'Tis The Season To Be...Taking It Easy!
With Christmas fast approaching, probably the last thing on your mind is the thought of sitting around and not doing very much! But I would like to convince you, with the help of Chinese medicine, why you should do exactly that - and how it is the key to staying healthy & happy this Christmas.
Christmas requires a lot of frantic rushing about, stress and worry - wrestling with other Christmas shoppers in crowded shopping centres, worrying about food, and feeling anxious about family politics. Those M&S and John Lewis adverts somehow convince us that the ‘perfect’ Christmas does exist and that it’s going to take a lot of money and time to achieve it. But it doesn’t have to be like that!
So here are my top tips:
Balance all the ‘doing’ with some ‘being’
After all, we are human BEings, not human DOings! When Chinese Medicine was being developed thousands of years ago, people lived in harmony with Nature. They rose with sun, ate what grew each season, dressed appropriately and engaged in activities that fitted with the time of year.
Chinese Medicine teaches us that this is the key to health and well-ness. Christmas falls when the nights are longest and the ground is coldest (in the Northern Hemisphere). It made sense, in the old days, to get everyone together when it just wasn’t possible to work outside. Christmas would last for 15 days - no one would work, candles were lit and a huge piece of wood (called a Yule log) was thrown on a open fire and would burn for days.
Christmas was a time for hospitality, charity and rest. It was perfectly in keeping with the Chinese view that winter is a time to slow down, go inwards and reflect. This doesn’t mean that all Christmas socialising and party-going should be avoided, but that it’s important to balance out the celebration and activity with some stillness. Some gentle yoga in the mornings, a simple meditation - just sitting still for a few minutes and watching your breath, writing in a journal, sitting next to a fire with a cup of tea. All activities we naturally crave over the winter but often don't make the time to do, in all the busy-ness.
Look after your kidneys As an acupuncturist, when I talk about Kidneys, or Liver, or any other bodily organ, I’m not only talking about the anatomical organ but a far wider set of attributes - its function, its emotional features and its corresponding body part. Each major organ system is also related to a season as Chinese philosophy sees us as an inseparable part of Nature.
The organ associated with Winter is the Kidneys and the emotion associated with the Kidneys is fear, or a heightened sense of anxiety. The emotion tends to show up more prominently in its corresponding season, so if you tend to feel more anxious over Christmas time, you’re not alone, and actually, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, it makes sense that you would. So how can you look after your Kidneys?
The Kidneys are the source of all energy in our body, like our own battery pack. So rest is vital. The cold, dark days urge us to slow down and conserve our energy, rebuilding our strength for the Spring. Try taking a bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil and having an early night. Even half an hour earlier, twice a week and the odd afternoon nap will give both your energy levels and immune system a boost.
Come to see me for some acupuncture. Treatments will address your current illness, deeper imbalances and also attune you to the season.
Drink bone broth
Rich in nutrients, it heals and soothes the digestive system - it is energising ‘liquid gold’, and so easy and cheap to make. Just cover bones with water and simmer for as long as you can. You can add bay leaves, peppercorns and onions if you like, or save any vegetable scraps throughout the week and pop them into the pot. Use a chicken carcass or beef bones. Beef is better as the marrow is closer to our own. Try to source bones from grass-fed beef (you can buy them online) as they won’t contain any chemical ‘nasties’ from the cattle feed that will compromise your health.
Drink it as it is, or use it as a base for soups, stews and risottos. Add warming ingredients, like ginger and garlic, for their flavour and health benefits. Eating seasonally means saving raw foods, salads and juices for the summer. Instead go for squashes, potatoes, root vegetables, winter greens, carrots and cabbages.
Try to avoid excessive sugar intake as by lowering your immunity, sugar issues an open invitation to infections and illnesses! Christmas is a time of excessive eating and drinking so try to balance with days of simple, nourishing, slow cooked foods. Your digestive system will thank you for it.
Go with the flow In a perfect world, we would all have 15 days off work to sleep, eat and rest when we felt like it. But today’s Christmas doesn’t allow for this, so instead of trying to resist the chaos of Christmas, go with the flow. In Chinese Medicine the smooth, free flow of qi ( “chee”; energy) results in a happy, healthy mind and body. When it stagnates, you develop pain and weakened immune health. So when you're stuck in Christmas traffic, the turkey is overcooked and the last latest toy ‘must-have’ has been bought........stop. Breathe through the craziness, recognise the changing nature of life and inwardly repeat to yourself: “This too shall pass”.