It was a cold day – below zero first thing in the morning and in the single digits later in the day. The sun was stubbornly hiding behind a dense layer of low hanging, steely-grey clouds. I painfully pulled myself out of bed and made it out of the house to each of my commitments that day, but not without a struggle and a grumble all day long.
“What am I doing out and about?!” my body screamed at me – “This is the time for hibernation! Go back to bed already!” I laughed it off and continued on with my day with a light hearted grumpiness.
But that part of me had a point.
In Chinese Medicine, health is understood to go deeper than the holistic perspective of medicine. Chinese Medicine is a holistic medicine. We look at the whole body – how everything is working together, where things are off and how they might be connected. We look at how lifestyle, energy levels, sleep, and food affects health.
We look for not only what is wrong, but why it is wrong, and aim to treat from the root, in order to resolve the symptoms you are experiencing. This is especially powerful in that two individuals may have the same symptoms, but the underlying cause could be completely different. Thus we treat them differently, based on the patterns that can be found from the bigger perspective. This approach to health is not unique – many complementary and integrative therapies have found this holistic approach to be useful.
One of the things that I love the most about Chinese Medicine is how it views health in connection with, and in relation to, the cycles of the natural world around us. Winter is a time when many animals tuck in, receiving nourishment from what they’ve stored during the summer and fall, sleeping through the long, dark and cold days. Agrarian societies would follow this same rhythm through the winter months as well. This was a time for mending tools and working on projects indoors, settled close to the fire. Staying warm, being less active.
So what does it mean that our culture pushes us forward into maintaining our regular routines regardless of the month or the weather? We are often staying active and involved through the winter months. Some do this with ease, they are constitutionally ready to simply add layers and burst out the door to go play in the snow and cold. For others there is a deep need for restorative rest during this time, that can be challenging to allow. For some, finding balance is crucial to not slip into depression or other mental health challenges.
Winter in Chinese Medicine is linked to the adrenal glands and the kidneys. These are seen as the stewards of our deepest energy reserves. By living our lives in balance, eating well, with mindfulness, and allowing ourselves the space to breathe, we are able to add to these energy reserves. (Meditation, mindfulness, hot baths (with epsom salt), roasted veggies, soups and stews are excellent ways to refill and nourish ourselves in winter!)
Our culture’s tendency to keep on going, going, going is supported by these deep energy reserves. Our adrenal glands produce adrenaline – our bodies fight or flight survival instinct and drive. These days, it is most often activated by looming deadlines and high pressure expectations (either from others or from within).
Sometimes, what we really need is an extra nap (I just took one), an extra day off, some space to really feel some difficult emotions we may have been avoiding through staying busy.
In what ways can you invite a bit of hibernation into your life? Can you go to bed a couple hours earlier one night this week? Can you commit to 10 minutes of meditation 3 days this week? Can you allow yourself a wellness day or personal health day in lieu of a sick day?
Sometimes, there are imbalances in your health that mean you are not able to get the rest you need – insomnia, a pressing need to keep on going, an unease in the body that makes slowing down uncomfortable. This is when reaching out for help is good.
Acupuncture, shiatsu, and Chinese herbs can restore balance so the body can find its own healthy rhythms in wellness and to refill these reserves. At Deep Roots Acupuncture, we are happy to schedule a free 30-minute consult to see if we can meet your needs. Or you can schedule a time to come in for a an initial intake and start a series of treatments. Chinese Medicine could make you feel better than you ever thought you could!
Many blessings in winter,
“Everyone should meditate for 20 minutes every day.
Unless they are too busy. Then it should be an hour.” -Zen Proverb