With the summer season coming to an end and school being back in session, now is a good time to consider some thoughtful self-care strategies to start implementing for fall. As they say, prevention truly is the best medicine, and that’s a dictum those of us practicing Chinese medicine try to put into practice every day we are in the clinic seeing patients. The best self-care strategies are typically very accessible, straight-forward, and easy to implement in your daily life. Here are some useful self-care strategies to consider as we move into the fall season that can help support us in not only maintaining our well-being but also feeling our best.
Mom really was right. Over the past couple of years scientists have discovered that cold weather weakens our airways’ first line of immune defenses. Now is the time to stock up on fall/winter essentials before the weather really turns. Don’t underestimate how useful a good pair of lined gloves, a warm hat, a well-insulated coat, and a thick scarf can be in keeping your body warm, comfortable, and healthy. Even if you’re going to be outside for a short period of time - getting the mail, scraping ice off your car, walking the dog around the block - make sure to stay warm. While I was in school studying Chinese medicine an instructor always encouraged us to keep our calves and ankles and feet fully covered and warm in winter because the Kidney Meridian starts at the bottom of the foot and winds up the medial part of the leg - in Chinese medicine the Kidney meridian is negatively affected by too much exposure to cold temperatures. Since then I’ve never worn flip-flops into a yoga class in the middle of winter again!
I don’t know if that’s even a word, but it does get the point across. Yes, as we enter into the fall season, this is the time when people start to get sick. And you, my friend, do not want to get sick if you can help it! Some of the ways to avoid getting sick are so incredibly simple that we tend to overlook them, like washing our hands. Do yourself a favor and watch a video on YouTube put out by the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization on proper hand washing technique. There really is a proper technique to it that includes vigorously rubbing your hands together, as well as rubbing underneath the fingernails and up onto the wrists. In addition this is also a great time to clean all of the dirty, gross electronic devices we use on a daily basis, such as cellphones, laptops, Kindles, television remotes, and so on. With how often we use these devices in our daily life they can start to become dirty little devices covered in bacteria and other microbes. There are a lot of great resources online for how to clean your tech gear.
Cook Your Food
Eating flavorful and nutrient-dense whole foods is a great way to take care of yourself during the fall season. Squashes, beets, and sweet potatoes are all incredibly nourishing foods in Chinese medicine that help to tonify and support our Spleen/Stomach energy. Personally I am a big fan of sweet potatoes. I think they are really satisfying, satiating, and they help to keep my personal carb gremlin in check. There are so many different varieties (Purple, Jewel, Garnet, Okinawa) and creative ways to incorporate them into meals. They are a great source of fiber as well an excellent source of Vitamin A, as well as Vitamin C, manganese, and B6. Roasted sweet potato with poached eggs and organic chicken sausage is probably my favorite breakfast. I’m also a big fan of curried sweet potato soup and roasted sweet potato served with fish. If you need recipes, you can find them here.
Commune With Nature
Make a point to spend some reflective time in nature this season. Take a drive up to the mountains to see the changing leaves. Spend more time outdoors. Find a new hiking trail in the area. Wake up early to get a little time on the back porch when the world is still quiet. Spending time with Mother Nature has been shown to help reduce high blood pressure, support respiratory and cardiovascular health, relieve muscle tension, improve mood, and reduce the production of stress hormones. Don’t underestimate how healing spending time in nature can be. The effects may not be immediate - sometimes it takes a few days for our bodies and minds to relax. But with a little free time it is a simple self-care strategy to implement and one that you won’t regret.