'Tis the season of colds, bugs, stress and feeling rundown for a majority of people; which is a real shame when it's supposed to be such a jolly and lively time of year.... or so the media tells us! If you take away the marketing machine that is all things Christmas wouldn't this season of Winter look very different? Before you say it would look bleak, think of what the more traditional pursuits would be during the darker. colder months? In this month's blog I'm reframing the Christmas break and giving you lots of tips on how to reserve and replenish your energy so that you can embrace the New Year in a good frame of mind and energy! This month's write up was going to be how to rest and re-energise like your dog (so there may still be doggie references) but then I realised dog's don't drink tea so instead this month's shiatsu blog is: Elevate your energy this winter!
Elevate your energy this winter!
The way to increase your energy is to replenish it, it's the knowing how to replenish is where most people come unstuck. Modern western living punishes you and your energy, it's designed to exhaust you. From being on the go all the time, not taking enough downtime, not getting enough sleep, too much screen time and then punishing western exercise and food on the go whilst living with toxins and fumes all around. It's no wonder that people are in a mess, overwhelmed, exhausted and ill.
Let's strip things back to what really replenishes your reserves. In Chinese medicine we say: Good Air, plus Good Food, plus Good Sleep are the foundations, this supports your Lung Qi, Spleen Qi and Kidney Qi and together these transform energies into your Kidney Essence, and this is your Life Force. Everyday you're depleting it one way or another, so the question is are you ready to replenish it?
Here are some great tips, I've taken from an idea by Holden Qi Gong (thank you!) and put my twist on them!
Kick start your lungs in the mornings!
Fresh air in your lungs every single day is vitality important for your overall health, and the earlier you can do it the more of a pick-me-up it feels like. If you're a dog walker or a bird feeder you know the feeling of freshness early on and how it does make you feel more alive. This is even more so in the brisk mornings. Then their are the rainy mornings, I too Leela to the park yesterday when it was tipping it down and admittedly we found this beautiful tree and sheltered under it for the most part but it was an invigorating trip out. I suggest on rainy days you at least stick your head out the window, feel the elements and take some deep lung fulls of freshness.
All wood based essential oils like pine, cedar and eucalyptus are fantastic for your lungs, so bring the outdoors in and diffuse one of these woody delights. You can blend with orange or clove to give a more seasonal scent too!
In Chinese Medicine tea is big! You maybe into your blending, your herbals, or you maybe like me and just like a traditional brew with milk. Tea has therapeutic effects, from the amino acid in it called L-Theanine that has been shown to improve serotonin leading to increased happiness feelings! Tea without caffeine can be a game changer. In taking out the caffeine you're removing the energetic rollercoaster which leads to energy slumps. Buy a good organic decaf (Clipper is the best I've found) and start alternativing your caffeine and decaf, do not go cold turkey. Ween off and feel the difference as your energy levels out through the day. Then when you do need an extra kick to your day just one caffeine cuppa makes a real difference.
In the 1100's formal Zen Buddhist tea-drinking ceremonies were created to aid meditation. Studies since have shown that it stimulates teh alpha brainwaves, the ones linked to deep relaxation and enhanced clarity.
Take time to enjoy your brew away from screens and stimulation and savour the flavour, for
A cup of a tea is a cup of peace
Sen Soshitsu XV
The whole of last months blog was on it, read more here. I've learnt it's way better to have good tasty nourhsing food than be dazzled by all the fancy things that get offered around this the Christmas season. If you're body isn't used to it you'll just end up feeling ill or have gut issues. Have what you love but think quality over quantity. There is good Chinese proverb:
The more you eat, the less flavour; The less you eat, the more flavour
I remember my dad teaching me as a kid to eat foods in slivers! Like chocolate and cheese, don't eat cubes or chunks as they are not staples. Instead a thin layer across your tongue tickles the taste buds instead.
Take essential vitamins and minerals
Your body will appreciate the extra nutrition to combat the stressors it comes under at this time of year. A good plant-based multivitamin, vitamin C and Magnesium are your starter kit. To help your body fight lethargy regular vitamin C throughout the day. Take Magnesium for muscle aches and deeper sleep. Vitamins and minerals really do help, and plant-based ones are more easily absorbed by your gut. I use Cytoplan get my quick start guide here.
Sleep, glorious sleep
When you hit middle age a weird thing happens, sleep starts to allude you. It's not that you need less sleep, it's that in an ironic twist of body chemistry that the more stressed you are the less able you are to sleep. You can get stuck in the tired but wired mode or the keep going as if I stop , I'll drop. Been there myself, been like that for years, then when you stop you crash and get ill. If you push, push, push your body is incredible it will keep going, but it will also give your warning signs. Ignore those warning signs and when you crash it'll be a big one.
Avoid crashes, get more sleep. I think there is a real trend at the moment of people saying I go up to bed early, and this is the time of year to do it. Burning the midnight oil to do things for Christmas only exhausts you for Christmas. Check what can be cut out of the to-do lists and don't cut out the sleep.
Add in Magnesium, normally the #1 reason why your sleep is interupted. Add in as either a supplement or apply topically in a body butter.
If you're struggling to fall asleep, or you crash and wake up around 3/4am and can't get back to sleep then your nervous system is struggling to wind down and I recommend you seek shiatsu and holistic health support to help rectify this.
If you sleep deeply but are still exhausted then this is in the realms of chronic fatigue and you need professional help here too.
I offer shiatsu for those local to me and health consultations via zoom for those further afield. Read more here.
Gratitude, in baby steps
Practising gratitude is another trend I'm seeing, and one I've embraced over the last 3/4 years. I especially find that if I wake in the early hours that think gratefuls thoughts interupts those nasty negative ones and helps you get back to sleep. Negative thoughts produce stress hormones in the body, Grateful thoughts switch the hormone production to positive ones which aid relaxation, trigger healing in your body and aid sleep.
When I was younger I remember the Spanish Actor Antonio Banderas saying that happiness is like sitting on the bench feeling the cool summer breeze on a hot summers day; though I sure he said it more poetically! The thing is it was that comment that made me realise that happiness was the little things; that then add up to the big overall happiness.
You've got to start small, happiness and gratitude are baby steps, but add up a lot of baby steps and in time you just are....
Happy people aren't grateful, grateful people are happy!
Mindful movement is replenishing, everything you do physically can break your body or replenish your body and that includes Yoga too! Do yoga in a bad frame of mind or push yourself too far because it's too easy and Yoga is no better than any other form or excercise.
In a way it's better to do Qi Gong or Tai Chi because you'll be with a thoughtful teacher that won't let you punish yourself.
Mindful movement is listening to your body. If you're stretching for example, how far should you stretch? Does your body like the stretch? If it doesn't don't do it! Maybe try resistance instead as that will build muscle mass which is more of what you need as you get older.
If you do weights, don't over do them, don't do them too quickly, how do you feel as you lift the weights?
Movement that includes thinking about breathing is the most beneficial as it'll help build lung capacity, re-oxygenate your blood and invigorate you.
Boundaries for self care
Just say No! Don't feel guilty! Don't say: I should! Don't say but.... as an answer to me :)
Don't say you'll do something then stress you don't have time to do it, or begrudge that it's a burden on you to do; hand it back with an apology that you're not going to be able to do this: this is real self care.
I wish I'd been given all this advice 30 plus years ago!
However, when I learned this in my first year of shiatsu training I decided to implement it as I had to write a paper on it. I laughed at the results, I had a door closed in my face (neighhour), a colleagues jaw literally dropped when I said I put the kettle on and leave him to sort out his own mess; my lessons were truly learned. I was doing way too much to help others AND it was people I didn't really like! A lot of people left my life when I wasn't useful anymore and oh boy did I feel better. Now I did it with dramatic results, but you can do it with just a little thing here and there, and build up.
Setting these boundaries increases your self care by:
Giving you back your precious time
Relieving you of senselessnguilt
Increases your own self worth
Keeps on the people in your life that are really worth it
Doesn't cost a penny!
the digital devices. There are 2 parts to this one:
Removing the blue light, the electo magnetic frequencies (EMFs) and noise of social medial this is a huge detox in itself.
Replace with hobbies and passions that are absorbing. Anything you do that calms your brain down to a single absorbing thought process, whether doing jigsaws, making something, reading, meditation, photography on a walk... is mindfulness. Do this for at least 4 hours and feel the difference. Feel how calm and relaxed you are, the achievement you've reached.
Unplug the electronics and plug back into the simple things that give you so much pleasure.
Hygge your space
Hygge is the danish word for creating a cosy environment that nourishes you. You shouldn't have any sense of guilt about creating your nest of cosy lounge wear, candles, early evening baths; anything that is right for you to achieve a state of rest. Resting is not a waste of time, resting is the most underrated way to re-energise and it's free. We're in a cost of living crisis so save some money and get active with resting up!
Rest as much as you want, but it doesn't mean slobbing out in front of the TV like a zombie (well for more than a duvet day or two!) because the TV is part of the problem (see above). Turn the TV off if you find you're becoming too lethargic, switch to a restful activity even if that means it can send you to sleep (as it's probably what you need).
Get the warm fuzzies
Nothing makes you feel so good as helping others, and there is no time of year like now to embrace that energy. If you're feeling thankful for what you have how can you spread that energy around? Even if it's lovely comments in person, or online, make someone else feel better and you'll get the warm fuzzies 10 fold.
Nourishing your spirit is every much as important towards replenishing your energy as nourishing your mind and body.
Thank you to Holden Qi Gong and Self Care - How to live mindfully and look after yourself by Claire Chamberlain for additional content in this blog.
Nourish your mind, body and spirit with Shiatsu
The ultimate self care! As well as have your energetics rebalanced so that you feel calmer, more relaxed and your body just works better shiatsu reaches and nourishes your soul too. You start to listen to your body more, respect your energy, feel your limits and embrace a calmer, simpler way of life. Shiatsu will take you on a journey, via its roots in the wise learnings from Chinese medicine, you can't help but live your life differently if you truly embrace shiatsu and all it has to offer.
It's way more than just a massage, it's a way of life! Your mind and body deserve more... you deserve shiatsu.
About Andrea at Shiatsu Bodyworks Cheltenham
Andrea is a qualified zen shiatsu and chinese medicine practitioner with over 20 years immersed in holistic therapies and the energetics of mind and body. Based in Cheltenham, UK she offers in house clinic and online shiatsu sessions to help people with midlife health issues and also offers online consultations for helping you regain your vitality and she is a menopause specialist too.