Is it really that time already? Yes, it's time to hunker down and get cosy as nights draw in and we move towards winter. Autumn is the transition between summer and winter and in Chinese medicine terms, when we recede into the most Yin (darkest/reflective) time of the year. It's so much harder to get going as the days get shorter and evenings darker; add the cold to the mix, and don't you just want to take refuge in a warm duvet, run a soothing bath, have some hot buttered toast or a comforting soup, a snuggly blanket and a good book or film?
In Chinese medicine, winter is a time of drawing inwards, of reflection and physical recharge. It is linked to the element of water (emotions), that governs the kidneys (Yin) which are paired with the bladder (Yang) - they work as a team. Essential organs are all paired; the Yin is always about processing (internal), whilst the Yang relates to distribution (action). The kidneys are sometimes called the back-burners (your auxiliary power generator); keeping them out of deficit is essential as it impacts both psychological and physical health. Emotionally, balanced kidney energy connects us to calmness, contemplation, inner wisdom and self-reflection. Conversely, when out of balance, we can feel anxious, fearful and depressed. Signs that your kidneys are under stress are poor hydration, fluid retention and bags under the eyes. Equally, being under pressure or stressed can provoke this and stimulate the adrenals (a small hormonal gland on top of the kidneys), that secretes cortisol (the fight or flight hormone) and over secretion can make you manic and result in chronic fatigue.
According to research, as many as 12 million people across Northern Europe suffer from the Winter Blue's or SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Its a kind of depression that causes low moods and extreme fatigue. Fear not, you can take some practical steps to minimise the effects. Firstly, ensure you check your Vitamin D levels (essential for regulating your mood) and keep them topped up; low levels have been scientifically linked to SAD. Remember, your primary source of Vitamin D is the sun, so you may need to supplement in the winter. Daily exposure to the sun is vital too; therefore, organise yourself so you have time in the sun, perhaps go for a walk at lunch or position your desk by a window. Try to recognise that your energy is precious, so don't over-commit socially or at work because we naturally have less energy in winter. Just listen to your body and learn to preserve your energy at this time of the year. Let's get in shape this winter rather than succumbing to the Winter Blues, colds and flu and the myriad of exotic viral strains out there. Here are some simple steps that you can take to bolster your body and foster great benefits.