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Top 5 Self Care Habits to Add to Your Routine

This collection of self-care activities has been a part of my regular practice for decades now.

I have recommended each of these exercises or tips to patients to begin the rebalancing of their system. They are gentle but effective ways for us to create more support in our busy lives. Many of these practices will take little time to add to your routine and I guarantee that you will be so happy you did.

Often, we don’t realize that things could be smoother in our lives.

We begin to grow accustomed to how we feel and see it as normal. Many people have tension and stress that is held within the body and adapt to it. We can support ourselves with self-care techniques that unwind the tension and relax the body so it can be calmer, more grounded, and get better rest.

Working with the elements will allow you to support your whole system-mind, body, and soul.

In doing so, you create the balance and support your reproductive system needs to jump-start the holistic approach to healing the body.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) looks at the environment to represent and understand the ecosystem within our body. It allows for the explanation, mirroring, and subtle changes within us, just like nature ebbs and flows through the seasons. Each organ pair has an elemental character to it and along with this, an emotional component, to allow us to create balance with all five elements. Together they work to support the body through physiological functions and phases of our cycles.

The organs we will discuss are the Heart/Small Intestine, Spleen/Stomach, Lung/Large Intestine, Kidney/Urinary Bladder, and Liver/Gall Bladder. 

Each organ pair supports the next in the cycle and depends if you will on the health and vitality of the others. Don’t feel overwhelmed, these are simple ways to support yourself and create a way to nurture all of you!

First up is the Heart/Small Intestine pair which is represented by the fire element.

The heart is in charge of supporting your spirit, pumping your blood through the circulatory system, and helping you stay joyful. The role of the heart in your cycle is to fill up with blood and support the release of the blood at the beginning of your cycle - as in, your first cycle. From there, as we mature, the heart’s job is to nourish the blood and emotionally support us along with the Liver.

The simple balancing technique for the heart is to sing and dance. I know, right? How funny that I would ask people to sing and dance. But really, because the heart sprouts or is externally seen in the tongue, it is important to express joy.

Watching silly, happy movies, and singing and dancing regularly—even for a few minutes a day, can make a huge impact on your body. 

Creating time to move, connect with your significant other or pet makes this time during the pandemic really a lot better for everyone. Here in Virginia, our temps are dropping, and we need to move our bodies indoors, so why not have some fun in addition? This is especially important if you have insomnia, anxiety, or any chest tightness. All signs that the heart is out of alignment.

Next is the Earth element which is the Spleen/Stomach and is connected to the emotion of worry.

Because we are constantly nourishing our bodies with food and drink, we need to remember to be mindful of what and how we eat. The function of the spleen is to take nourishment and break it down into usable and unusable parts and transport nutrients to the whole body. With this new nourishment, it also helps produce blood for the body.

The spleen also helps keep the blood in the vessels and supports the process of implantation. If you have difficulty with worry or overthinking, you may also have difficulty with indigestion in the form of gas, bloating, or diarrhea. Sometimes these symptoms are further complicated by the liver harassing the spleen because it is too weak to do its job normally. When this happens, you may feel frustrated and worried, plus have constipation in addition to the above symptoms. Often, we treat the spleen and liver together because they are often imbalanced at the same time.

The support for the Spleen is to create a grounding routine at bedtime with coconut oil.

Our meridians-acupuncture channels that correspond to the organs all begin and end on the hands and feet. The most calming points can be found on the forehead. So, the healing and calming effects of placing oil on the soles, palms, and forehead each night before bed is not only calming but balances all the channels. You can add lavender essential oil or use an organic lotion with lavender/orange together. It’s a quick thing to add to your evening ritual but really relaxing.

Touch is so important for all humans and especially now while we are dealing with COVID and 2021. Everyone’s experiencing more stress, so this is a must-do for all. If you are experiencing digestive upset too, add some oil to your abdomen in a circular, clockwise motion and you will experience less gas and bloating.

Represented by the Metal element, is the lung/large intestines. The emotional component of these organs is grief/sadness.

The spleen nourishes the lung/large intestines in the elemental cycle. Our skin is the outer representation of the lung system and the tip of our noses is the beginning of the internal component. To support the lungs, I chose an activity that is again grounding and supports the Lungs and the next element in the cycle which is the Kidneys/Urinary Bladder system.

By connecting the two we are really working together to reestablish balance even deeper. Which is what TCM is all about.

So, the breathing technique I suggest doing is part of the yoga tradition and is called Pranayama, which is a breathing technique used to learn to control your breathing and also prepare the body for meditation.

It can be done anytime to calm the body but also teach you to connect your breath which holds qi energy in the body and connect the lung system to the kidney system. This allows your body to effectively breathe deeper and become calmer over time. It also helps to restore your reserve of qi which is stored in the kidneys.

Symptoms of lung imbalance might be shortness of breath, allergy symptoms, or grief. Often the lung system can also affect the large intestine's ability to void waste, so there may be a sign of constipation or mucus in the stool. The expression of the lungs is the skin so any type of dryness, rash, or reaction to chemicals or foods is also a sign of imbalance in the lungs/large intestine. There is a strong connection to “leaky gut” and gluten intolerance as well. We will discuss that in another post - I promise.

The breath is often shallower than we realize and can be a sign that we are stressed and not able to relax into our bodies. Sometimes I remind myself and patients to breathe into their bellies. It’s a conscious effort in the beginning but oh so vital to feeling your best.

Give this technique a try. I was taught to do pranayama prior to meditation to help prepare for a calmer state of mind.

Let me know how it goes for you!

Kidneys/Urinary Bladder is next and the element for kidney is water. The emotion that kidneys oversee is fear.

The kidneys/Urinary Bladder controls the reproductive system, our brain, marrow, and bones. The representation of the kidney exteriorly is the ears. Because of the importance of the kidneys in holding the reserves of the body, it is important to remember not to exhaust yourself, especially when trying to conceive. Kidneys might need a boost if you have frequent low back or knee pain, or if are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, as over time they can all affect the kidneys.

The strength of your kidneys can be improved by acupressure on the meridian itself.

The kidney meridian starts on the bottom of the feet and ends in the chest. Pressing the “kidney buttons” of the chest help to alleviate fear and anxiety, naturally, allow you to reset, and clear your mind. Allowing for a few minutes a day can make a difference in how you feel.

If you are having a midday energy slump give this a try. Place your fingers on either side of your sternum just under your collar bone in the little hollows. Gently press where the ribs and the sternum meet if you prefer you can hold them or tap them too.

Try all techniques and see what feels best to you.

Last, but not least is the Liver/Gall Bladder system which has the emotional component of Anger/Frustration/Depression.

Our Liver is the general of the body and keeps the qi-energy moving freely to help transition from one activity to another. For example, ovulation occurs without delay or pain when the liver is doing its job. Other liver disharmonies might be breast tenderness, sighing, or irritability. Because the emotional aspect of the liver is so tied to being free-flowing, it is also the first one to often get bogged down with stress.

For balancing the Liver and Gall Bladder system, I always recommend hot lemon water especially first thing in the morning.

This clears the toxins out of the liver and gall bladder, soothes liver qi - meaning it helps it get moving and creates a ritual for the start of your day. 

Clearing time to support your elements will create a stronger, more balanced you.

Each of these exercises supports their own element and those in the cycle as well.

See what works best for you and let me know if you have questions or comments by emailing me at [email protected].

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