According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, each season is intricately related to a specific stage of development, element, organ, climate, emotion and taste.
This serves both to help explain our physical and emotional states in any given season as we experience our inter-connectedness to the earth and one another, as well as to offer guidance to help us achieve our optimal health. Adopting practices that support our bodies through these seasonal transitions, brings us into alignment with our planet and encourages our overall wellness.
All of the new growth that occurred in the spring season is now surrounding us with vibrance.TCM teaches us that summer belongs to fire, which is symbolic of maximum activity or greatest yang. This means that it is a time of heat and reaching outward in nature and in our lives. When the fire element is in balance, the heart is strong and the mind is calm.When the fire element is out of balance, there may be agitation, insomnia, anxiety, and heartburn. This time of transition from spring into summer, is a wonderful time to focus on self-care.
Here are five tips to help you live your best summer season:
1. Permission to Nap
Take advantage of the long days! Rise earlier, stay up later, and take a rest or nap in the afternoon. This allows for hours in the sun before its rays are too strong, and also late evening outdoor dinners, walks and other activities. While following this type of sleep schedule is often easier when on vacation, it is possible to incorporate aspects of it into a regular summer schedule. A short meditation in the afternoon, even at work, can lead to more energy to enjoy the evening with family or friends.
2. Eat Well and Stay Hydrated
In the hotter months of summer, our diet should center around light, cooling, nutrient-dense, brightly colored, and hydrating foods. As nature would have it, these foods are plentiful at this time of year. Some great options are: summer fruits (watermelon, cantaloupe, berries, stone fruit and tomatoes), vegetables (cucumbers, asparagus, zucchini, bok choy, snow peas, and spinach), and flowers/herbs (mint, chrysanthemum, dill and cilantro). Bitter is the taste associated with the summer season, so incorporating foods that are bitter in nature will help keep your body cool and your heart healthy (coffee, tea, dark chocolate, asparagus, kale, arugula, escarole, celery and rhubarb). TCM reminds us to eat raw fruits and vegetables in moderation, as overconsumption can lead to bloating and indigestion. Lightly cooked vegetables are a great alternative to salads! And while the summer weather may be way too cold for some of us in San Francisco, it’s still crucial to stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes in balance. Coconut water is nature’s greatest electrolyte drink, and watermelon juice is magical for cooling the body.
Summer energy is quick and lively – seek activities that bring you joy! Water activities help to balance the fire element and keep you more comfortable. It’s a great time to focus on cardiac health, but make sure you are not getting overheated. Stay hydrated, wear appropriate protection from the sun, and rest when you feel tired. And since movement may also include in and out of air-conditioned environments (some homes, airplanes, malls, etc) and also the ever-evolving San Francisco weather, keep a light scarf handy to protect yourself from the rapid and extreme environmental changes.
4. Spirit and Joy
The emotion associated with summer is JOY, so seek out people and activities that nurture that feeling in you. The longer days allow more time for this. Nourish creative projects and play like you did as a child.
5. Seasonal Tune-up
According to TCM, summer corresponds with the Heart and Small Intestine organ systems. So, symptoms like poor memory, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, UTIs, heartburn, or depression will indicate an imbalance of these organ systems at this time of year. If you’re struggling with any of these issues, it’s time to schedule an acupuncture treatment! Everyone who has been treated in my clinic has heard me say, “Come in to see me at the first sign of anything, and if you’re well, come in once a season.” So here we are in summer…schedule an acupuncture treatment for any symptoms you may be having, or for a summer seasonal tune-up. Tune-ups help to keep you and your family healthy, and will set you up for a healthier fall and back-to-school season!