Updated: Sep 22, 2022
Transitioning to Fall
The wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) abounds in its ability to help maintain the health of our our mind/body system. First let's look at the relationship between fall and how it relates to our systemic functioning, then we'll translate that into simple items to work with through the coming season. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Fall is the time of harvest, composting, yang energy transforming into yin, and a time to slow down. You can use the checklist at the bottom of the page for the short version of the following information.
Autumn is harvest time, where we can both reflect on the growth we have experienced in the past year, and to reap what we have sown because of it. After putting our energy out into the world, we now get to enjoy what is coming back to us. Introducing reflection on the activities we have been engaged in allows us to look at how we have shown up in the the world, and see what adjustments we can make moving forward. When we allow ourselves to do this we are navigating life by learning where to course correct in order to create larger harvests in the future.
The transition from yang energy moving into yin is, simply stated, that we go from being an active doer into a role of slowing down. It's not being dormant, or withdrawn, it is a time to pay attention, to finish up our big projects, and "compost" or transform our doing into processing and integrating. The internal work coming into balance with the external work.
If you look outwardly (at least in the northern hemisphere) the fall transition brings with it dryness, and in certain areas more wind. These two things in our environment impact our internal health in specific ways, which is why we may see an increase in colds and dry cough or skin during the fall. The list of fall seasonal items are helpful in navigating a holistic view of our needs during this time of year.
Honey: The moistening properties of honey are great for dry throat, cough and skin. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) utilizes honey to promote fluids in the body and ease dryness.
Pears: This delicious fruit provides moisture for dryness in the respiratory tract.
Beets: This root vegetable nourishes the blood in TCM. This translates into more nourishing fluids being available to use in the body which can decrease many dryness symptoms, increase energy, and even help with dizziness.
Root Vegetables: In general root vegetables can be very warming to the body. They are usually easily accessible this time of year and can help us eat seasonally and locally. Adding an internal warming energy of food at this time can help to stave off low energy and improve digestion as the weather begins to turn colder.
Nuts/Seeds: Many nuts and seeds can promote fluid generation in TCM, which keeps mucous membranes lubricated. Peanuts in particular are something that can help with lung dryness, such as a dry cough. Obviously avoid with nut allergies. The other side of that is to also avoid if experiencing more phlegm in the respiratory tract or sinuses.
Echinacea: An immune booster that is great to take when we feel the first symptoms of a cold. Only to be taken for 2 weeks at a time at onset of symptoms. Caution: you should not take if you have a ragweed allergy and consult a physician if you have rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or psoriasis.
Golden Seal: Like Echinacea it boosts the immune system at the intial signs of a cold. Indigenous populations used this for support of the mucous tissues in both the respiratory and digestive tracts.
Eucalyptus: Great for opening up the respiratory tract. Inhaling in a steam opens up your passages when feeling plugged. Take a couple drops of essential oil and place in warm water, cover your head with a towel, close your eyes, and breathe deeply.
Elderberry: This tasty supplement boosts your immune response. I love utilizing this with Echinacea at the first signs of a cold. It can be taken for cough support as well.
Vitamin D: If you live in the northern hemisphere it is truly difficult to make enough Vitamin D for yourself. It's important for our immune systems, digestion, and a myriad of other body processes to have enough of this precious vitamin.
Facial Oil/Moisturizer: Find a skincare product which is hydrating and nourishing. Fall brings dry air which wreaks havoc on your skin, having a quality moisturizer is essential. Spend a little extra on this product if need be, you will be happy you did.
Showering Guidelines: Avoid taking long hot showers as it dries already flaky skin out even more. If possible, try not to shower daily and let the natural oils of your skin do their work. Having water temperatures a couple degrees warmer than room temperature is adequate, even if it's not as comforting.
Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water, it's not just in hot weather that our body needs hydration. This step will help you avoid dryness issues in all your body systems. Drinking water also helps to clear phlegm by thinning it out and making it easier to expectorate.
Humidifier: Using a cool air humidifier to keep moisture in the air is essential for keeping dryness at bay. Start it up now and keep it going through Winter. Warm air humidifiers are ok, however they do tend to grow more bacteria and propigate germs. You can purchase small or larger home versions of humidifiers.
Outdoors: Even though the weather is getting colder it's imperative to still spend time outside. Research shows that nature brings immediate and drastic improvement to our mood. Try at least 10 minutes a day.
Breathwork: This tool is applicable for every day of the year. One of the greatest things you can do for yourself is deep breathing. Take deep "belly" breaths, work on exhaling a couple seconds longer than you inhale. Deep breathing shifts your body out of stress mode and can even stop it from making stress hormones.
Make Time for Yourself: Self-Care is so important. Have you noticed how we feel has direct impact on how we treat others? Try to take 15 minutes a day doing something you love and that feels nourishing. Maybe that is just spending time alone or reading a book. That time needs to be about you and what fills you up.
Exercise 30 Minutes: Just 30 minutes of sweating a day can help decrease stress, improve immune function, and improve energy. Even if you are only able to do this a couple times a week it will help improve mood, sleep, and energy. Gardening, raking, walking, running, all count. Suggestions are great, however finding what works for us individually is the key.
Fall is considered a "metal" time of year in TCM according to Five Element Theory (we can dive into this later). The emotions associated with metal is grief/sadness, and the organ is the lung. As the seasons change and we begin to see things go back to the Earth for a dormant period we are invited to sit with what we have put out into the world, what we can learn from our actions, and what has been brought into our lives because of it. To be proactive in our own healing and follow the cycles of nature, now is a good time to reflect on those emotions and experiences that we might still be holding onto and that we need to move through. Research shows that 10 minutes of journaling daily about issues in our lives can benefit our mental health. That doesn't mean venting, it means reflecting on challenges and what we are experiencing. Journaling gratitude also has phenomenal beneficial effects.
What is something I can let go of that no longer serves me?
Is there anything in/from my life I am grieving? How does that affect how I am showing up in life? Is there anything I still need to heal in this situation?
What have I learned about myself in the past 12 months? What can I celebrate? What can I grow from?
Wear a scarf: In TCM invasion of wind is one cause of colds. If you've ever been exposed to a chilly wind on a regular basis you may agree that it is uncomfortable at best. Protecting our neck from the elements provides an extra level of warmth to the body, which can help keep it more relaxed and creating less tension that can be associated with stress. Since stress decreases immune response, the simplicity of a scarf can be of assistance in keeping us healthy.
Bed Time: Our bodies mimic the natural cycle of the days. You may have heard about circadian rhythm. This rhythm is what tells our bodies to wake and moves us toward sleep. If you notice you are more tired during the fall and winter it is because your body is actually craving more sleep due to the increase hours of darkness. Do yourself a favor, listen to the wisdom of your body, and go to bed a bit earlier to get enough rest.
Avoid draft/damp: TCM explains external damp and drafts as something that can invade our immune systems.The idea is similar to wearing a scarf, we want to avoid taxing our immune system and damp drafty areas can actually create cold and phlegm in our bodies. Make sure your windows are sealed, you aren't hanging out in windy environments, or damp basements.
Find an Herbalist/Naturopath/Therapist: Find someone you trust to ask questions and talk to about your personal health concerns and goals to help you through challenges. Having a professional on your side to keep you healthy certainly allows for a more quality of life in every way.
Thank you for showing up here today and reading this share. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complex and beautiful system that helps us relate to our environments, our bodies, emotions, and spirituality. When we listen to the cycles of nature it reflects a course of action in taking care of ourselves, as we are a part of nature. If you have any questions about TCM, being proactive about your health, or concerns you have please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.