Welcome to springtime! For many people this is a time of great relief. The cold and darkness are dissipating, and we start to see green and flowers and sunshine and feel hopeful and energetic! But for some, springtime can also bring a host of annoying symptoms like headaches and allergies. Many people find themselves feeling less patient, more irritable, easily frustrated and sometimes even depressed. Let’s talk about why this happens and how we can prevent and ease these things.
In Chinese medicine, every organ system is associated with a certain season, color, taste, emotion, as well as symptoms. The symptoms develop when that organ system is out of balance, and we are more likely to experience a flare of those related symptoms as we come into that organ’s associated season and the qi of that organ is becoming most active. The qi or energy of the Liver helps keep the qi in all of our energy pathways running smoothly.
When Liver qi gets “stuck” or blocked, we can feel stuck or blocked in many ways. This can manifest as emotional “stuckness”, inability to move forward, frustration and irritability. We can also see headaches, migraines, dizziness, tight muscles and eye problems. This stagnation of Liver qi can also impact other organ systems. If there is a bit of a digestive weakness, we might see the stuckness there with symptoms of bloating, bowel issues or reflux because the Liver isn’t allowing the qi in those pathways to move freely. If there is a bit of weakness in the Lungs, we might see the stuckness there with asthma and allergies.
Liver energy being out of balance is very common in our modern society. Why is that? Because it is very impacted by STRESS, both emotional and physical. Most of us are living a fast-paced high stress lifestyle where a lot is expected of us. There is very little down time and many sources of ongoing or repeated frustrations. We lack quality time of connection with family and community. Our bodies are under physical stress as well with not enough fresh air and natural movement. We sit or stand at desks for many hours and either don’t exercise enough or balance the sitting by more intense exercise so we can get it done in the short period of time we have allotted for it. Meals can be rushed and often lacking in nutrition. And then we read this and feel guilty that we aren’t doing a better job! And all of these things are continuous. Our bodies are designed to handle stresses in the short term. But the breaks from stress have become just that, small breaks. And the constant stress has become the status quo. No wonder our qi gets constrained and symptoms develop!
So what can we do? Not all of us are up for a complete overhaul of our lifestyle, though there is much to be said for that! But there are ways we can support our Liver qi and help it to better handle life’s stresses and decrease the impact on our health and wellbeing. Spring is a great time to focus on that while Liver’s energy is most active. Here are some tips:
- Gentle exercise: what better way to keep your qi moving and prevent stuckness than physically moving your body. Walking, hiking, biking, swimming, yoga, Tai Chi are all good ways to do this.
- Try not to let frustrations build up too much. Find a source for venting them: a good friend, a therapist, a journal. Exercise can help with this too. Emotional and physical stuckness are very related and movement of body and movement of emotion will support each other.
- Food: Spring is a time to lighten up your diet a bit. More veggies, less meat, less cooking time of foods, less salt and less fat. Note that that does not mean all salad and no meat or fat! It just means shifting the balance. Light sautees, steamed veggies, spring soups, fresh herb seasonings… these are all ways to support the shift from winter into spring.
- Acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine: Any season change is a great time to get a tune up treatment to support the shifting energy. And if you tend to have symptoms associated with a particular organ or you notice symptoms that flare at the same time every year, that is your clue to pay particular attention to that season change and get your body extra support during that time. If any of the symptoms mentioned above are chronic or reoccurring issues for you, now is an especially good time to get some acupuncture to support your Liver so that you can be one of those people that fully enjoys springtime too!