Spring has finally arrived and I could not be more excited! But, wait. Why am I irritated? Having digestive issues? Catching a spring cold? Hmmmm. Well, it's because even though spring is an awesome season replete with flowers, outdoor activities and baby animals, it is still a season like any other. And, all seasons have the potential for causing disharmony in our bodies if we are not prepared. In Chinese Medicine, every season is governed by one of the yin energetic organs and spring is governed by the Liver. Oh, the Liver. The thing about the Liver is that it is responsible for the free flow of qi. If it is out of balance, which it has the potential to be during the spring, it can be quite the bully to the other organs. The Liver will overact on other organs like the Spleen and Stomach, which govern digestion, causing issues like indigestion, bloating and constipation. The Liver is sensitive to stress, alcohol, and overeating which constrict Liver qi so it is fair to say that many of us already have somewhat of a Liver imbalance already, especially in a high-performing, insanely busy and stressful area like DC! But, don't worry. While the energetic Liver does pertain somewhat to the actual organ, what we are really talking about in Chinese Medicine is a set of functions that the energetic Liver performs. It has jobs to do and if it is out of balance then it can't do those jobs properly and that affects how the other organs do their jobs. On that note, if the Liver qi is constricted then we tend to become irritable and even angry. This is because when qi is constricted it just turns into a hot stagnant ball and that is why we feel annoyed or "pent up." Stagnant qi can even manifest as pain in the body, like tightness in the neck and shoulders. Another issue with spring is that the Wei qi, the protective barrier that covers our entire body, is still a bit fragile coming out of the winter season when we have been keeping it covered and safe from external invasions like cold and flu. When the weather gets warmer, we tend to feel like we can start walking around in tank tops without jackets and scarves. The reason this is not wise is probably the same reason your mother told you it wasn't...you might catch a cold! Fluctuating temperatures and wind in the Spring put a bare neck and back at risk for external invasions, especially if our systems are already taxed with lack of sleep, poor diet, overwork, stress, etc.

All of that being said, here is a list of tips to help you to stay healthy AND happy this spring:

Stay Covered! Like I was just saying, springtime colds prevail when we fail to cover up our necks, shoulders and upper backs. In Chinese Medicine, we believe that certain pathogens enter the exterior of our bodies through the nape of our necks. That is why if a cold persists there is typically achiness in the neck, shoulder and upper back area. Also, save the flip flops only for very warm days only opting instead to keep feet warm and protected.

Move! Exercise, even light exercise, is excellent for moving qi. Walking, bike riding, yoga, qi gong, tai chi, swimming, running, tennis, you name it! If you are feeling frustrated or stressed, step outside and take a walk around the block. Also, if you are having digestive issues like bloating and constipation make sure that you are getting enough exercise. This will help to both strengthen the Spleen (which governs digestion) and move Liver qi. Also, different types of breathwork can help to move stagnated qi and therefore calm the mind/spirit and promote digestion.

Set intentions/goals for the summer. The summer is the most yang time of the year and therefore the best time of the year to be active and productive. It makes complete sense to me that the Iranian calendar begins on the first day of Spring. Spring is about birth and new growth. What a fabulous time to set goals and make plans just in time to accomplish them on the longest days of the year!

Eat green. Green is the color associated with the Liver so leafy greens and sprouts are excellent foods to enjoy during the spring. Make sure to still consume mostly cooked foods at this time with warming herbs like ginger and leave the juice cleanses for the height of the summer when the body is more prepared to raw cold foods. If you enjoy salads as I do, simply combine it with a warm protein of your choice to make it more readily digestible.

Last but not least, get acupuncture!! Acupuncture and herbal medicine are wonderful at soothing springtime maladies…allergies, mood issues, digestive issues, headaches and more! Sometimes all that is needed are a few seasonal tune-ups to get you back into the flow of life and enjoying this beautiful season!

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash