SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder hits hard here in the Pacific Northwest, and that time of year when the days become long and dark is definitely upon us.
Even if you aren't here in the Portland and SW Washington are, when the seasons change you have to be ready for a change in mood, especially now as we move from fall into winter. Even if it doesn't seem like a drastic shift to you consciously, it matters more to our mental and physical states than you may know. Seasonal affective disorder is estimated to affect around 10 million Americans a year, and this isn’t even the full number of reported cases.
As we begin to lose the summer sun and transition into the darker months, depression and fatigue seem to make that transition with us. But, there are tried and true ways to shake off the impending gloom and brighten your day. If you follow some of the steps below you can combat seasonal affective disorder and find yourself being just as happy as you are in the warm summer months.
Try some of these techniques and you should have no problem battling and conquering the seasonal affective disorder that may be bothering you this winter. If you're ready to jump right to #4, just click the link below to book in today!
Fall or autumn is a favorite season for many people. The weather is getting a little cooler, things are starting to slow down and preparations for the holidays are in full swing.....
For many others, fall is not so festive. Many people tend to get sick during the fall months, allergies can flare up for some, and many don’t like that the hours of sunlight decrease steadily, sometimes leading to seasonal depression. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, fall is the season associated with the lung and large intestine energetic meridians. These two meridians work in a symbiotic way to control the immune system from both the inside and outside of your body. And if you take good care of these two meridians during the fall, you are bound to feel better throughout the season. Here are some suggestions on how to get through the season of the lung and large intestine channels.
First off, start wearing scarves. The scarves don’t have to be thick or heavy, but they should cover the neck. The large intestine channel runs up the arms, across the shoulders, up the neck, over the face and ends next to the nose. As many people now know, the health of our gastrointestinal tract plays a big part in our immunity. So keeping the large intestine channel warm and preventing exposure from the elements will help to keep you healthy. Cold pathogens can enter the body through the pores or nasal cavity. But wrapping the neck and shoulders with a scarf can help ward off the pathogens.
Another way to keep the lung and large intestine channels balanced is to eat according to the season. This means eat foods that are available during the autumn months as well as foods that boost the energy of the lung and large intestine meridians. In the fall, you should eat fewer cold and raw foods like salads and instead you should eat more warm, cooked foods. Utilizing the foods that are available at this time of year is a good practice as well. Foods to enjoy during the fall months include apples, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, pears, yams, bananas, cabbage, carrots, cranberries, ginger, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and wild rice. Also hot herbal teas are a good addition to your daily diet, especially those containing ginger and lemon, which act as natural antibiotics.
The large intestine and the lungs need to stay moist to function properly. So drinking lots of water is important. Most people know how important it is to stay hydrated during the summer months, but it is just as vital during the autumn. Without proper hydration the skin, which is controlled by the lung meridian, can become dry and cracked allowing pathogens to easily enter the body. The large intestine meridian needs proper hydration to be able to expel any pathogens that have gotten into the system. So don’t forget to drink lots of water during the fall.
As we approach the fall months, it is also a good idea to increase your regular acupuncture treatments. There are several acupuncture points that help boost immunity and fight off colds. Why not utilize the natural power that your local licensed acupuncturist has to offer? By doing so, you might just survive the fall without ever getting sick.
In Chinese Medicine we are always striving to have your energy aligned and balanced. To facilitate balancing your energy throughout this fall season, here are three acupressure points you can try. Acupressure is a great way to stay healthy and to balance energy, so check out these points!
1. Large Intestine 4 (LI 4)A reliever of headaches and tense muscles, LI 4 is a great point to use to balance energy. In addition to making sure you are balanced it promotes healthy bowel functionality throughout the body. LI 4, is referred to as He Gu, or the “Adjoining Valleys.” It is the point where energy cleanses the body and clears out what is no longer needed, this point clears the system and replenishes Qi. Position your left hand flat with your palm down, now squeeze your thumb and index finger together, locate a fleshy mound that appears between the two fingers and press on this point with your right thumb above and index finger below.
2. Large Intestine 11 (LI 11)To relieve pain within your arm, shoulder or elbow use this acupressure point. LI 11 also regulates the digestive tract and the blood, in addition, this point cools heat and alleviates dampness. LI 11, the earth point of the large intestine meridian, is located at the crease of your elbow. To find this point bend your elbow in a 90-degree angle, place your thumb on the outside of the elbow crease and press.
3. Lung 2 (LU 2)Yu Men, or the Gateway of Gathering Clouds is the gateway where we are able to receive fresh sunshine, the rain and cloudy days. This point is very useful for balancing energy when you are overwhelmed with stress, it calms the body. To find LU 2, locate the area above the collarbone where it meets the shoulder blade, at this location there should be a depression, apply pressure there to harness the balancing powers of this acupressure point.
Fascia is a specific type of connective tissue that is found literally everywhere in the body. It is under your skin, it envelops the organs, it is layered around muscle and is truly everywhere. It is the interplay between fascia, skin and muscle that gives our bodies the ability to move and function, that gives our skin elasticity and youth, it has even been recognized as an important factor in cancer treatment (1)!
We cannot ignore its importance in the body yet we rarely think to address its needs directly. Today I want to challenge you to do so with a few simple steps that can increase your health, vitality, beauty and wellness.
#1 - Collagen Is Your Friend.
Fascia is made up densely packed collagen fibers and regularly consuming collagen can help to nourish and strengthen its matrix in the body leading to increased elasticity and firmer skin. A great way to get collagen is to make or buy Bone Broth - essentially, bones (chicken, fish, beef, your choice) that have been simmered for 24-48 hours with a little apple cider vinegar splashed in the water to help demineralize the bones. Making broth not your thing? No problem! You can buy pre-made bone broth over the counter, buy powdered collagen such as Great Lakes Collagen Powder or, if you are a vegetarian, you can look for an Acacia collagen powder or capsule.
#2 - Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate.
Beyond the densely packed collagen fibers, fascia is 2/3rds water and if you are ever interested enough to look online at living fascia videos on YouTube (yes, these are videos taken inside peoples bodies during surgery, not for the faint of heart!) you will see that living fascia is in fact made up of vacuoles that actually transport fluids in the body! There is communication going on there that we still don’t completely understand, but its happening via water. If you want supple fascia and good communication throughout its network, drink water and lots of it! If you can consistently get 64 ounces of water or a little more each day and you haven’t been doing it already I guarantee you will see a big difference in the appearance of your skin after a few weeks times.
#3 - Get Acupuncture.
Yes, as an Acupuncture with 10+ years experience I know I am biased, but even the 2015 Fascial Research Congress (1) recognized the importance of Acupuncture as a way to positively affect fascia in the body. It has long been known that the “de Qi” or “arrival of Qi” sensation that we typically feel at the site of an acupuncture needle insertion has to do with fascia because fascia will actually grab the needle in the body and tug on it. Have you ever watched a fly get caught in a spiders web and noticed the vibrations throughout the entire web structure? Acupuncture has a ripple effect like this on the fascia which increases movement and communication. Some people even believe that fascia is actually the mechanism of action by which Acupuncture works from a western scientific perspective (3) but this has yet to be concretely confirmed. Suffice to say, we know Acupuncture works to treat pain, to relax muscles and improve function and also to treat lines and wrinkles with Facial Acupuncture, can affect fascia in a positive way and is worth being part of a fascial support program!
#4 - Use Smooth Flowing Movements and Slow Dynamic Stretching
Fascia has so much fluid in it, its much like a sponge. You need to wring it out and let it fill up again to flush it. This exchange refreshes the tissue and renews the area reducing inflammation and free radicals and improving fluidity and motion (2). Gentle vinyasa-type yoga flows that involve slow, fluid movement or Chinese energetic exercises like Tai Qi and Qi Gong are perfect for enlivening and nourishing your fascia.
#5 - Gua Sha and Foam Rolling
In addition to the movement recommendations above, Gua Sha, which translates to “scraping” and is a Chinese myofascial release technique, and foam rolling which you may have seen at the gym or a pilates class, are another way to squeeze out the sponge and give it a chance to refill again. The focused pressure and long strokes involved in these types of treatments encourage movement and flow. Gua Sha is also used in Facial Acupuncture techniques specifically to decrease lines and wrinkles and improve skin tone by activating the fascial system.
This may sound like a lot, but if you can incorporate these simple recommendations into your life on a regular basis you will see and feel a difference. Improved energy, increased flexibility in your body as well as improved elasticity in your skin which will give you a more youthful glow and vital appearance are just some of the benefits I feel confident you will enjoy if you give your fascia a little love.
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.