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Do you ever find yourself thinking you could be and do so much more if you just had the energy?
Winter is the yin time of year; the time when energy is contracted and our reserves are low. Intuitively, you already know this because you are inclined to sleep more, eat more, and do less in winter.
How we understand cycles of change and explain various phenomena in Chinese medicine is through something called the 5 Element Theory.
The 5 Elements, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal, are the foundation of all physiological, emotional and psycho-spiritual interactions.
Each season corresponds to one of the 5 Elements (don’t get hung up on the fact that there are really only four seasons; the transitional times between seasons accounts for the “fifth” season.)
The Water element is associated with winter and some key characteristics of how Water energy manifests within our psychology are:
* resourcefulness and caution
* curiosity and creativity
* introspection and deep thinking
On a physiological level, the Water element regulates life cycles (like puberty), water metabolism, it also governs the low back, knees, feet, teeth, bones, head hair, fertility, sexual organs, and the brain.
This is the time of year when some of our best ideas are born, if, of course, we are creating habits and an environment ripe for their development.
Yet, one of the most common problems I see in my coaching clients and acupuncture practice is people feeling energetically depleted, creatively constipated and emotionally depressed.
The modern age has, in many ways, interfered with our natural rhythms; electricity being one of the biggest disruptors. Very few people heed the contractive quality of winter and push themselves to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion.
Our culture doesn’t support slowing down in the winter and we are seemingly forced to burn the candle from both ends, so to speak, even when our reserves are low.
What are the bigger implications of falling out of rhythm with the cycles mother nature intended?
The scope and depth of this question is broad, but one of the most obvious effects is to the state of our energy. Specifically, how energetic we feel from day to day.
Extreme behavior results in extreme health issues, such as adrenal fatigue.
What is adrenal fatigue? First and foremost, as far as allopathic medicine is concerned, adrenal fatigue is not considered a proven medical condition. That doesn’t mean, however, it doesn’t exist.
The body is complex and there isn’t a lot of room for gray areas when relying on diagnostic tests. Like when someone chronically feels like crap and their doctor says their blood work indicates everything is fine.
As a Chinese medicine doctor, I see a lot of patients who don’t have a diagnosis for disease and yet, they know something is wrong. This is usually how they end up on my doorstep.
Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and have the job of producing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. When you bust your butt working long hours, fail to get enough sleep, feel a constant hum of stress, and eat a pretty crappy diet, you create the conditions for adrenal burn-out.
The adrenal glands cease to function as well as they should and could be a major contributing factor to much more serious health conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, auto-immune diseases, infertility, and compromised immunity, to name a few.
In Chinese medicine, the adrenal glands are governed by the Kidneys.
The Kidneys are the yin organ of the Water Element and as you might have figured out, winter is the time of year associated with Kidneys in the 5 Element Element Theory.
By strengthening and tonifying the Kidney Energy, we can reverse the effects of adrenal fatigue.
Here are some signs you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue.
If you regularly notice one or more of the following:
* tired for no reason
* have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour
* are feeling rundown and overwhelmed
* have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness
* crave salty and sweet snacks
* feel more alert and awake after 6pm than you do all day
If this sounds like you, make an appointment with your physician. She or he will be able to order blood work, eliminate any other potential problems, and make an appropriate diagnosis.
In the absence of other more serious health problems, you can take things into your own hands.
If you’re tired of feeling tired, here are 13 ways to feel more energetic now:
1. Establish rhythm in your life: regular bed time, regular wake-up, regular meal times
2. Meditation — calms the nervous system by slowing the production of cortisol and adrenaline
3. Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime to avoid interfering with sleep cycles
4. Eat whole foods — eating a balanced diet including carbohydrates, fats and proteins prevents swings in blood sugar, optimizes cellular function provides a steady source of energy.
5. Acupuncture — in addition to calming the nervous system, acupuncture helps to strengthen the energy of the Kidneys and regulate the adrenal glands
6. Work less, play more — while work may or may not stress you out, there is no question playing more will make your life more enjoyable and happy, thereby reducing the stress on the adrenal glands
7. Go outside — researchers in Japan are finding that more time spent in nature is directly linked to lower blood pressure, stops depression, mitigates stress and even prevents cancer
8. Limit alcohol consumption to one drink — alcohol acts as a depressant and though there are health benefits associated one glass of wine or beer, the benefits are lost as consumption increases, affecting mood and sleep.
9. Avoid anti-nutrients — your cells need top-quality nutrients to function at an optimum level. Anti-nutrients are poor quality macro-nutrients (carbs, fats, proteins) from inferior sources. They come from rancid oils, from factory farmed meats, conventionally grown produce, and refined foods.
10. Regular exercise–get your heart rate up for at least 15 minutes everyday as this will raise your metabolic rate and increase energy
11. Be inspired — to be inspired is to feel a deeper connection to the world and people around you. When we are inspired to do or be a certain way, we have a stronger sense of purpose and this fuels our willpower and motivation.
12. Create something — if you have ever created something you were proud of, then you have likely experienced a natural high. When we tap into our creative energy, we are tapped into Kidney energy and this serves to fortify our internal energy reserves.
13. Slow down — moving at a rapid pace day in day out is exhausting. Take a few moments everyday to pause, catch your breath and collect yourself. This will ultimately help you to become more mentally focused, self aware, and intentional.
Tell me in the comments below what your biggest takeaway is:)