I sent the post below via e-mail several weeks ago, and I felt it necessary to repost here for several reasons. One being, the very next day after writing it, I noticed the temperatures dropped significantly here in North Carolina. After leaving my house, I somehow convinced myself that I would be OK with the 3/4 length sleeved shirt I was wearing (and no scarf!!) since I was going to be either inside a building or car for the majority of the day. Retrospective thought: Oh, how the mind will think of anything to justify what we already know is a less than good idea! The several minutes I was outside, I felt the chilly air on the back of my neck and I just knew it was the point of no return, the onset of something. Sure enough, over the next few days my body started to feel fatigued and lethargic, and I developed the all- too- common Fall season cold. Does this sound familiar? Read on for some self-care tips on staying healthy this season from a Chinese medical perspective.
Now that fall is in the air, temperatures are shifting and the days are getting shorter. Chinese medicine has a lot to say about how we are influenced by natural cycles, and what we can do to prevent our bodies from being out of balance with these cycles. This time of the year is associated with the element/energy of Metal and the organ systems of Lung and Large Intestine. Therefore, now is a good time to focus on strengthening our respiratory and digestive systems. Here are some useful tips on how to do this for optimal health in the upcoming season:
- Regular Acupuncture: Seasonal changes can be a time of turmoil as an individual’s qi (energy) might be out of harmony with the frequency of the season. Fall is the perfect time to take preventative action. Ward off illness and changes in mood with acupuncture treatments this autumn and start the school year, or just the cooler weather in general, with a balanced body, mind and spirit. Consistent acupuncture treatments assist in relieving stress, help you get sounder sleep and re-balance your energy. It can help boost your immune function and settle the mind.
- Sleep: Notice that nature is slowing down, contracting, and preparing to rest so it is natural for us to sleep a little longer than in the summer months. Focus on relaxation in the evening hours. Autumn is associated with late afternoon and evening time, and getting ready for the still, deep energy of the winter.
- Eat warming root vegetables, whole grains and hearty foods like soups, stews, and broths. Incorporating seasonal foods in your diet helps to connect the energetics of the season with the nourishment of your body. These foods will also work well to flush out and protect the intestines. When it comes to flavors, think pungent. Pungent and slightly spicy foods have a powerful up and out direction in the body, and this traditionally helps stimulate the lungs and break up any excess mucus. Try adding onions, ginger, garlic, leeks, radishes and turnips to your meals. Cayenne, ginger and curry also promote good digestion and elimination.
- Protect your lungs by drinking plenty of fluids, doing a daily sinus rinse and wearing a scarf. The back of our neck is a particularly vulnerable place where cold and wind can invade easily and compromise our immune system, so cover up!
- Regular Exercise. Movement is essential year-round. Even with the fall and winter chill you want to maintain your exercise regimen. It will help reduce the seasonal depression that tends to crop up as the days become shorter, allow you to stay at a healthy body weight, improve your health, and let energy flow unimpeded. Try at least 30 minutes of cardio on most days of the week and be sure to include strength training.
- Always go back to the breath. Add a deep breathing and meditation practice to your daily routine by expanding your chest, opening your lungs, and breathing in deep to honor and nourish your body! In fall, we tend to be more introspective and it’s time to let go of emotions that no longer serve us. Take advantage of this opportunity by meditating to keep calm and focused. Strengthen your lung qi by setting aside time each day for breathing exercises. Take a yoga class or try Qigong to quiet the mind. Mindful breath work has so many benefits like eliminating toxins, releasing tension and pain, bringing a sense of clarity, and improving your quality of sleep.
Wishing you a healthy and peaceful season!