By Lauri McKean, LAc.
Spring! Spring has always been my favorite season. It feels like a celebration of new life and new possibilities – especially given that I’ve lived much of my adult life in places where winter is colder and darker than the Rogue Valley. Who doesn’t love the plant kingdom coming to life with flowers beginning to appear, trees budding out, and green spreading through the landscape?
However, I know that the season can also be a bit tricky. For example, with the increase of Yang energy (active and outward) after the winter’s Yin energy (passive and inward) many of us have a tendency to get too busy and active too quickly. Perhaps we’re working in our gardens and yards, starting projects, and/or doing more outdoor activities. Sometimes our bodies aren’t ready for the sudden demands placed on them and it’s helpful if we remember to ease into those first sunny, warm days so as to avoid strain and injury.
Within the framework of Chinese Medicine, we also recognize that Spring can be tricky in another key way. This has to do with the fact that this season is associated with the energy of the liver. Given our fast-paced culture and the high levels of stress that most of us experience, our liver energy tends to be chronically constrained.
In the clinic, we commonly see liver constraint manifesting as a variety of symptoms including: headaches/migraines, insomnia (especially waking between 1-3am), PMS, menstrual pain, hot flashes, tight tendons and muscles, as well as an increase in feeling frustrated, irritable, stressed and/or angry. Because the liver energy is so heightened in the spring, these symptoms often appear now or get exaggerated. Additionally, it is a time when what Chinese Medicine refers to as issues with “wind” get exacerbated. Seasonal allergies, dizziness and tremors and spasms are examples of “wind” problems.
Luckily, there are many ways to smooth out the liver energy, calm wind and thus reduce any of the above issues. Of course, acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbs can be incredibly helpful. Some “liver-y” people may want to increase the frequency of treatment during this season and changes to herbal formulas might be necessary.
Additionally, there are many lifestyle changes that can also help with this seasonal transition. Here are a few that I often recommend.
- Exercise regularly. Although this is important at any time of year, it is especially pertinent in the spring. Be sure to increase the intensity and amount of time gradually.
- Adjust your diet. Eat lighter amounts and foods than in the winter (ie more greens and sprouts than root vegetables) and be sure to get plenty of water between meals.
- Reduce any intake of alcohol. Alcohol often increases problems with the liver energy. Reduce or eliminate it – especially if you are waking up in the middle of the night.
- Create outlets for releasing frustration/anger. Allowing frustration/anger to move through you and be expressed has immediate health benefits. Involve your voice/sounds along with movements. I recommend this as a practice without other people involved. Movements might include stomping, pounding a pillow or bouncing/shaking your body. Sounds might include shouting, moaning or even growling. (I know this might sound strange but it really works!)
Want to know more? Check out our Face Book page for upcoming posts about Spring