Temperatures are dropping, shops are buzzing, pumpkin-flavored treats abound: the holiday season is here! For as much holiday cheer as this time of year can bring, it can also trigger elevated levels of stress and anxiety (both of which are very common).
From a Chinese medicine perspective, your yin and yang are in a constant state of flux within the body. Yin is all about nourishment – it’s a warm bowl of soup or a great night’s sleep. It’s everything that involves rest and rejuvenation. With to-do lists that seem never ending paired with shorter daylight hours, prioritizing rest and supplementing our yin becomes critical. The more we push our bodies to engage when they are exhausted and stressed, the more we tax our yin.
Being all about nourishment, yin is responsible for the cooling and moistening properties of our body. We can present with heat signs and symptoms when our yin is deficient. Very commonly, this can look like anxiety and irritability, acid reflux and other digestive concerns, sleep disturbances, night sweats or flushed face, and dryness signs (dry mouth, throat, skin, or eyes).
Not to fear, there are plenty of small ways to shift your daily routine in order to nourish your yin and feel more balanced during “the most wonderful – and hectic – time of the year.”
One of the easiest ways to replenish the body’s yin is to get a full night’s sleep. Hop into bed an hour earlier and wind down with a great book. If your anxiety is making it hard for you to fall asleep or stay asleep, acupuncture and herbal medicine can be incredibly helpful. Don’t let your anxiety convince you that you don’t have time for self-care. Now is the time to keep your acupuncture appointments. Acupuncture helps to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” portion of the brain. It allows the body to unwind from chronic stress. In doing so, it makes quality sleep more easily achieved. Additionally, there are several acupressure points in the ear which can help you to feel more emotionally balanced. During your next acupuncture treatment, feel free to ask your practitioner for a few ear seeds to help prolong your state of bliss.
Meditation and Mindfulness Practices
One of my favorite quotes for this time of year is: “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family” – Ram Dass. Family often knows just how to push our buttons because they installed them. Fortify your spirit in advance by developing a daily meditation or mindfulness practice. If you already have a meditation practice, now is a critical time to return to your seat. There are plenty of meditation apps now available if you don’t know where to begin. Close your eyes and listen to a guided meditation on your subway commute. My favorites are anything by Sarah Blondin or Jana Roemer on Insight Timer. Another mindfulness practice to consider is starting a gratitude journal. Keep it by your bed and jot down three things you are grateful for at the beginning or end of the day. Or, get in some tree therapy by taking a walk outside without your phone. Allow yourself 15-20 minutes to take some deep breaths, notice your environment, and soak up some mood-boosting vitamin D.
Whether we are at a catered holiday party or enjoying a home-cooked meal by a loved one, we don’t always have a say in meal choices. That being said, optimize all the other meals you can. Limit stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and sugar as these foods are especially heating and can further deplete the yin. Spicy foods should also be avoided whenever possible. Chinese Medicine regards barley and millet as yin supplementing grains. Good choices for vegetables and fruits include sweet and white potatoes, artichokes, peas, string beans, zucchini, asparagus, alfalfa sprouts, kelp and other seaweeds, tomatoes, beets, grapes, blackberries, raspberries, avocados, bananas, pears, apples, persimmons, pomegranate, apricot, lemons, limes, mango, pineapple, watermelon and mulberry. Nuts and seeds that nourish the yin include black sesame seeds, coconut, and walnuts. Some yin boosting protein sources to incorporate into meals are mung beans, black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, tofu, eggs, fish (especially clams, oysters, sardines, and crab), beef, pork, and duck. Dairy is also regarded as yin nourishing if you tolerate it well.
Supplements and Herbal Medicine
Additionally, it could be helpful to consider adding a supplement or herbal formula to your daily routine. Herbal formulas are catered to your individual pattern of diagnosis and can make a world of difference in helping the holidays seem more joyful and manageable. Some supplements that are especially good for soothing the overactive brain include Omega 3, Vitamin D, and Magnesium Glycinate. Always check with your practitioner or doctor before supplementing or starting a new herbal formula.
And with that, I wish you a wonderful holiday season with less stress and more joy!