by Emma K. Dweck
“During the Winter months all things in nature wither, hide, return home, and enter a resting period, just as lakes and rivers freeze and snow falls… Desires and mental activity should be kept quiet and subdued, as if keeping a happy secret…The theory of the Winter season is one of conservation and storage”
~The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (NeiJing SuWen), 240 BC
One very important facet of Chinese medicine is living in harmony with the seasons. This becomes especially important during the holidays, when stress levels rise, temperatures drop, and we find ourselves vulnerable to disease and exhaustion.
In Chinese medicine, winter is the time for rest. It becomes increasingly cold and dark, so like the plants and animals outside, it is natural for our bodies to move into a less active, restorative phase, in contrast to the busy summer months of movement and growth. It’s also natural to protect our resources, especially our energy and food in preparation for a long winter.
Although we have many modern technological advances such as heat, electric light and groceries shipped from all over the world, our bodies do not forget the original rhythms of the natural world. So, we instinctually need to slow down and begin to rest during the time of year that is often the most chaotic and active in American culture!
While we should be moving into a less active time when we can restore strength and nurture ourselves, we actually rev up—consuming at an alarming rate until we are burnt out—energetically and often financially. As we burn through our resources, our immune systems weaken, and we become vulnerable to viruses and infections.
So- how can you avoid illness and stay balanced this holiday season? Here are some practical tips:
Listen to your body! Getting enough rest is extremely important this time of year. If you can, try to go to bed at least one hour before you would in the summer. Avoid having lights or electronics on in your bedroom while you sleep.
Take time to yourself. Even if it is just for a few minutes, find a daily ritual that gets you out of the grind. Meditation, yoga, qi gong, and creative activities such as writing or artwork are great ways of doing this (and can double as holiday gifts!)
Keep yourself covered: wear plenty of layers to protect your system from exposure to extreme cold. In Chinese Medicine, disease often enters the body through the back of the neck and head, so scarves and hats are especially important.
Nourish your body with warm, hearty foods like soups and stews. Garlic, onions and ginger are warming as well as anti-inflammatory. Ginger is especially great for lung health.
Although there is a lot of it floating around this time of year, avoid sugary, cold food as it can be harmful to your body’s defense mechanisms. Sugar feeds viruses and bacteria while cold produces stagnant phlegm and makes it more difficult for your system to ward off disease.
If you think you’re getting sick, don’t be a martyr! At the first sign of illness, go home and get in bed. Sometimes the first signs are not cold symptoms, but simply an irritability and tightness in the neck.
Last, but certainly not least, come get acupuncture! Acupuncture works with the body’s natural energies to restore vibrancy and PREVENT disease. It is a fantastic way of staying healthy, energized and stress free this season.