Chinese Medicine is based on aligning ourselves with the seasons. Winter is the most inward, yin, time of year. A time for slowing down, introspection and warmth. After the winter solstice, the days gradually get longer and there is hope in the return of the sun moving from yin towards yang. We crave the spring and the longer days, but our bodies are still in a winter slow down. Then suddenly all at once we feel it, spring, warmth it's here!
So then why are my joints so stiff, my mood so cranky and my headaches so horrible. Why do I feel more depressed and anxious than usual, you may ask yourself, when I'm supposed to feel amazing? The season I've been waiting for is here! Well, the answers lie in understanding that seasonal transitions are big for the body and mind and the change from winter to spring can be the most tumultuous of all. So first of all, lets take a deep breath, give ourselves a break and understand why.
In Chinese Medicine, Spring is ruled by the Wood Element. When it is in harmony, the wood element is as flexible as a willow branch that can move and bend with the wind. There is ease in the body, breath and emotions. Everything flows and nothing is stuck. Spring is a time of setting goals, making plans and then manifesting those plans. If the wood energy is stuck, then that to-do list remains just that, a list, and is not put into action.
We are seeing this a lot at the clinic right now. Many people are wanting to make a change, lose weight, start a new job or project, get free of their irritability and stuck emotions, but not able to motivate putting their plans into action.
On a physical level, the wood element rules the tendons, muscles, eyes and diaphragm. If you are waking up stiff, more tired than usual, more headaches and neck pain than usual, then there may be an imbalance in the wood element. It is also influenced by the wind, which increases in the spring and causes upward rising symptoms like migraines, dizziness and anxiety.
So, how do we get ourselves 'un-stuck'? Well I'm glad you asked!! In this medicine, we look towards the organs that rule the wood element, Liver and Gall Bladder. Stagnation of these organs is epidemic in western culture because of our busy, high stress lifestyle and the typical western diet. Looking at these two areas of self care is key to getting un-stuck.
After the heaviness of the diet during the winter months, the spring diet should be the lightest of the year. Think 'spring cleaning' from the inside out. Adding sour flavors like lemon and lime to your water, fresh greens to your diet and decreasing heavier more processed foods, will begin to free up your energy and allow the organs to clean out the excesses of winter.
Moving your body is key, but try not to have a weekend warrior mentality of doing everything all at once. Starting with some brisk walks outside, stretching and deep breathing, will ease your body into a less 'stuck' place.
Emotionally if you feel stuck, it's important to bring a sense of mindfulness to your thinking. It's common to feel irritable in the spring, but watching this tendency, instead of feeding it with more negative thoughts, can help to break the cycle. Remembering to breathe into the diaphragm and not chest breathing is a great way to oxygenate the body and release tension to body and mind.
And of course, please come to the clinic for some seasonal 'tune-ups'! Regular acupuncture during the spring can be a powerful way to not only manage the symptoms that arise, but to get unstuck in a deeper way so that the body can thrive!
When following these above self-care suggestions remember this. In the spring the seeds are planted, then you must water and care for those seeds before they grow to fruition. It is the same way for any type of change for your body. Continue to care for yourself in small ways everyday, just like watering your plants, and gradually you will harvest the fruits of your labor in the form of increased vitality and greater health.
See you in the clinic!