by Nicole Johnson, MFA, CHHC | Acupuncture, Adrenal Fatigue, Fatigue, Health and Wellness, Insomnia, Nutrition
The holiday season is upon us. With it comes shorter days, longer hours of dark and for some of us, a struggle to feel balanced. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) –produced by the reduced sunlight in the Northern hemisphere this time of year– does impact how we feel. The recent time change combined with the colder weather and gray skies might make us feel fatigued, lacking motivation, and an overall sense of feeling down. The Vitamin D produced in our bodies after exposure to sunlight, plays an important role in regulating our mood and well-being.
What can we do to improve our mood, energy, and happiness as the days get shorter and the night gets longer?
Here are 7 ways to shine your light in this season of Yin.
1. Nourish the YIN.
Be gentle with yourself this time of year. In Chinese medicine, the winter is a time to slow down, rest and sleep more. We are moving into the deeper YIN time of the year, where the element of Metal is present.
Fall: Metal, Lung, Grief
The color associated with Metal is white, the organ is the Lung, and the emotion is Grief. Regardless of how you feel overtly, there has been a tremendous amount of collective grief the past number of years. We have a lot to grieve. Honoring this, feeling this, validating this is important to our vitality. It’s OKAY and imperative to grieve and grieve well.
2. Emphasize hearty, warm and nourishing foods
This helps us stay in sync with the season, connected, and grounded. If you are sleeping more and eating a bit more, remember that this is a natural part of your body’s rhythm for this time of year.
As you may know (or suspect) Acupuncture helps regulate mood, balance hormones, and put the body into “rest and digest” mode, bringing a sense of balance & peaceful contentment. It reconnects the body, mind and spirit. Acupuncture sessions can support the lungs both physically and energetically and help you process grief.
Just as the sun breaks the horizon, go outside. Look around the sun – trace your eyes like a clock – this helps reset your circadian rhythm. Think of it as relighting your inner flame with the light of the sun. As the days get darker our light will shine brighter.
5. Try a sun lamp
They are most effective when set 20 inches from your face and used for 20-30 minutes in the morning. Sun Lamps mimic natural sunlight and give the body the impression of being out in the sun. This helps improve mood when used consistently.
6. Walk outside even when it’s cloudy
Getting outside to get some natural light even if it’s not bright and sunny in combination with exercise helps improve mood. An hour walk in the morning works wonders to elevate mood but even 10 minutes a day makes a difference.
7. Take some Vitamin D
You can test your vitamin D levels to see where you’re at. Supplement to ensure you’re getting enough. (Please check with your MD before starting any new supplements.)
In this season of Yin, shine your light.
by Nicole Johnson, MFA, CHHC | Education, Fatigue, Prevention
The kidney element in Chinese medicine governs water and is associated with the season of winter, where the energies are turning from the hotter yang
months to the more yin
of winter. Each organ has an element associated with it: liver and wood, stomach and earth, kidney and water, for example. There is also an emotion, a color and flavor associated with the organ system. For the kidneys, the emotion is fear, the color is dark or black and the flavor is salty. It also opens to the ear, has the direction of north and is paired with the bladder. The kidney element houses willpower and manifests in the teeth and luster of the hair.
The organs in Chinese medicine are more than just a physical representation. The organs include not only their physiological function, but also mental, emotional, spiritual and elemental qualities that align with nature and the seasons. Let’s explore the kidneys.
The kidneys are the body’s root and contain both yin and yang energies. Yin is associated with what is dark, still, cold, feminine and is inward. Yang is more outward, hot, bright, moving and masculine. The kidneys control reproduction, growth and development and are associated with bones and marrow. The kidneys are said to store jing, which is likened to essence, what you’re born with and what’s inherited from your parents.
There are two types of Essence:
- Pre-natal is from your parents and can be likened to one’s basic constitution and DNA.
- Post-natal is what is transformed from the food you eat and lifestyle.
The second you have more control over health-wise. Ideally, there is a nice balance of kidney yin and yang energies, but if there is yin deficiency, there will be symptoms such as heat, sweating, dryness, irritability, insomnia and low back pain. If there is yang deficiency there are more cold signs such as cold extremities, cold and painful lower back, increased urinary frequency, fatigue, premature graying, water retention and low libido. There can also be an emotional component manifesting as increased phobias and anxieties. Many of the above-mentioned symptoms can be tied to the thyroid and adrenal fatigue in Western medicine.
How to care for your kidney this winter:
Keep warm: The kidneys are affected by exposure to cold. Try a nice scarf to protect your neck from the elements, and keep your feet and low back warm in those frosty winter months. Moxibustion, which is heated mugwort, is a wonderful supplement to acupuncture that warms particular acupuncture points on the body.
Eat warm: Foods that are beneficial to the kidneys (in moderation) tend to be dark in color such as black beans, sesame seeds, seaweed, kelp, lamb and beef. Other beneficial warming foods include ginger, cinnamon, miso soup, soybeans, walnuts, chives and Goji berries. It’s best to see your acupuncturist or other health care professional to get an idea of foods that are good for your particular constitution, as some of these foods can be harmful if taken in large amounts (kelp and seaweed, in particular). It’s also best to not eat too many cold, raw vegetables or cold smoothies. Also try to ingest food and drink at room temperature. There are wonderful herbal formulas to assist the kidneys that your acupuncturist can include in your treatment plan.
Light exercise: Light exercise such as tai qi, qi gong or walking has wonderful health and anti-aging benefits and won’t cause exhaustion.
Avoid overwork, overexertion, high stress: Overdoing it depletes your kidney energy, and you might experience ill effects of burnout that are usually associated with adrenal fatigue. Ancient Chinese medical texts also recommend curbing excessive sexual activity to keep kidney energy strong and vibrant and to increase longevity.
by Nicole Johnson, MFA, CHHC | Education, Fatigue, Illness, Immune Health
A very common complaint that acupuncturists hear from our patients is that they constantly feel tired. Sometimes this fatigue is related to lack of sleep, but sometimes no amount of rest seems to alleviate the sleepiness.
From an acupuncture and Chinese Medicine perspective, there are numerous imbalances in our bodies that can cause constant fatigue. Here are some of the most common imbalances that can lead to fatigue, lethargy, lack of energy and motivation, and tiredness.
Your energy is weakened or struggling
Simply put, when systems in our body are compromised (through illness, heredity, stress, or lifestyle choices), they can’t produce the abundance of good, positive energy our body (and mind) needs to function. Many different systems in our bodies can produce a feeling of fatigue when they are weakened. When the Qi or our Spleen and Lungs is compromised, we often feel like we don’t have enough energy to get through the day. This sort of fatigue often improves with good sleep, hygiene and a healthy diet. When our Liver Blood energy is weakened (through overwork, poor sleep, poor diet, illness, or excessive bleeding), the fatigue we experience is hard to shake. We may feel restless, and have a hard time falling asleep even though we are tired. This type of fatigue is improved by eating more dark leafy greens and more organ meats, to nourish the blood energy. A deficiency of either Kidney yin or Kidney yang – our two most fundamental energies – can also result in fatigue. This kind of fatigue manifests as true exhaustion. It is very important to give yourself ample time to rest, to recover from this type of tiredness. Dietary changes, as well as herbal medicine, can also be very helpful.
Your energy is stuck
Fatigue does not always stem from a weakness in your body’s energy. Sometimes fatigue comes from energy not moving properly. Health, in Chinese Medicine, is all about the smooth flow of energy through the body. When something alters that smooth slow – illness, injury, trauma, stress, poor lifestyle choices, etc – fatigue can be a result.
When your body’s energy is not flowing the way it should be, your body actually has to exert a lot more energy to keep you running well. The kind of fatigue that comes from Qi Stagnation (energy not flowing well) can present as a fatigue that is actually better with exercise or movement. It is the kind of fatigue that makes it really hard to get to the gym but completely disappears once you complete your work-out. Qi stagnation fatigue can make us feel “tired but wired,” and can also be closely related to feeling overwhelmed or run down by stress.
This sort of fatigue is helped by exercise, movement, and stress-reduction techniques.
You are damp
Dampness is a concept somewhat unique to Chinese Medicine – it refers to abnormal processing of fluids in the body. Dampness can “lodge” itself in many different areas, and as such, can lead to numerous symptoms. When dampness is pervasive throughout the whole body, usually one experiences a kind of constant fatigue – this can be both physical and mental. Patients who are tired from dampness describe feeling “sluggish,” “heavy,” or “fuzzy.” This kind of fatigue is greatly improved by making dietary changes, such as reducing the intake of dairy, cold temperature or raw foods, and greasy or fried foods. Dampness is also helped by regular exercise – which helps to break through that sluggishness and also trying to remove yourself from damp environments.
In all of these situations, acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can be a huge help. Acupuncture and herbs focus on creating balance in the body to restore energy and vitality, rather than giving you false energy like coffee or an energy drink. You don’t deserve to be tired all the time – the combination of diet, lifestyle changes, and Chinese Medicine can get you back on the road to health, vitality, and feeling great!