Chinese medicine is very seasonally focused. It is believed that to stay at our energetic best it is important to align ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally with what is happening in nature.
In nature, winter is a time of rest & restoration. This is the period where seeds lay seemingly dormant in the ground. But they don't just rest. The seed is gathering strength, nutrients and knowledge from it’s surroundings. While resting it is collecting all it needs ready to start on its journey in spring.
In many ways Human's are similar, the body cannot restore without adequate rest and nutrients on hand. I am sure you would agree that it is unreasonable to think that a daffodil can bloom and maintain its full health all year. Yet although humans are different to plants it seems many of us want to keeping blooming year in and year out. To me this is not realistic. We all need to recharge and winter energy supports us to do so.
This inward pull can feel restrictive and lower mood in some people. Lack of sunlight does not help either so try to be out in natural sunlight when you can, or add Vit D supplements over winter if you experience winter blues. For a balanced mood it is important to have some movement but keep exercise low key (qigong, yoga etc ) until your energy picks up.
The Chinese element for Winter is water. The water organs of the body are our bladder and kidneys. When the water element is in balance we feel clear, calm, focused and still. When out of balance we can show signs of black around the eyes, ongoing fatigue, insomnia, feel chaotic, anxiety or pee alot.
It is interesting to note that the adrenal complex is attached to the kidney. In TCM overused adrenals drain the Kidney energy of the body lead us to feel ‘burnt-out’ and exhausted. In TCM it is considered the kidneys are our energy store-house or bodies batteries. Low kidney energy can be linked with the aging process, hormone imbalances and anxiety. Other signs of low kidney energy can be arthritis, ear ache, tinnitus, low back pain, knee problems and feelings of cold.
To recharge, your kidneys need you to stop & lie down! Keep them protected them from the cold (no hipsters)! Eat warm nourishing soups and stews made with dark colours like mushroom and black beans. Work on iron, Vit C, omega oils, calcium and vitamin B stores to fortify your nervous system, blood and bones for the year ahead. Make use of cinnamon sticks and cloves to warm you from the inside and fend off the cold. Try to minimize coffee as this uses up your kidney store and only gives false energy for a short time. Keep skin covered as cold air has a contracting effect on the skin which can lead to muscle pain and achy joints.
Simple things like going to bed earlier make all the difference. When you can try to enjoy traditional winter pleasures such as a cosy fire to curl up next to, watch movies, read books, listen to music, cook & bake at home, meditate to relax the mind, work on arts and crafts.
If you work with the contracted energy around you instead of fighting against it, you will find your winter will settle into a quiet contented rhythm, helping you recharge again for the new projects of spring.
Best wishes for peaceful winter break.