe, cover up any exposed skin for 24 hours after applying citrus oils when going outside.
  • It is best to use organic or unsprayed citrus oils because they are made from the rind of the fruit. Pesticides have been found in citrus essential oils that are not grown organically.

So, if you are feeling like the winter blues are setting in, try mixing up some citrus spray to improve your mood, and wipe down a few countertops while you are at it.

Julie Streeter, RN, NCTMB, is a Certified Aromatherapist and a learning and development specialist for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. The Penny George Institute sells essential oils for aromatherapy at its outpatient clinics at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Unity Hospital. The Penny George Institute also offers aromatherapy classes and services.