We can all relate to how emotions affect our bodies.
Just think about the last job interview you had and the pit you felt in the bottom of your stomach or the sweat collecting on your forehead. You weren’t exercising; you were anxious. Or think about the time when you decided not to buy those jeans because the deal was just too good to be true. It turned out that your “gut feeling” was right; the pants were black-market fakes.
The ancient Chinese philosophers believed that emotional and psychological factors could be causes of illness. Emotional health is a big part of Chinese medicine, in fact, as a Chinese medical practitioner, treating the emotions and the physical body cannot be separated. What can you do to have more balanced emotions? Well, it seems counterintuitive, but let yourself feel what you’re feeling!
- If there is something happening in your life that is upsetting you, acknowledge it. This is the first step.
- The second is to allow yourself to feel it without judgment. We often judge our feelings and that act of judging can be much more destructive than having the emotion in the first place.
- Be gentle with yourself. Feel what you are feeling. I like to think about what I would say to a friend. I can be much more sympathetic and forgiving with friends than I am to myself. Now apply that compassion to yourself.
Once you allow yourself to feel that emotion, then you can let it go and move on.
Schedule your daily life according to the seasons for the best health.
Just listen to the legendary and world-renowned Chinese philosopher, Sun Si Miao: “One who is good at preserving life gets up and goes to bed at a timetable adjusted to different seasons, and maintains a strict regimen in daily life.” 581-682 AD.
I’m not saying that you can’t have any fun or be spontaneous. I’m simply suggesting that you try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Try to take your meals at the same time, as well. We say colloquially that we are “creatures of habit” and now science and research is catching on to that idea.
Sleeping and resting is considered the great regulator of the central nervous system and keeping a regular sleep routine keeps your biological clock steady so that you rest better. Exposure to a regular pattern of light and dark helps regulate your serotonin and melatonin, neurotransmitters that help us feel awake during the day and sleepy at bedtime.
Help your body keep it’s rhythm by opening the blinds or going outside right after you wake up. Conversely, keep your bedroom dimly lit as you perform your nighttime getting-ready-for-bed rituals.
I was not a “cool” kid in school. I didn’t sit at the popular table. Yes, I played varsity sports but I was also in school plays, Key Club, Mock Trial, and Speech Team. I didn’t have an Acura Integra (the car of choice at my high school) and I definitely didn’t get invited to parties. Which is why I have to write this.
What I’ve realized is that I am exclusive. I discriminate. Yes, I have an accidental gender-bias. It is stated plainly on my website and other marketing materials that I specialize in women’s health. WOMEN’S health. While that is true, I also treat men. I love treating EVERYONE and I take care of everyone equally well.
This horrifying faux pas was brought to my attention recently when two potential new patients asked if I treated males. After getting over my initial embarrassment, I assured them that I could help them as well.
It’s just that since I was an intern in 2008, I got really good at balancing hormones. And it didn’t help that while I was in acupuncture school, I assisted one of the best fertility acupuncturists, Dr. Hong Jin. So, really, I had no choice but to specialize in women’s health. But, let me assure you, 50% of my patients are male. My dad and husband will attest to this. (Thanks, dad and husband!)
Please, I implore you: do not let the short list of specializations fool you. I don’t discriminate.
How do you eat for the seasons? Why should I try? Well, the Chinese philosophy is that human beings are part of nature and just like nature is affected by the changes that occur with the seasons (plants turn to seeds, bears hibernate, etc), humans are also affected by changes in nature. So, for optimal health, the theory is that you should eat foods that mirror or mimic what the outside world is doing.
In general, foods that are good for the springtime are warm and ascending sweet foods. In early Spring, add cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets. As the weather changes, move onto mint, sweet rice, shitake mushrooms, peas, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts. In late spring, eat cherries (my personal favorite). Mung beans, green peas and green beans are green, the color of Spring, and they are also very good to eat during this season. Honey (Feng Mi) and peppermint tea (Bo He) is the perfect combination for Spring as it is gently warming helps the Liver to move Qi upwards.
In Chinese culture, it is also used as an herbal medicine. The ancient texts describe the healthiest seasonal drinking habits: “In summer drink green tea, winter black tea and in Spring and Autumn, flower teas.” You can think of it this way: in the Summer, the weather is generally hot and green tea is cooling in nature. In the winter months, we need extra warmth and black tea will do the trick. In the Spring and Autumn, the temperature should be, well, temperate, and you’ll want the neutral flavor and properties of flower teas, such as chrysanthemum and hibiscus. Let’s drink to your health!
In Chinese philosophy, all foods have a particular action on the body. I kid with my patients that there is usually a point, an herb, or a food for “that.” (Just like the joke, “there’s an app for that.”) Anyway, with this belief, the Chinese have been able to utilize food as medicine for thousands of years! In fact, when someone gets ill, the first line of defense is food! Intentionally combining foods can help you get the most out of them. For example: spinach Strengthens the Liver and Builds Liver Blood, but if you are feeling irritable, too much spinach may increase your anger. So, if you balance the spinach with some cooling tofu, you can forget about being a grump. Just think about the last time you went to a Japanese restaurant…they served you sushi with ginger, knowing that raw fish is cold and ginger is hot, this method balances their natures and may even prevent you from getting food poisoning.
This is the season when you can start planning your vacations! Hopefully, you’re checking your calendar to see when you can get away for some rest and relaxation. Before you go, make sure that you are familiar with this point for nausea: Nei Guan, Inner Gate, Pericardium 6, or PC 6. Several studies support the use of acupressure on this point to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting from motion sickness. In fact, the anesthesiologist from my last surgery uses press-acupuncture needles on his patients for post-surgical nausea and vomiting!
When I worked on the Coral Princess, I treated a lot of folks for seasickness, even those who had come prepared with those behind-the-ear patches! They were miserable until I treated them and taught them to press on Nei Guan. This point is also beneficial for nausea and vomiting post-surgery, after chemotherapy, and for pregnancy-induced morning sickness.
So, where is it? PC 6 is located in the groove between the two large tendons on the inside of the wrist. Lightly squeeze your index, middle, and ring fingers together and place them horizontally on your inside wrist, with your ring finger laying on the deepest crease between your hand and wrist. (Sometimes, it’s easier to imagine the points where a loose-fitting watch would fall.) This point is not often tender so you must use the exact instructions for finding it. You can also find wrist bands at your nearest pharmacy that have a little button placed on the inside to give you constant acupressure on PC 6. I recommend buying a pair and putting them on both wrists 1-2 hours before you set sail, get on a plane, or get in the passenger seat of your RV.
What do you do if your digestion just feels “off?” Maybe you’ve had too much cold water or you went a little frozen-yogurt happy at the new self-serve joint. Or maybe you have a sniffle and cough that won’t go away or you’ve been a little too friendly with the latrine of late. Think about ginger. Ginger, known in Chinese medicine as Sheng Jiang, is something that everyone should have in his or her pantry or fridge. And nowadays, with the tubes of already crushed, fresh ginger, there is no reason not to! Ginger increases your immunity, helps reduce colds and the flu, relieves abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, and can put a stop to nasal congestion and post-nasal drip-induced coughing. So, throw a little crushed ginger in hot water to make a tea or try my favorite recipe to prevent the common cold:
- Grab a large pot. Throw these ingredients in: a “hand” of ginger, lightly scrubbed, then sliced into thin “coins.” 2 large scallions, including the roots. Finally, throw in a handful of cinnamon bark. If you’re using the thicker rolled cinnamon, you’ll need 2 rolls. An optional ingredient is an Asian pear. The pear provides a very mild sweetness and may be eaten separately to soothe a cough (wait until it cools off before eating).
- Add at least 4 quarts of fresh water to the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer. After 30 minutes, remove the scallions and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.
- After simmering for a full hour, use a ladle to serve yourself some tea and enjoy while hot. This beverage is strong and full of energy, with only a hint of both sweetness (cinnamon) and earthiness (scallions). It is most beneficial if consumed in the earlier part of the day and with no added sweeteners.
Have you ever woken up with a stiff neck or a “crick in your neck?” All you can think of is, “I must have slept wrong!” Well, even though this type of pain is usually short-lived, there is something that you can do to loosen those neck muscles. Luo Zhen to the rescue! This wonderful point literally means “Stiff Neck,” and it does exactly as it says. It helps to loosen up the muscles in the neck, like the scalenes, the upper trapezius, and the sternocleidomastoid, and helps dull the pain. This point is found on the top of the hand, between the index and middle fingers. Find it by starting at the web of your fingers and pop just over the hump of the knuckles. Look for a “tender” spot, or an area that feels like it is bruised. Unlike most acupuncture points for pain, I find this point to be most effective when used on the same side of the neck pain. I like to press deeply in little, tiny circles and think, “I am sending my energy to the deepest bone-level.” I know, it sounds kind of weird, but I want the point to work and it won’t work if you are just thinking and pressing superficially.