Preparing For Illness...
There it is. I said it. As we slowly transition out of shelter-in-place orders, and the world around us slowly starts to open back up, there's the possibility that we may get sick. So, why not do everything that we can to prepare our bodies in the best way possible? I did an IGTV series on this last month, called ✨Tune In and Tune Up ✨ on this very idea - if you haven't watched those videos, here's the link to my Instagram so that you can!
I'm all about preparation. And, I wanted to share with you what I've been coming back to to not only prepare, but also to feel grounded and in some sort of rhythm while we all experience varying degrees of disorientation from our lives so drastically changing. If you've read any of my previous blogs (if not, you totally should), you know that I use the Five Elements as a way of categorizing, understanding, and approaching everything from personality to health challenges. I've used the Five Elements during the COVID-19 crisis to do my best to orient my body towards health and to feel good overall.
The Five Elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water) are a part of Chinese medicine diagnosis and treatment. Each of these elements in Chinese medicine has correspondences to certain organ systems, flavors of food, emotional characteristics, and so much more. Stay with me! As an example, the Fire element corresponds to the heart organ, is related to bitter flavor, and relates to the emotion of joy. I wanted to break down each element to show how beautifully this system helps us prepare our bodies, and shows us how to be resilient.
1. Wood/Movement! The wood element corresponds to spring, and is all about growth (which, by the way, is why a lot of us are feeling sort of stagnated right now) We're not able to honor that wood energy of getting out and about and moving around freely. This has been one of the most important things for me in my preparation, especially making sure that I stretch the sides of my body and rotate my trunk, as I have been sitting much more than usual. Moving our bodies also helps our lymph to flow freely - key to staying healthy! The Wood Element also corresponds to the liver (maker of bile) and gallbladder (storer of bile), both of which benefit from movement to encourage healthy digestion.
2. Water/Sleep! Have you ever listened to water and felt sleepy? The Water element is all about going inward and restoring our bodies. It corresponds with the season of Winter, a time when animals hibernate and plants are dormant. With many of us out of our typical routines, and especially as we start to enter back into those routines, a consistent sleep schedule is one of the most important things that we can do for our bodies to stay well and to repair when they are not well.
3. Metal/Breathe! The Metal element corresponds to the lungs. You know, those things that do all that work keeping us alive without us even having to think about it?! The breathing that I've been practicing is deep, intentional breathing. Slowing the breath down in order to recalibrate the nervous system - in through the nose (fill up the belly), and out through the mouth (twice as long as the in breath, if possible). Because COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, the more attention that we can pay to strenghthening the lungs, the better!
4. Earth/Eat! Yum! Earth is all about nourishment, quite literally. The Earth element, not surprisingly, corresponds to the stomach and spleen (think more of our modern understanding of the pancreas). Eating nutrient-dense foods as we prepare to integrate back into a version of society that we knew before is going to lay the foundation for good health. I know that you know this, but it's SO important that it's worth mentioning again and again. It's easy in times of crisis to rely on junk food and forego nutrition for feelings of comfort and satiety. Foods that are gently cooked (lightly steamed, sautéed) are best. These are very supportive and nourishing to our digestive system, giving it the least amount of work to do. A happy gut = a happy immune system!
5. Fire/Play! What does fire have to teach us about health? Well, have you ever looked at a campfire and seen the way that the flames seem to dance around joyfully? Joy is what we're talking about here! And, especially for kiddos, not much brings more joy than PLAY! That has been my first wellness go-to: making sure that I am getting enough play. For me, that means dancing around the house to 90s R&B and pretending that I'm on a cooking show when preparing meals. 😊 You can incorporate in some of the wood element as you play with your little ones, and make the games physical and filled with movement.
Simply put, here's the Five Element roadmap that I've been following to stay in rhythm and prepare for the world reopening to our new normal!
Daily movement that involves rotating my trunk and stretching the sides of my body (especially the sides of my legs)
Keeping to a sleep schedule (getting to bed early even as the days get longer)
Slow and intentional breathing every morning (deep breaths in through the nose to the count of 4, and deep breaths out through the mouth to the count of 8)
Eating regular and consistent meals that consist of lightly cooked foods, mixed with some fresh and in season veggies (radishes, sprouts, etc.)
play, Play, PLAY! Check out my previous blog for some tips!