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Staying Healthy in Autumn

BY: JESS CLAYTON, M.AC., L.AC. – SEPTEMBER 24, 2018 – ACUPUNCTURE

Like most people in our culture, you are probably not sitting around thinking about how to live in harmony with nature. Instead however, you may be thinking of ways to stay healthy as the weather is beginning to change and cold & flu season starts to arrive. According to Chinese Medicine, learning about the nature of each season and honoring the changing needs of your body within the cycles of the seasons is the best way to stay healthy. By listening to how nature’s seasonal cycles affect us and adjusting our lifestyles to harmonize our bodies with them, we begin to create a stockpile of health and energy to sustain us throughout the Winter months. We are not living with nature, rather we are a part of nature.

Autumn is a time when the leaves begin to change and show us their beautiful colors before falling off the trees. There is a slight nip in the air which causes us to put away the Summer clothes and begin to get out the warmer clothing. The days are beginning to get shorter and we begin to harvest and reap the benefits of the warm, growing season that the Spring and Summer provided us with. For me, Autumn has always been my favorite season because it feels like a time for renewal within myself as well as in nature. Almost as if a new year is beginning, it is a time to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the busy, fun and expansive yang spirit of the Summertime and go inward, to a more contractive yin time when I start cooking more soups and stews, beginning or continuing knitting projects and resting more.

When we observe nature in the Autumn, we see that it is entering a process of withdrawal. The sap in the trees begins to descend and sink deeper towards the roots of the trees, the leaves begin to change color to vibrant oranges, yellows and reds. The trees themselves begin to let go of their leaves and they fall back to the earth to fertilize new growth for the next Spring. The birds begin to migrate south and the ground begins to harden. Cold slows everything throughout nature down and as this is happening outside in the wild, it is also happening internally within our bodies. Without the period of rest that occurs in the Fall and Winter, there would never be enough energy to produce growth in the Spring. We are a part of nature and we too must rest in the Fall and Winter months so that our energy can emerge healthy and strong for the Spring and Summer ahead. How can we hope for growth next Spring unless we let go of the old and create space for the new?

In Chinese Medicine, the Autumn months are showing us through nature how to create, reflect and let go – just like the trees. As the cycle begins to transition into a period of rest for the Winter, we must be careful not to overexert ourselves like we may have done in the Summer months. Now is the time to begin more introspective projects and reflect within ourselves. This is the time to eliminate what is unnecessary and become aware of what is essential in our lives. There is a clarity that comes with the Autumn season that enables us to be able to sort through and decipher between what serves us and our own well being as well as how we benefit others in our lives. This clarity also allows us the ability to be aware of what we value most in life and to find the strength to set boundaries, say no to what no longer serves us and let it go. The Fall is a great time to recommit to a healthy lifestyle.

As we are entering the Autumn season the following are some lifestyle tips that I tend to discuss with my patients to maintain balance, nourish our digestive systems and create ease and stability as we transition from the yang of the Summer to the yin of the Fall and Winter:

◊ Breathe Deeply and Intentionally –
One of the best ways that we can strengthen and nourish our lungs is to breathe deeply. This sounds so simple and yet most of us are not breathing fully and deeply at all which can affect things like our memory, energy levels and immune system functioning. When we intentionally breathe deeply, we allow oxygen to flood the cells and brain which is vital to all the body’s functioning. Go for a walk outside in the crisp, fresh air of the Autumn, take in the beautiful Fall colors and breathe in as deeply as you can through your nose, taking in as much air as possible. Once your lungs are completely full, hold the lungs for a count of five. Then exhale through your mouth until your lungs are completely empty. Repeat this three times.

◊ Let Go of Negativity and What No Longer Serves –
Negativity can be extremely impactful psychologically and physically so it is always a good practice to let it go but it is especially important in the Autumn season. Autumn is the season to acknowledge the burden of resentment and hurt and release it. Often we can feel that a lot of the negativity in our lives is outside of our control but becoming aware of the negative things and thoughts that exist in our lives can help us to make the changes necessary to create more positivity. For issues that we may not be able to resolve directly with others or for old issues that we may have within ourselves, it can be helpful to write them down on a piece of paper, acknowledge that each of these pieces of paper are weighing you down and the old resentments are preventing new experiences from coming in. Then burn or tear up the paper to symbolically release the content.

◊ Organize and Clear Out –
Autumn is the perfect season to take inventory of the things in our lives, reorganize, clean and make room for the new. Doing this can feel freeing and strengthens our ability to let go which keeps us in harmony with the season. Cleaning out our closets and donating items that we no longer need or organizing our cabinets and making room to restock for the Winter are all great tasks for the Autumn season. Do a mental inventory as well and examine your attitude towards yourself and life, your goals for the upcoming year. Contemplate who you are and what it is that is most valuable to you. As you do this begin to focus on what you have accomplished thus far rather than worrying about all that still needs to be completed. During this season, we tend to become more aware of the amount of time that we have during the day. By creating a list, it can help to organize your thoughts, motivate you to be more productive and accomplish the most important tasks.

◊ Wear a Scarf and Dress for the Winter –
As the weather is beginning to transition, it is becoming the time when it is chilly in the mornings and still warm in the afternoons (especially in Maryland). Dressing for the weather can be a challenge and often we fail to anticipate the rapid change and underdress. Wind begins to pick up in Autumn which assists nature’s transition from warm weather to cooler weather. In Chinese Medicine, the wind is considered to be the cause of 100 diseases and cold & flu are believed to enter most easily through the back of the neck. By simply wearing a scarf you can stay warm during the weather change and protect yourself. Luckily they are also very trendy these days!

Drink More Water and Eat With the Season –
Drinking water is always important but as the cold weather begins the air also becomes dry which makes it even more important to stay hydrated beginning in Autumn. By staying hydrated with water it helps our digestive systems to work properly and timely and keep symptoms of dry skin, dry lips and dry sinuses at bay. A lot of patients tell me that they don’t like to drink water because it has no flavor. Try adding some lemons, limes or ginger to your water to give it some extra flavor – plus these foods are nourishing for the lungs this time of year. Nutrition and food plays an extremely important role in Chinese Medicine and as Hippocrates said, “Let food by thy medicine.” Eating our vegetables and whole grains is a great practice for our bodies throughout the entire year, but now is the time to start eating those warm, cooked and nourishing foods. Summertime creates warmth and helps the body digest cold and raw foods like salads, but as the weather turns cooler, eating raw or cold foods puts a strain on our digestive systems and makes it work harder. This is taking vital energy away from the body’s ability to defend itself from colds, flus and illness. Eating warm foods like soups, stews and steamed or roasted root vegetables helps to build up a reservoir of energy in the body that keeps our immune systems strong during the Winter months. By cooking foods longer and using heartier ingredients we nourish the body and use food to support our immune systems. If it grows underground then it is an Autumn vegetable.

The following are some great foods to nourish our bodies and our immune systems in the Autumn:
♦ Bone Broths
♦ Fermented Foods such as: Kimchi, Miso, Pickled Vegetables and Sauerkraut
♦ Fruits such as: Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Grapefruit, Grapes, Lemons, Limes, Pears and Plums
♦ Herbs and Spices such as: Bay Leaves, Black Pepper, Cardamom, Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Garlic, Ginger, Nutmeg, Rosemary and Turmeric
♦ Lentils and Legumes such as: Adzuki Beans, Black Beans, Garbanzo Beans, Green Lentils, Navy Beans, Red Lentils and Soy Beans
♦ Nuts and Seeds such as: Almonds, Chestnuts, Flax Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds and Walnuts
♦ Vegetables such as: Asparagus, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Chards, Kale, Leeks, Mustard Greens, Onions, Radishes, Sweet Potato and Turnips
♦ Winter Squashes such as: Acorn, Butternut, Hubbard, Pumpkin, Spaghetti, Yellow and Zucchini
♦ Other Foods such as: Eggs, Horseradish, Olives, Rice, Sourdough Brads, Tempeh, Vinegar and Yogurt

◊ Boost Immunity with Acupuncture –
Autumn is a wonderful time of year to get back to or start an acupuncture routine. This is especially important if you tend to suffer from colds, flus, pneumonia, asthma, depression, fatigue, arthritis or any other condition that may worsen in the Winter months. Acupuncture can be used as an integrative medicine with current Western medical treatments and can also be used as a preventative medicine. Acupuncture has been proven to directly boost the immune system which keeps us healthy and makes us less susceptible to viruses, colds and flus. Contact Oasis of Harmony Wellness to schedule your treatment today!

Getting in touch with the elements can help us to find better balance throughout our bodies and our lives. Living within the seasons can help us to feel more connected to the natural world as well as stave off illnesses and become more attuned to our own unique nature. Chinese Medicine shows us that although we may prefer one season over another, there is no one season better than any other. Each season has its own energy and plays a vital role in everything that exists in nature and within our bodies in order to function properly. Follow these tips and schedule your acupuncture treatment to create a reserve of strength, vitality and health for an abundant harvest in the Fall and Winter months to come.

To schedule an appointment at Oasis of Harmony Wellness, contact me at 443-286-0138 or jess@oasisofharmonywellness.com

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