- Kong's Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine5751 Kroger Drive Suite 257
Keller, TX 76244682-560-8806
- • Seven Healthy Fall Habits •
- • 5 Ways to Stay Fit This Fall •
- • Improve Your Mental Health with Regular Meditation •
- Three Reasons to Add Deep Breathing to Your Daily Routine
- Acupuncture for Healthy Weight Management
- 8 Benefits of Practicing Regular Meditation
- Acupuncture and Peripheral Neuropathy Relief
- 5 Benefits of Acupuncture Care
- 5 Essential Oils to Use with Your Self-care
- More Than Meets the Ear
- 5 Natural Ways to Improve Women’s Health
- Why You Should Get Regular Acupuncture Treatments
- 6 Reasons You May Be Having Sleepless Nights
- Come in this month for a special rate!
5 Ways to Stay Fit This Fall
If you are on a fitness roll this summer, you don’t want to “fall” back into old habits (pardon the pun). As the weather gets colder, you might find it challenging to maintain the same fitness routine. Or maybe you took the summer off, and you are ready to kick off a fall campaign to get in shape. Whatever your goals or motivations, here are five tips to keep you on track.
You may be a morning workout person in the summer as you try to beat the heat, but you might need to rethink that as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter. Try an after-work workout to see how you adjust and which one feels better. Pay particular attention to what makes you feel more energized. If you are so tired after a morning workout that you find it difficult to make it through the day, then perhaps you should go for an evening routine. But make sure you can still fall asleep after an evening workout. Once you determine which time of day works best for you, stick to a routine to maintain your results.
Another great tip is to take advantage of the cooler temps to enjoy more outdoor activities like hiking, biking, walking, or running. Incorporate some weekend hikes or just an after dinner walk around the neighborhood a few nights a week. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, just get outside and move!
While you may find yourself motivated to get started or keep your fitness routine going, make sure you set realistic expectations. It’s about progress and not perfection. Setting your expectations too high can set you up for failure so give yourself some grace and know that some days, the weather may not cooperate.
Another great way to keep motivated is to take advantage of all the great fall produce to help fuel your body as you set this new pattern of fitness routine. Nutrition is a key piece of the puzzle so load up on all the great fall fruits and veggies.
Another key piece of advice is to keep some at-home workouts in your back pocket. The weather won’t always cooperate and sometimes you just won’t feel like going out early or making that after work workout a reality. Another way to set yourself up for success is to create a few living room exercise routines. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of workout apps and YouTube videos that can help you maintain your fitness goals while at home.
Whatever you do, just make sure to keep moving! While it might be tempting to curl up under a warm blanket, Netflix and chill, make sure you are incorporating your fitness goals into your day so you can maintain the fitness wins you achieved this summer.
Improve Your Mental Health with Regular Meditation
Meditation has a reputation for several health benefits but what is it exactly? It is defined as the regular process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. There are some key reasons you might want to consider establishing a regular meditation routine. The overall improvement in your health and wellbeing just might surprise you.
Research proves that meditation can really be a stress reducer. Too much stress in your life can cause sleep issues, depression, anxiety, and even high blood pressure. An 8-week study published in 2013 found that “mindfulness meditation” actually reduced the inflammatory response caused by too much stress.
As mentioned previously, as stress levels decrease, so does anxiety. A 2014 study examined the transcendental meditation technique and found that it reduced anxiety significantly. However, that’s not the only technique that reduces anxiety. Additional research has found that a variety of techniques can reduce anxiety levels. It doesn’t matter what technique you try, just get started!
After the pandemic, we all know just how important it is to maintain our mental health. Regular meditation has been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression by decreasing the levels of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which are released in response to stress. It can also help people experience fewer negative thoughts.
Studies also show that regular meditation practices can lead to enhanced performance on visual tasks and a greater attention span than those who don’t regularly practice meditation. And you don’t need to set a goal of meditating for hours on end. Other studies have indicated that even short periods of meditation each day can be a benefit.
And, in case you haven’t noticed yet, each of these benefits just continues to cascade to additional benefits! Now that you know that regular meditation can lead to improvements in attention and clarity, you might be happy to hear that both benefits lead to keeping your mind young and healthy overall.
Studies have found that in addition to fighting the normal age-related memory loss that comes from getting older, meditation can at least partially improve memory in those suffering from dementia. It can also help to control stress and improve coping skills in caregivers.
Even the Mayo Clinic touts the benefits of meditation. They also outline the different types including guided meditation, mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, Qi gong, tai chi, transcendental meditation, and yoga. They also advise that meditation takes practice, and you will get better at maintaining your focus and breathing the more you engage in the practice.
The bottom line is that meditation is something that everyone can try to improve their mental and emotional health. You don’t have to have a particular level of athletic ability; it doesn’t require a special location or equipment and you don’t have to buy a membership at a gym to try it. A simple Google or YouTube search can get you started. Trying out a variety of styles to see what might work best for you is a great way to begin your meditation journey.
Staying Active and Healthy in the Warm Summer Months
After the cold winter and unpredictable Spring weather we’ve been having, everyone is ready for a warm summer with longer days filled with rest, vacation, and family time. However, the warmer temperatures can often bring unanticipated health risks like seasonal allergies, heat stroke, and bug bites. Read on for a few tips to keep you not only active, but healthy as you embrace those dog days of summer.
The summer months are a great time to get outside and get moving, especially if you live in a climate that doesn’t allow you to get out much during the winter and early spring months. That additional physical activity can lead to healthy hearts and maybe a trimmer waistline. As the temperatures heat up, it might be tempting to stay inside and enjoy the air conditioning but don’t fall for an all or nothing trap! If it gets too hot in your area, take a walk or an early morning bike ride before the heat is unbearable. If early mornings aren’t your thing, try a late evening stroll to get a little extra fitness in your day.
If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean or close to national parks, then hiking and biking on those gorgeous trails should be on your summer to-do list. A jog along the beach or an ocean swim are also great options. And don’t forget, your body isn’t the only thing that will benefit from the increased physical activity, your mind with thank you as well. Exercise is a great way to boost your mental health and improve your sleep.
Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
While getting outdoors is great, it also comes with risks. Too much UV light from the sun can be hazardous to your health, contributing to skin damage and increased cancer risk. Too much UV exposure can lead the skin to lose elasticity, get deeper wrinkles, and contribute to an overall premature aging of the skin.
To protect yourself, make sure you choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 50. And make sure you reapply your sunscreen after swimming or sweating. Getting outside is great for your mental and physical health but not if you burn in the process!
In addition to sun protection, it’s important to make sure you are consuming plenty of fluids in the warmer temperatures. It might be tempting to indulge in those fruity alcoholic drinks, but they are not effective against dehydration, and neither is caffeine. They make it more difficult for the body to stay properly hydrated because they increase the body’s fluid output. Chronic dehydration can lead to serious complications such as kidney failure and shock.
Signs you might be dehydrated include:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Little or no urination
Saying healthy and active is definitely doable over the summer with just a little bit of planning and awareness. So, get outside and enjoy these long, warm days while you can!
Three Tips to Stay Mentally Strong This Summer
While many look forward to the summer months filled with vacations, time outside, and less structure, others can feel overwhelmed and out of control. For those struggling with anxiety or depression, the care-free days of summer can feel anything but. Read on for three simple tips to help keep your mental health in check this summer.
Tip #1: Get Outside and Get Active
The first tip is to get outside and get moving! Getting regular exposure to natural sunlight increases your level of vitamin D and serotonin which are known mood-boosters. Take an evening or early morning walk to beat the heat, take a walk on the beach and feel the sand between your toes and the waves lapping at your ankles, or simply sit on a porch and watch the sunset. Outdoor hobbies like gardening, biking, or hiking are also great ideas to incorporate into your summer plans.
If you aren’t the gym type, try a simple yoga class or just taking a walk outside. It’s easy to use the heat as an excuse to binge-watch Netflix and chill, but don’t do it! Even just 20 to 30 minutes of activity each day can help you feel fit and boost your mood. You will be surprised by how good you feel as you develop this habit over the summer.
Tip #2: Plan a Vacation
Everyone needs a little getaway now and then and using your vacation time to plan a trip and unplug is key to refocusing your energy and clearing your mind. It’s tempting to use your vacation time to accomplish household chores or other things that need to get done in your personal life, but you also need to enjoy yourself and recharge your batteries.
If funding limits how far you can travel, a staycation works, too. Just don’t try to clean the garage or remodel your kitchen. Read that bestseller you’ve been putting off, hit a local pool or the beach if you live close by. Take a day trip to a museum or water park to get a change in scenery. Just do something fun! Getting away from your everyday routine can clear your mind and boost your mood. It’s important to unwind and refocus when you can.
Tip #3: Establish a Healthy Sleep Schedule
With summer comes relaxed bedtimes and sleeping in later than usual. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Experts recommend 8 to 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night and going to bed and waking up at about the same time every day helps, too. This doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally indulge in a late morning, but keeping things consistent helps you maintain good sleep hygiene habits which also contributes to your physical and mental well-being.
Use these tips to check in with yourself and make sure you are on track to stay physically and mentally strong this summer.
Planning the Perfect Summer Vacation
It’s that time of year when the perfect summer getaway is within reach. Whether you are looking for a beach vacation or a mountain retreat, it’s never too early to begin researching the perfect summer vacation. Here are a few suggestions to get you started and ensure a successful and relaxing trip!
Book Early vs. Last Minute Deals
The summer season is often the peak vacation time for many destinations so if that’s the case with your preferred location, you might want to book early to take advantage of any flight, hotel, or rental car deals. Set alerts or, if you can be flexible, fly during non-peak times during the week as opposed to the weekends. You can also set alerts for your preferred hotel company or join their loyalty program to take advantage of any offers there.
While planning ahead can be a great way to score a deal before prices rise, sometimes leaving a little wiggle room for any last-minute deals can score even bigger savings. Venues might offer discounts for unclaimed tickets or cancellations. Don’t be afraid to ask about any sales or promotions. It’s always best to keep your options open!
Get Family Buy-In
You might have grand plans about a Hawaiian beach getaway, while the rest of the family is thinking theme park extravaganza. It’s important when planning a family vacation that you get buy-in from everyone on the location and itinerary. Make sure you include activities for each member of the family and get everyone involved in the planning process. When everyone is excited and looking forward to going, you won’t have unexpected battles to fight down the road. Pro tip: If you have kids, keep them busy wherever you go! From activities to keep them busy on the flight to daytime fun when you reach your destination, you want to make sure the kids are active enough to have fun and be ready for bed when the day ends.
Less Stress, More Relaxation
Everyone in your family may have a different idea of what a stress-free and relaxing vacation looks like. Some people like to pack every minute full of activities as they explore a new place while others want to lie on the beach or by the pool all day every day. No matter what your speed, plan some time to relax and take in your surroundings.
And definitely don’t add unnecessary stress to your vacation. If flying is too much for your family, consider a road trip. If getting to the airport is the most stressful part of the trip, consider a ride share option so you don’t have to worry about parking. Also, check your credit card rewards to see if you have access to an airport lounge. A lounge is a great way to relax before a flight.
And the most important advice is to enjoy the experience and make memories with your friends and family no matter where your trip takes you.
Healthy Choices for a Healthy Spring
After a long cold winter, Spring is a time for renewal and growth. The flowers and trees begin to bloom once again and the grayness of winter transitions to the brightness and warmth of Spring. If you have struggled to keep those New Year’s resolutions going, Spring is a great time for a fresh start with healthy choices. Here are a few tips to keep you and your family healthy and ready to enjoy the longer days of summer that are just around the corner.
Freshen Up Your Fitness Routine
If your fitness routine didn’t get off to a great start in the new year, it might be time to shake things up a bit as you head into Spring. With warmer temperatures and longer days, rethink how you approach your fitness plan and look at it as a chance to have some fun. Sign up for a 5k or join a weekend softball or basketball league. Pickleball and tennis are gaining in popularity across the country as well. And if a team sport isn’t your cup of tea, try hiking, biking or swimming.
Freshen Up Your Diet
Spring fruits and vegetables are coming back into season, so this is a great time to choose unprocessed whole foods rather than those full of sugar and preservatives. Avoid foods with corn syrup, dextrose, and fructose. If you are prone to afternoon snacking, choose raw foods like nuts, carrots, zucchini, or broccoli. Spring fruits and veggies are loaded with fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients so hit that farmer’s market and stock up on the bounty of options.
Freshen Up Your Me Time
Whether single or married, kids or not, it is important to schedule some “me” time and make it a priority, just as you would a doctor’s appointment. And it doesn’t have to be a long time and it doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be something as simple as a morning walk before work with a good cup of coffee in hand. Or it could be a hot soak in the tub with a glass of wine and a good book. Or it could be time spent in the garden after a long day of sitting at your desk. And if you try something you thought would nourish your soul and it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to try something else.
Freshen Up Your Social Life
Use these longer days to connect with people in your life. Schedule game nights, movie nights, walks, hikes, or happy hours to enjoy time with family and friends. Force yourself to do a digital detox and put down the phone, tablet, or laptop and step away from social media. Other ideas include volunteering, getting involved in a new hobby or sport are great ways to meet people and connect in new communities.
Another great tip is to make sure you are getting enough sleep every night. It is best for adults to get at least seven hours of sleep per night. Establishing all these healthy habits in Spring can set you up for a great summer and beyond.
Tips and Tricks for a Sparkling Spring
For some, Spring cleaning is a productive and anticipated right of passage each year. It’s a time to stock up on essential cleaning and organizational supplies and deep clean the house. For others, it’s a dreaded time to confront the messiness and chaos that can come with a long cold winter. Here are a few tips and tricks to get your Spring cleaning under control and make it less overwhelming.
Make it Manageable
The first tip is to break down your Spring-cleaning chores into more manageable chunks. Set the timer on your phone for 15 minutes and then tackle some simple tasks like dusting open surfaces and ceiling fans, door frames and switch plates, or baseboards. This can help you feel like you are accomplishing something without spending a ton of time. Using microfiber cloths and mops can help you pick up dust in a flash.
Make Your Own Cleaning Solution
If the chemicals in store bought cleaners concern you, make your own natural cleaning solution with ingredients you probably already have on hand. Combine the following ingredients in a spray bottle and shake it well:
- ¾ cup of water
- ¾ cup of rubbing alcohol
- 5 to 10 drops of peppermint, lemon, or orange essential oils
- 1 squirt of natural dish soap
Once your mixture is complete, spray on to surfaces and wipe with a clean cloth.
Keep Your Shower Clean
One easy way to keep your shower clean is to keep supplies in there so you can clean while you are in the shower. Keep a squeegee in the shower so you can wipe down the walls. Keep a spray bottle or dish wand with equal parts dish soap and vinegar in the shower to scrub things down and keep the potential mess under control.
If your favorite coffee or tea mug is embarrassingly stained, use a little baking soda to make them like new. Fill the mugs with one part baking soda and two parts water. Then let it sit overnight and in the morning clean it out with a sponge.
Use the Right Tools
There are lots of tools to help you clean the toilet quickly and without getting too close to the mess. There are also some great tools to help you clean your blinds and windows. When the days get longer and sunnier, you want to open the blinds and windows, right? And that’s when you notice the dust on the blinds and smudges on the windows. Use tools that help you dust multiple blinds at once. And there are tools to help you tackle those hard-to-reach corners and tall windows.
Tips and tools abound to help you get your living space sparkling clean for Spring and beyond so take advantage of what’s out there and tackle what you can in small bites and before you know it, your house will be a place of refuge and comfort.
Fitness Routine Spring Cleaning
With warmer temperatures and longer days, it’s time to evaluate your fitness routine and give it a Spring overhaul. While we might find comfort in being creatures of habit, it’s important to frequently switch up your fitness routine for a few different reasons. One reason is to avoid hitting a fitness plateau. But how do you know when it’s time for a change? If any of the following apply to you, it might be time to freshen things up.
If your routine brings with it a sense of dread, it might be time to try something new. If you stop seeing results and you aren’t making any forward progress, then it’s time to make a change. If you feel unusually tired rather than energized after your routine and you watch the clock to count down the minutes, then you definitely need to switch things up.
Evaluation is Key
Before you just change everything up, make sure to take some time and evaluate your routine and how it relates to your fitness goals. Does your current routine challenge you? Do you look forward to your workouts or dread them? With Spring here, there are lots of options to explore to help you switch up your routine.
The first thing you can take advantage of with longer days and warmer temperatures is to take your workout outside. Sometimes a simple change in scenery is all it takes to snap out of a dull routine. Some cities offer classes in the park like yoga or aerobics or even an early morning fitness boot camp.
You also might consider registering for a running club or just register for a 5k or hiking challenge. And with longer days, you can get up earlier to work out before your day fully begins. And add a little variety to your routine by including some free weights, resistance bands, or Kettlebells. Sometimes, a new pair of shoes or yoga pants can provide just the right amount of motivation.
And if none of that works to infuse a little energy into your fitness routine, try a new class or take a lesson. Group fitness classes can provide you with a connection to a new community and new forms of movement. Take a golf or tennis lesson with family and friends. This can also be a way to get your friend group or family out for some fresh air and activity.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you enjoy it. If you dread your workout, then you aren’t going to reach your goals or enjoy the journey. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try something new. Everyone’s routine and goals are different and as individualized as you are. Find the formula that works for you and don’t be afraid to make adjustments along the way.
The Joy Of Healing: How Summer Fun Heals the Heart
What comes to mind when you think of summer? For me, it stirs up nostalgia of childhood feelings of freedom, knowing that those endless days were all mine to fill with family and friends as we shared the sunshine. While “adulting” doesn’t always leave room for that kind of freedom, the promise of summer still gives us so much to celebrate.
In TCM, summer belongs to the Fire element. It is about expansion, outward expression, activity and joy. The heart is the ruler of this time. It houses the shen, or spirit, and this is the time to let the spirit dance and frolic and feel as free as possible. With the fire element in balance, the heart is happy, the mind is clear and the body maintains health with a blend of movement and stillness, excitement and peace. Summer is nature’s way of healing the heart by providing the ideal setting for all things heart-related!
So get pumped up for summer and all the healing it brings via:
What better way to bask in the healing power of summer than by soaking up the healing rays of sunshine. Obviously stop before you get burned, but don’t be afraid to feel that shine and let it in. When UVB rays hit human skin, they help to produce Vitamin D3, which reduces risk of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension . Those same UVB rays cause the skin to release beta-endorphins which promote natural pain-relief and a sense of well-being. Sunlight also helps the body to release nitrogen oxides, which opens up arterial flow and have anti-inflammatory effects. The exposure to sunlight is also required to set our natural circadian rhythms which regulate our sleep and wake cycles. For those of us who experience cold winters, the warmth of sunshine is one of the most welcome feelings and one of the best ways to support our fire element.
The energy of summer in Chinese medicine is considered very yang in nature. Fire is the element of extreme yang, and has a radiating, dispersing power. Think of the lively dance of fire burning. This is the time to move, get our heart pumping, and blood circulating. This is time for focusing on cardiovascular health! Summer makes this a much more inviting task with outdoor sports, swimming, hiking, or simply a walk on a warm summer night. And don’t forget to dance..never forget to dance.
Beauty of the Season
Taking care of the heart in Chinese Medicine includes making the spirit feel at home in the heart and the spirit craves beauty. Look at how the earth changes in summer. Flowers bloom, colors come alive, birds sing; there is art and music everywhere. This is a time for aesthetics and we all have our own taste. Get out and enjoy whatever stimulates your mind and heals your heart. Admire nature’s sunset paintings, smell the sweet perfume of the flowers, and let your spirit sing with the sounds of the season. Celebrate your own creative expression along with the energy of the season.
The sound that belongs to the heart according to TCM is laughter and the emotion is joy. It’s no wonder that joy feels best when shared. It’s also no wonder that researchers have found that the quality of family relationships and social connection is a strong factor in heart disease prevention. So, as summer provides the warm inviting opportunities to get together, treasure your family and friends (and pets!) and find ways to connect, laugh and share your joy!
So, what are you doing this Summer? We’d like to know.
One thing that I may suggest, would be to get yourself back in here for an acupuncture summer-time tune-up! That’s one of the easiest ways that we can help manage your health and well-being. Give us a call today to schedule up your tune-up.
Diet Tips for Staying Balanced in the ‘Great Yang’ Season
The Great Yang season is upon us. Yang energy is bright, fiery and hot like the midday sun. Yang is the counterbalance to Yin. Yin is expressed in the cooling, calming energies of life. Together, Yin & Yang, like night & day, represent the dynamic balance between the opposing, but complementary forces that make up all of existence. These forces are ceaselessly intermingling in a sacred dance of life’s cycles. The cycle of the seasons is a perfect demonstration of this balance in motion, and as we turn the corner into summer, we reach a pinnacle in the cycle, the summer solstice. Summer is known as the “Great Yang” season because of this peak in the yang energy: the sun (ultimate yang energy) is closest to the earth and the day (yang time) is the longest at this time of year.
We, as humans, are part of nature, so these forces exist in us just as in our environment. With each changing season, Chinese Medicine offers lifestyle guidance to tune our own energy cycles to the world around us so that we can live in health and harmony.
One of the branches of this ancient medicine and health philosophy is dietetics. There are a number of simple things to consider when adjusting your diet to the energy of the Great Yang season.
In Season Fruits/Veggies/Herbs:
Time to hit the farmer’s market! It’s vital to interact with your natural environment through the food it offers. Summer is full of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that help to keep you hydrated, and to disperse your Qi to match the light, ascending energy of yang. Nature knows best so pay attention to what is growing well in your area as it may be exactly what your body needs to be more aligned with the energy of the season.
Heart and Small Intestine Considerations:
The heart and small intestine are the paired yin and yang organs associated with summertime and the element of fire. The heart houses the mind and it’s job is to perfuse the body with blood while the small intestine’s job is to sort and process the food received from the stomach. Blood tonifying foods like dark leafy greens and lean meat are important to ensure a blood-rich safe haven for the mind to rest, as well as enough blood to carry that energy of consciousness throughout the body. Red foods like cherries, strawberries, goji berries and tomatoes support the fire element and it’s no coincidence that these foods are rich in antioxidants credited with cardiovascular benefits. Also, have a heart when considering the important sorting job of the small intestine. We can alleviate stress on this organ by not
overloading it with nutrient-deficient, over-processed food.
Keep it fresh!
Timing is Everything:
11am-1pm is heart time according to the 24-hour cycle of energies in our bodies. Lunch time, the time when the energy is strongest in the heart meridian is also a time when our digestive fire is strong, so enjoy a mid-day meal! 1pm-3pm is small intestine time, this is the time to sort and absorb food, rest, and allow your body to process the nutrients.
Presentation of Food:
Be mindful of aesthetics when serving yourself or others food in all seasons, but especially summer, as beauty pleases the heart. What feeling does your food stimulate before you even eat it? Consider garnishing your dishes with a little extra love like a sprinkle of sesame seeds or a fresh edible flower.
While a soup may seem like more winter-appropriate, sipping a warm soup can help the body stay hydrated and also induce gentle perspiration to keep the body cool. You can add slightly cooling (in nature not temperature) foods and herbs to the soup to balance the warm temperature. Here’s a simple summer soup to assist the heart in blood circulation and Qi dispersion while helping to eliminate excess heat.
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup beets
- 1 cup carrots
- 1 cup corn
- 1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
- ½ oz carthamus flowers (commonly known as safflower, this is an herb for blood circulation in Chinese Medicine)
Cut the beets and carrots into cubes and stew in the stock for 15 minutes. Cut the corn off the cob and palace the carthamus flowers in a sachet. Add the corn, carthamus sachet and sesame oil and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
Easing Transitions with the Earth Element
We all are very familiar with Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter but why does Chinese Medicine include a fifth season and where does it fit on the calendar? According to TCM theory, the fifth season is actually that important time between the seasons, where we ‘return to center’ so we can ‘pivot’. About 2-3 weeks before the beginning of each season is a time of transition.
Each season correlates with an elemental energy. Spring belongs to the wood element, Summer to fire, Fall to metal and Winter to water. The transitional time between the seasons rightfully belongs to the earth element as this is the time when the seasonally dominant energy returns to the earth to be transformed into the next seasonal energy.
The Earth Element is generated and managed in the body by the spleen and stomach. These organs are in the business of metamorphosis. As digestive organs (according to TCM), they transport and transform the food we eat into nutrition to build our blood and nourish our cells. The spleen governs the muscles, and is important in the free movement of the body. The associated orifice is the mouth and spleen Qi manifests in the lips. The Spleen is also known for housing the intellect (yi) and is involved with the thinking aspect of spirit. The color of the earth element is yellow, and the taste is sweet.
The Chinese Lunar Calendar sets the start of the seasons earlier than our Gregorian calendar, so if we are following the seasons according to Chinese Medicine we can anticipate the start of Fall this year around Aug 7th. The period about 18 days prior to that date (beginning around mid-July) is called late summer, and this is the time to pay special attention to the energy of transition.
The benefit of nourishing our earth element during this time is to gain balance and stability for periods of change. The earth element represents our wide center stance from which we can safely assess the next move (picture the slow smooth movements of tai chi). The importance of core stability rings true whether we are talking about physical activity or more subtle energy dynamics.
Avoid damp cold food such as ice cream as it can put a burden on the spleen that prefers warm, dry conditions. Eat breakfast between 7-9am which is stomach time according to the Qi clock. From 9-11am is spleen time. Some gentle activity is ok but as the spleen converts food to Qi, try to take it easy so you do not disrupt digestion. Avoid processed sugar while enjoying the natural balance of sweetness from the earth with foods like apples, carrots, dates, and sweet potatoes.
2) Release Worry-Patterns:
The spleen houses the intellect and is responsible for thought but can be weighed down by overthinking. This will slow its ability to transform our food. We can all think of times when worry led to unpleasant digestive experiences.
So, find ways to shift patterns of over-thinking and worry.
(Cue the serenity prayer…)
Stimulate earth energy with its color and brighten up someone’s day by wearing more yellow. Notice the yellow colors in nature, stop and absorb their frequency. And eat yellow foods: bananas, yellow peppers, lemons etc.
You know what to do. Connect direct! Get those bare feet on the ground (pesticide-free please).
Now get some Vitamin-E on those earthy lips and pucker up: you’ll be ready to give Fall a sweet kiss hello.
Traditional Tips for Insomnia
When you consider that Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM) dates back over 3,000 years, it is easy to see the vastness of theory and history involved. This fascinating complementary medicine arms practitioners with a plethora of unique diagnostic tools. These tools include an ability to detect Qi imbalances, define the underlying problems and correct them. When it comes to Spring, Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends MORE activity. In order for one to become more physically active, it is imperative to have and maintain a healthy sleep schedule. However, recent statistics show nearly 60 million Americans experience insomnia and other sleep-related problems daily (and this statistic was taken before the Covid-19 global crisis). With these numbers, understand that if you are suffering from insomnia or unable to get a good night’s rest, you are absolutely not alone. The good news is, implementing some basic TCM practices could help you get back on track.
Acupuncture and TCM continue to come out on top of the list of suggested treatments for sleepless nights and improper circadian rhythms. The reason TCM is so effective has a lot to do with the adaptability of treatment modalities. TCM does not only suggest herbs and acupuncture, or massage and physical exercise but also lifestyle changes to introduce healthy habits. Here are some of our favorite lifestyle adaptations you can consider if you or someone you love is struggling with insomnia.
Spend time outside: Camping has been shown to help reset the sleep cycle of insomniacs. Your body will be able to reset itself after a couple of days, allowing your circadian rhythm to get you back into a proper sleeping pattern. This theory goes hand in hand with some of TCM’s primary principles; staying in tune with nature. Ask me for some of my favorite springtime outdoor activities.
Digital detox: The digital stimulation we experience these days is overwhelming. This past year was absolutely no exception. In 2020, virtual meetings and classes took over our homes, near-constant attention to news updates became a necessary evil, and social media became the primary means of community. With the “go-go-go” attitude of mainstream culture, sometimes digital stimulation alone can make it hard to slow down enough to find rest. Turn off the devices at least 2 hours before bed. Better yet, create a digital detox day of the week: one day where you and your family unplug and allow yourself to reacclimate to the natural world.
Plan for sleep: Setting a bedtime, and sticking with it, can help reset your sleep cycle. Implement a routine and do the same things nightly before going to bed. If you are struggling to fall asleep on time, consider a wind-down routine. Create a routine for yourself that may include a cup of tea, a yoga or tai chi session, reading or writing. Experiment with what feels best for your mind and body.
Change the lighting: We are all sensitive to light. Before the regular use of artificial lighting, humans spent their evenings in a slow transition to nighttime darkness. In the evening create a darker environment in your home to help your brain ease out of the daytime stimulation and start slowing down. Alternatively, when you wake up in the morning, be sure to open the shades and turn the lights on again to help tell the brain to wake up and get going. Consistency is essential and will help train your brain and balance your circadian rhythm.
Late-night binges: Stop ingesting caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine and go easy on the late-night snacks. Eating too late is common and can cause indigestion and restless nights. If you’re still hungry right before bed, try something light and healthy, like a tablespoon of peanut butter or a handful of almonds.
Schedule your TCM evaluation: Traditional Chinese Medicine has been proven by many studies to be a safe and effective treatment for insomnia. Treatments include acupuncture, at-home acupressure routines, breathing exercises, lifestyle changes, environmental adaptations, herbal prescriptions, even nutritional recommendations and so much more. Your specific symptoms and patterns of disharmony will be addressed all in an effort to find the root cause(s) of your sleeplessness.
Spring TCM Life Tips
This transition allows for the ability to get more done and spend more time outdoors, possibly shedding those extra pounds gained over the holidays and reconnecting with nature. But as with any seasonal change, there are organ systems that need specific attention. This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) excels in helping make a smooth transition.
As we transition from winter to spring, it’s important to understand that in TCM, the season of winter is associated with associated with the element of water and it corresponds to the kidneys. The kidneys house our life force or jing and therefore, they must be constantly fed and replenished, as jing dissipates over time. Winter is the perfect time to do this.and is done by sleeping more, eating hearty, warming seasonal foods, and avoiding excessive sweating or exercising.
The season of spring is associated with the element of wood and it corresponds to the liver. As everything around us blossoms in the spring, so too should we embrace this time. But the liver tends to be a bit of a bully for many people and it must be kept in check. Often the winter months leave some stagnant feelings, which can manifest in different areas like relationships, work, or even our bodies. If there is frustration, physical pain, or sadness, it may be a sign that energy is not flowing properly or optimally.
Eating according to the seasons is very important in TCM. As the weather gets warmer, most people gravitate towards healthier food options in an effort to lose some of the winter weight. But according to TCM, eating lighter, more natural foods actually gives the liver a chance to repair itself and that alone can help us feel more energetic and improve our clarity of thought. The immune system also functions better when excess sugar and dairy are removed.
Acupuncture is one of the tools in the TCM toolbox that can help make the transition from winter to spring easier. Acupuncture can balance the body as it reacts to the changes in the weather and activity levels. Regular acupuncture treatments have also been shown to boost immunity. Spring can cause flare ups associated with seasonal allergies and acupuncture treatments can help with the inflammation, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes that accompany the allergic reactions. But most of all, acupuncture can help regulate those emotional imbalances that are often common during this transitional period.
Feng Shui is another way to make the transition from winter to spring easier. You might have heard of Feng Shui referred to in the Western world as similar to interior design. However, in Chinese culture, feng shui is understood as a far more complex system. It is a practice intended to create harmony in our interior space and relates to our personal energy, the natural world, and our environment.
The ultimate goal of feng shui is to create energized and balanced spaces by drawing in positive energies. It draws on a system of interactions and laws about how humans perceive our physical environment. The art of feng shui governs spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”). Tossing out old clothing, magazines or just going through that one junk drawer we all have, will create an empty space that will then allow for growth throughout the spring season.
By incorporating some simple TCM techniques into your life you may just have a more enjoyable metamorphosis from winter into spring.
Self-Care and Preventative Medicines
Should I get acupuncture even when I’m not sick? This is a question I get often.
For thousands of years practitioners of acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM) have emphasized the importance of preventing illness and disease. So the answer is yes, by definition acupuncture and TCM work to keep the body in balance, not only to revive you when you when stricken by illness.
Going to the doctor when healthy is an obscure thought to those in the Western medical system. TCM practitioners look to many aspects of their patient’s lives beyond the physical aches and pains. According to TCM, there are many contributing factors that can bring the body out of balance. These include both internal and external factors such as seasonal changes, diet, physical activity, and emotional wellbeing.
Western allopathic medicine usually doesn’t recognize the role of emotions in creating illness beyond acknowledging stress exacerbates or causes 80 percent of all illnesses. According to TCM theory, specific emotions are linked to specific parts of the body: being stuck on any one emotion can bring that part of the body out of balance. Acupuncture and TCM can help us stay healthy by balancing these tendencies before chronic imbalances set in.
In one of the oldest books on TCM, “The Inner Classics of the Yellow Emperor,” compiled around 100 B.C.E., it’s written that excess joy slows and scatters qi, excess anger causes qi to ascend, excess sadness and grief weakens qi, excess worry knots and binds qi, fear descends qi and fright induces chaotic qi. The good news is each excessive emotions can be ‘harnessed,’ transformed and channeled into a virtuous emotion, which restores harmony and wellbeing. This transformation of emotions from excess to virtue is a vital aspect of the Yang-Sheng or preventative branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Among the most common of excess emotion is the tendency of overthinking, worry and rumination; this will tend to result in digestive issues and/or metabolism concerns, as well as muscular tension and pain. In order to maintain optimal health one must learn to transform overthinking and worry into the virtue of creativity and dynamic insight.
Developing a regular meditation practice, even five to ten minutes once a day, can make a difference! You will develop the discipline to redirect worry and overthinking into resting in the present moment more often. A quote from “The Dhammapada” (The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom) expresses this, “As the bee collects nectar and departs without injuring the flower, or its color or scent, so let a sage dwell in his village.” When you find yourself worrying, compare your thoughts to a bee. Allow yourself to collect the ‘pollen’ of your thought while also germinating future ideas. This will transform your thoughts into nectar. A bee does not cling to only one flower.
Acupuncture can help you let go and move forward.
Try using acupressure at ST-36 and SP-3 to transform worry into creative action.
ST-36 is the great harmonizer point: this point does it all! ST-36 can help motivate you, improve your energy, digestion, and boosting your immune system! Locate this point by placing one hand just below the outer knee cap (index finger by the knee cap), use your other hand to find ST-36 (just below your pinky finger) just off the outer shin.
Pair ST-36 with acupressure at SP-3 to clarify your mind and regulate your digestion. Locate SP-3 along the inside of the foot, run your finger along the edge of the big toe until your finger ‘falls’ into a divot, about a three-finger width from the base of the big toe.
Look for future articles for tips on transforming other excessive emotions and nourish your vitality and wellbeing with the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Give us a call today to schedule your acupuncture tune-up.