Tips for Remaining Healthy This Fall
Autumn is associated with the Lung organ, in Chinese medicine theory – a poignant note for our community, which still feels the impact of the fires with every inhale. This association means that our lungs are vulnerable this time of year, but it also means that it’s an important time to focus on the other energetic associations of the Lung organ, in order to maintain optimal health and balance.
Below, we share information about the energetic associations of the autumn, and some tips for how you can live in balance with the increasingly Yin nature of the season:
Time to get organized
Autumn is the season of the Metal element, which controls organization and boundaries. The leaves are falling from the trees – likewise, it’s the season to organize your life and let go of that which no longer serves you. Clean out your clutter, and donate the items that are collecting dust. And it’s not just about stuff! It’s also a good time to release feelings of resentment or ill will that may have been building up over the past months or years. We’re settling in to the inward stillness of the Yin time of year; it’s important to have a clean physical and emotional space to facilitate peace in that stillness.
Focus on the breath
What a complicated time to talk about the importance of breath. Watching the air quality index (AQI) has been like riding a roller coaster the past few weeks! Autumn is an important time to take care of the Lungs, by both connecting with our breath, but also making sure we avoid respiratory irritants.
So… on high AQI days, keep your windows and doors shut, and blast your air filters. If you must spend time outdoors, wear an N95 or a mask with a filter. Our simple two-layered cloth COVID masks won’t protect your lungs from smoke, unfortunately.
When the AQI is in the green, spend some time outside breathing in the fresh air. Savor the scents of nature, and spend some time everyday taking slow, full breaths.
Protect yourself from the wind
The times of year when the weather is shifting from hot to cold (or vice versa) are times when we see the wind pick up. According to Chinese medicine theory, wind can carry pathogens into our bodies – the kinds of pathogens that are comparable to infectious illness in Western medicine – most frequently starting in our lungs. The back of your neck is particularly vulnerable to these wind-borne / infectious pathogens, so we encourage patients to start wearing scarves, turtle necks, or hooded outerwear at this time of year.
Start choosing warm foods
It’s time to say goodbye to the salads, ice cream and chilled watermelon that help to balance out the heat of summertime – and break out your crockpot! Cold food and drinks can create dampness and phlegm in the body, which clog up the lungs. Instead, start shifting towards stews, soups, and other warm foods. The warming spices are especially beneficial for the Lung organ, spices like cinnamon, ginger, anise and clove…. so don’t judge the pumpkin spice lovers, they’re just taking care of their lungs! **Note: avoid excessive intake of warming spices if you run hot, or if you are pregnant!
You can never go wrong with eating seasonal produce. Squash, pumpkin, broccoli, kale, and walnuts all help to keep the tissue of your respiratory tract nice and moist, to help trap any pathogens that find their way in. Pears are especially nourishing and beneficial to the Lung organ, so eat them to your heart’s content – YUM!
Face your grief
So many people are facing varied, unrelenting sources of grief this year. Chinese medicine theory teaches that each organ is responsible for processing a different emotion – and the Lung organ processes grief and sadness. That means that when someone is experiencing grief, the energy of their Lung helps them manage the emotion; if the emotion is too overwhelming, or becomes repressed, it has the potential to clog up the function of the Lung.
The goal isn’t to avoid feelings of grief or sadness. Instead, the goal should be to lean into facing those emotions as they arise. There’s no right or wrong way to face one’s grief, but the important first step is to recognize it when it’s coming up. Grief isn’t just about loss of a loved one or a possession. Especially this year, grief is about losing time, losing touch with the things that make us feel alive, losing the opportunity to hug our loved ones. Let yourself cry, let yourself scream, let yourself mourn those losses. And you can always come back to your breath – focusing, especially, on the exhale – to help you process that grief.
Keep your immune system strong!
Especially this year, keeping your immune system strong as we enter autumn is of the utmost importance. Schedule a time to come in for care with one of our acupuncturists (or make a virtual appointment!) to keep your Metal element and Lung organ in balance, and your immune system strong. We hope to see you in the clinic or on Zoom soon.
Happy autumn, everyone!