It’s starting to be that time where the air feels lighter, cooler and more crisp, the leaves will start to change colors and we’ll start pulling out our winter clothes from their storage over the hot summer months. We haven’t quite reached fall in its entirety, though we can all sense that change is coming. We are currently in between seasons, or as it is referred to in Chinese Medicine: the inter-season.
The inter-season poses some interesting challenges for us, because we are stuck in this in-between place where the weather doesn’t quite reflect the fall and we are not ready for summer to be over yet. But it is important to be aware that with the changing of seasons we need to make appropriate changes to our diet and our lifestyle to ensure our continued health and well-being. Evolutionarily, people needed to exist mindfully in accordance of the seasons for their survival, health and well-being, and that is still the case today.
Following are some reminders of small changes that can have a dramatic impact on how we feel.
We’ve all seen that one person who wears shorts in the polar vortex (I actually did see this last February when the temperature was -9 degrees and my phone shut down from being outside for too long). Thousands of years of medicine support my recommendation to not wear light clothes in freezing weather. And this may be common sense for most of us, but when it is cold and windy, it really is best to wear the correct clothing.
It may still be warm indoors and so wearing layers is always a great option, and my favorite article of clothing to pull out during this time is a scarf. Making sure to keep something over the back of your head and neck when the days and nights start to feel more chilled can not only prevent you from catching a cold, but can help prevent headaches, stiffness and pain in the back of your head and neck and sore throats.
According to Chinese Medicine, wind has a tendency to lower our defenses which can allow us to become more susceptible to the microbes we are constantly exposed to. It is during this time, in between seasons, where we are so much more likely to catch a cold because we aren’t dressing appropriately, our bodies are confused and our immune system is compromised.
Start incorporating more warming foods into your diet
Over the summer it feels really natural to eat more fruits, salads, drink smoothies and juices and enjoy other raw foods. These items are cold natured, meaning they have properties that create a cooling effect on the body, which can be great in moderation for the summer and help you feel more balanced.
I say “in moderation” because the body typically doesn’t do well with a large percentage of cold foods, but every now and then it is fine. As the weather starts to shift and our external environment feels more cool, we need to start incorporating more warming and cooked foods into our diet. Swap out your salads and green drinks for more favorable falls foods like sautéed veggies, soups and stews or warm bowl meals. This ensures that our digestive system continues to function optimally and that we are eating with the seasons.
And to ensure that we are truly eating with the seasons, it is ideal to consume vegetables that are more likely to be harvested during this time. Things like squash, zucchini, beets, cabbage, leeks, carrots and potatoes just to name a few. And it’s a perfect opportunity to visit your local farmers market.
Start incorporating more warming drinks into your diet
This is an addendum to the point I made above…a warming diet includes warm drinks too! Not saying you can’t have your favorite smoothie every now and then, though I would highly recommend avoiding frozen smoothies for breakfast every morning, and maybe just once or twice a week.
Start having some warming teas like chai or ginger if you feel like sipping on something throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll drink hot water with lemon and honey just because I feel like having a warm beverage but don’t want anything with a significant flavor. This goes for iced water too! Of course we all crave a nice cold glass of iced water every now and then, though moderation is key.
It’s okay if you’re starting to feel less inclined to go out. In the summer months, we get so busy with events, parties, weddings, work gatherings and so on that sometimes it feels like we can’t catch our breath.
This upcoming transition into fall is a great time to rest and recharge for the end of the year. It’s back to school time, and for those of us that don’t have school, well we can take the time to examine our routine and schedule and make sure that we are doing what we need to get done for ourselves.
Maybe that means getting back to that yoga class you love, or making the time to prepare your lunches for the week. It could be as simple as setting aside twenty five minutes in the morning to enjoy your coffee or tea in the morning and journal.
Whatever it is that you feel you need to bring harmony to your schedule and to your routine, now is a wonderful opportunity to do that. During the summer months we all tend to feel that drive to go outdoors, be very social, maybe exercise outside, communicate more and so on. As we start to transition into the cooler months, we don’t feel as active or outgoing.
Summer is the time of yang, winter is the time of yin and fall represents that transitional period from yang into yin. Accepting that feeling of needing time and space to be alone, and setting aside intentional time into your schedule to incorporate more nourishing lifestyle activities is not only therapeutic for your body and mind, but we are naturally inclined to do so during this season.
There are many lessons to learn through the teachings of Chinese Medicine, though one very important facet is to live in accordance with the flow of the seasons. During the fall and the the inter-seasons there is a lot of change, so be open to it.
By allowing ourselves to live in accordance with the cycles of the seasons we not only become healthier but we can start to tune into our bodies at a deeper level, and understand why we feel the way we do.