We've come almost full circle in my ongoing blog series, Health for All Seasons, looking at how to optimize health with the changing of seasons and understanding our different needs through the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Something that TCM excels at is approaching health seasonally and really trying to support the body and mind in ways that work holistically with nature. This post completes the full cycle with Summer as our last season to take a look at.
Summer in TCM and Five Element theory corresponds to the Fire element and the Heart organ. It is the time of year that contains the most Yang energy: moving, expanding, growing, creative, abundant, bright, warm, and outgoing. Days are longer and the plants, animals, and humans all try to make the most of the extra sunlight and warmth.
In TCM the Heart is the organ recognized not just for its role in circulatory health, but also as the source of our consciousness/soul/spirit/self. Out of the emotions it is primarily responsible for our ability to experience Joy. When our Heart is balanced, we are able to experience Joy easily. When out of balance we are pushed to extremes: a lack of Joy (or depression) or too much or inappropriate Joy (as seen in mania). The Heart also allows us to sleep restfully and dream blissfully. When the Heart is out of balance, we see insomnia, restless sleep, or nightmares creep in. Heart imbalances can also show up in excessive sweating, hot flashes, and night sweats. Or anxiety centered on the chest: palpitations, chest tightness or heaviness.
So, how do we support and nurture the Heart and overall health during Summer and reap all the benefits of the season?
Consume more cooling and raw whole foods: Summer is the perfect time for salads of all kinds: composed salads, fridge-raid salads, fruit salads, etc. Leafy greens and anything with a high water content like cucumbers, watermelon, and tomatoes will help keep you cool and hydrated. Very cold and overly sweet foods like ice cream should be indulged in only occasionally, but needn't be avoided altogether. After all, we are trying to cultivate a joyful Heart and what is more joyful than an ice cream cone on a hot summer day? :)
Try Chrysanthemum tea for a traditional herbal heat remedy: Chrysanthemum tea made by steeping the whole flowers in boiling water and then served either hot or iced is the most commonly used herbal preparation in China to help with overheating on the hottest summer days. When I was studying Acupuncture in Beijing during the summer of 2012, it seemed that the only thing that kept me going through the hot and humid weather was ordering chrysanthemum tea at every cafe and restaurant!
Cultivate creativity and play: use the Yang nature of the season to channel some energy into creative outlets. Draw, paint, garden, explore new recipes, make some music, or write some poetry. Find some time to play and laugh like you did when you were small.
Wake early and go to bed later, but make sure you are getting quality rest: We naturally tend to sleep a little less in the summertime, rising earlier and staying out later. Enjoy the warmth outside, spend the day in the sun (with sun protection of course!), but make sure you are practicing good sleep hygiene at night to get the rest you need. I'm working on a video that I will post in the upcoming weeks on an easy at-home Acupressure prescription for insomnia, so keep your eyes peeled!
Get an Acupuncture tune-up: It is always a great time for an Acupuncture treatment, and I love the practice of getting a regular "tune-up" each season, even for well patients, because it helps you to align your body and mind with the season's changes and to reap all the benefits you can during this unique time of the year. Additionally, with Acupuncture now deemed an Essential service in New York state, and with COVID-19 numbers continuing to fall in Westchester County, my practice Christina Wallace Acupuncture has reopened and is once again accepting new patients. You can Schedule Online here or take a moment to look at what I'm doing to keep you safe and healthy while in my office.
I hope this post is helpful for you to embrace the energy and momentum of Summer and to be mindful of how your lifestyle can help or hinder your Heart health and overall health during this season. I wish you excellent physical health and emotional balance now and throughout the rest of the year. Please reach out to me if you have any questions or comments!
Christina Wallace L.Ac.