Looking after yourself this Autumn ...

by Rachael Forrest


New seasons are an opportunity to assess our states of health and realign with our natural rhythms. 

From an acupuncture perspective, Autumn is about refinement. It’s time to pare down, to let go of the excesses we allowed ourselves in summer and focus on what’s necessary for winter.
In acupuncture theory, humans are viewed as microcosms of the natural world that surrounds them. Weather and climate, particularly during the transition from one season to another, factor significantly into acupuncture diagnoses and treatment plans.

The transition into Autumn is especially noteworthy because it signifies moving from the more active seasons to the more passive. This directly impacts how we feel, and how we prevent and treat illness.

Each season is linked with a natural element, organ and emotion. The element, organ and emotion of Autumn are, respectively, Metal, Lung and grief. These three things usher us throughout the season, serving as barometers for where we’re at and offering insight on how to be better.

Autumn is when we ought to embrace our 'Metal' qualities: strong, definitive, focused, discerning. It is time to get down to business, to gain clarity about what really matters to us. 
As satisfying as this can be, it also can be overwhelming. Make a list of which priorities deserve your attention. Write them down and glance at the list periodically throughout the season.

Autumn heightens our innate ability to get stuff done. Take advantage of it by reminding yourself where to focus.

Protect Yourselves

Lung, the organ associated with fall, is considered the most exterior organ. It is the first line of defense against illnesses. As the weather turns cold and the wind picks up, the Lung organ is extra vulnerable. In Chinese Medicine, factors such as cold and wind invade the body at the back of the neck, so keeping that area protected is very important in the fall. Even if it’s sunny, always bring a scarf when you head outside.

Dryness of all kinds is common in Autumn. The Lung is the most exterior organ as it is the organ that relates most closely to the skin, dry skin and even rashes tend to show up in Autumn. Drink a lot of water and keep your skin hydrated with non-alcoholic (alcohol will dry you out more) moisturizer. Another reason to stay hydrated is to regulate digestion. The Lung’s paired organ is Large Intestine, so sometimes digestive issues can flare up this time of year. Constipation, due to the dryness of the season, is most common, especially in people who struggle with the “letting go” aspect of transitioning into fall.

Emotions

The emotion associated with Autumn is grief. This is the time of year to pull inward, to grieve letting go and to reflect on any unresolved sadness. This can be an adjustment after the surge of energy and mood that many of us experience during summer, but it is normal to feel somewhat sombre and pensive in the Autumn - looking towards the onset of Winter, the end of the year and reflect on what we've achieved.

The inability to settle into this emotional shift, or transition out of it, may suggest an imbalance. However, before labelling yourself with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD—a common biomedical diagnosis for people who feel depressed in the colder, darker months—consider that you may be experiencing a natural heightened awareness of grief. If you sense it might be more than that, by all means, see your doctor


Food

Step away from the salad! The cool, raw, refreshing salads of summer will not do you any favours come Autumn. Just as we need to start keeping our bodies warmer on the outside, we need to stay warm on the inside as well. Eat warm, cooked food. Instead of cold cereal with milk, choose oatmeal. Trade the salads for oven-roasted veggies over brown rice. When cooking, throw in some onions, ginger, garlic or mustard—these pungent foods are known to benefit the Lung organ. Veggie wise, root vegetables such as beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash are ideal. If you go for out-of-season vegetables, make sure they are cooked. If you’re craving fruit, reach for something seasonal such as apples, pears, grapes, figs or persimmons.

Most of all, enjoy kicking the leaves, the smell of bonfires and the warm, cosy evenings with friends ...