While the global focus of 2020 has been on “health,” it’s also been harder than ever to take care of ourselves. Simply put, the stress we’ve endured collectively this year, in tandem with the lockdowns and social distancing, has put our holistic health at risk. Human needs include social interaction and easily accessible workout routines. It also includes a feeling of ‘normalcy’ to combat the stress. This picture of health – one that’s rooted in a human’s overall happiness and satisfaction – moves beyond the physical symptoms and into the mental and spiritual, which is referred to as “holistic health.” This view of well-being proves that how we feel comes down to our emotions and stress levels, and these components have an interactive relationship with one another.
This is the foundation of what Shannon Maddalena believes. Maddalena the Director of EvolvE Cryo & Wellness, a restorative oasis just south of downtown Austin that’s a frequent spot for many health seeking clients, including elite athletes. EvolvE centers in holistic health treatments such as massage, cryotherapy, and infrared light therapy, which each fight the stressors we’re all privy to in our day-to-day lives.
“These stressors may be environmental, from food toxicity, or the great mental stress that comes from work and finances. Holistic health treatments are able to help us detox, sleep more soundly, reduce inflammation and pain, improve energy levels and aid in athletic recovery,” Maddalena explained. “In other words – all the most important aspects of our health that we can pay attention to!”
Maddalena and I sat down to talk through the best holistic health tips that can help you to stay strong and healthy through the end of this year (with a boosted immune system, to be sure!) – while also bouncing back from a year of immense stress.
1. Invest in a massage and/or a day trip to the spa.
Massages don’t only feel fantastic. They’re great for you and your stress levels. “Some people still view massage, acupuncture and other holistic treatments as indulgent. We agree that these treatments make you feel great, but there’s so much more at play than just an increase in dopamine and serotonin,” explained Maddalena.
In fact, the holistic health treatments they provide each serve a far larger purpose than just helping you to relax. Massage reduces cortisol levels and enhances the body’s immune response. Another treatment they offer is cryotherapy, otherwise known as “cold therapy.” When having a cryotherapy session, you enter near-freezing temperatures. “Cryotherapy increases white blood cells when engaged in regularly, boosting immune function,” commented Maddalena. “And, the infrared Sauna is a deep cellular detox that gets the cardiovascular system revved up.”
All of these benefits can help the body recover and reboost in tremendous ways. Not to mention, it can be fun and relaxing.
2. Practice breathwork.
One of the best actions we can take for our stress is coming back to our breath. It happens subconsciously, but when we’re stressed, our jaws tense and our breath becomes shallow. In some cases, we may even be holding our breath without even knowing it! This drives the body into the sympathetic nervous system, which decreases our immunity and contributes to even more emotional stress. “Come back to your breath through meditation, yoga, or breathing techniques,” recommends Maddalena.
One common form of breathwork is what’s called “box breathing.” Inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and hold for four seconds. Then, repeat. This signals to the nervous system that it can calm down. It tells the body that everything is safe, which helps it do what it needs to do.
3. Get moving.
On the flip side of all this relaxing and spa time is physical exercise! “Even just getting out into the sunshine and going for a jaunt around the block can do wonders,” Maddalena added. “Fresh air and sunshine are good for the soul.” Getting chilly? Layer up and call up a friend for a socially-distanced walk. There are many creative ways to still get active throughout the upcoming winter months.
When sitting or laying down for too long, your blood flow can get stagnant. Promote circulation, get your heart pumping, and get a change in view – especially if you aren’t quite ready to return to a gym or a workout class, as they slowly start to reopen. Physical exercise also boosts endorphins and therefore serotonin. We need to move to feel like our happiest and best selves. It’s all interconnected.
Ultimately, these approaches to holistic health are more necessary than ever. Our bodies tend to hold onto stress unless there’s a way to release it, and there’s never been a more important time to pay extra attention to our health. Because stress and health are so deeply intertwined, approaching one is the same as approaching the other. Commit an early “new years’ resolution” by prioritizing these holistic health practices – whether at home or in a spa – to rejuvenate your body and soul.