Winter is a time of yin, cold, retreating and silent. It is associated with the kidney energy, deep and dark, solid and still. It is a time of year which is perfect for introducing regular self care in to your life.
Self care is something I’m constantly asking of my patients. The trend towards having busy lifestyles, with busy-ness becoming a status symbol is detrimental to health. Gone are the days of coming home from work, eating and then simply relaxing and connecting with our loved ones. Today, most of us have multiple screens going – smart phones, tablets, televisions, laptops. When we stop rushing around, we are texting, facebooking, checking emails. When we aren’t doing that, we are running through mental to-do lists, trying to keep our busy lives running along smoothly.
This way of being impacts your health.
Our bodies and our minds need time to stop. They need stillness and rest. Our kidney energy is particularly impacted by this busy lifestyle. The kidney energy is our most base, fundamental energy. It contains both yin and yang, the nourishing water to cool and soothe and the dynamic drive which keeps our fires burning.
Now is the time to stop, to be still and to practice self care. Self care is about listening carefully to your body and meeting its most basic needs: food, rest, movement and nourishment of the soul. In Chinese medicine we believe in living according to the seasons, accordingly the way you take care of yourself in Winter will take that in to account.
The cooler weather means warming comfort food is appropriate, soups, stews and casseroles filled with good quality meat and vegetables. Avoid cold, raw or icy foods and drinks as these can introduce cold in to the body and weaken the digestion. Forget the salads. They are food for the warmer months! Warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, star anise, fennel and cumin help to strengthen the digestion and boost the energy.
Making an effort to get more sleep by going to bed early will help your body heal as well as balance the emotions and hormones. Gentle exercise will help to move the qi, and practices such as meditation, journaling and quiet contemplation are aligned with the introspective energy of Winter. Trying to minimise screen time, particularly in the wind down for bed time can create space for some of these practices, or for reading, doing a foot soak or having a lovely warm bath.
Spending time incorporating self care in to your routine can take some practice, but your mind, body and soul will thank you for it.
Anna McMullen is available for consult at Mornington Chinese Medicine on Monday and Saturday.
Call (03) 59736886 for booking enquiries