Body-Mind-Spirit Self-Care in Autumn
Brought to you by Creative Healing for Youth in Pain's Parenting blog
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the universe is organized into the five elements, which you can think of as different patterns of energy or manifestations of Yin and Yang. Each element corresponds to a particular season as well as to a paired organ system in the body. The season of autumn is most impacted by the Metal element. In terms of Yin and Yang, autumn marks the transition from the most Yang (summer) to the most Yin (winter), and Yin rises throughout the season.
In TCM, the Metal element connects with the lung and large intestine organ systems, as well as the skin and nose. What do these body parts all have in common? They are all important interfaces between the insides of our bodies and the external world. When these systems work well, we can create a healthy exchange with the environment, filtering the air we breathe, getting rid of toxins and waste, building a strong immunity, and maintaining appropriate boundaries.
- Element: Metal
- Organ Systems: Lung and Large Intestine
- Season: Autumn
- Opens to the: Nose
- Pathogen: Dryness
- Emotion: Sadness
- Virtue: Courage
Physical conditions that are especially affected by an imbalance in the Metal system include asthma, allergies, eczema, constipation, neck and shoulder tension, and chest tightness.
Dryness in this season makes it harder for the lung and large intestine systems to work well, so it's important to stay well hydrated. Drink extra water! Warm water is easier on your system than cold water, especially as it starts to get colder outside.
Consider using a humidifier in your room if it's especially dry or if you have a stuffy nose. Saline sprays or nasal irrigation systems (such as a Neti pot) are also useful to clear your nose and sinuses. This improves the filtering and immune function in the upper respiratory tract to help prevent catching a cold or illness.
Keep your skin and nasal passages moisturized. You can use oils such as jojoba oil, sesame oil, or coconut oil. Practicing breathwork and other vocal practices – like singing, humming, and chanting – are great to support your lungs, boost your confidence, and improve both physical and mental health.
In this season, you may want to add more fiber and moisture rich foods like pumpkins, white mountain yams, turnips, chicken soup, sesame, rice, porridge, mushrooms, pears, bananas, apples, grapefruit, and pineapples. You can add some spicy and pungent foods in moderation like ginger, cilantro, onions, garlic, horseradish, chives, cinnamon, and pepper.
Practices for Body Health
- Stay well hydrated
- Use a humidifier if needed
- Cleanse your nose with a Neti Pot or saline spray
- Keep well moisturized
- Practice breathwork and vocal practices
Emotional and Mental Health
On an emotional level, the Metal system is also responsible for letting go of what we no longer need. This can include old hurts, grudges, stuck habits, and limiting beliefs. When we have a lot of sadness and grief this can make it even harder to let go. Holding on tight brings our energy inward and might make us more withdrawn or reactive, which results in tension in the chest and shoulders.
It might seem simple, but the most natural way to process our sadness and grief is through tears – though we often train ourselves not to cry due to feelings of shame or in order to appear strong. It's important, however, to allow ourselves to feel and process our emotions so they can move through us rather than stay stuck.
Creative outlets are a fantastic way to transform the energy of our emotions into art, music, poetry, stories, and more. You can watch my “Six Healing Sounds” video for a practice to process emotions through simple sounds. Telling yourself positive affirmations can also help rewire stuck thought patterns and limiting beliefs to shift your mindset and reality. For some, journaling prompts are helpful to get started with these reflections.
If you're feeling down, it can be really helpful, and even empowering, to ask for help and talk with someone you trust about what you are going through. A mental health therapist or counselor can provide you further guidance and strategies.
Practices for Mental Health
- Creative outlets: music, creative writing, poetry, art, theater, dance
- “Six Healing Sounds”: Here's the link to my previous blog post containing both the article and the video. This link is for the video only.
- Positive affirmations
- Journaling and narrative writing
- Counseling and therapy, talking to a friend or family member
The virtue of the Metal element is courage. This is the courage to know when to stand up and protect yourself, when to be flexible, to know what is right from wrong, and how to forgive. The Metal element is also responsible for providing structure and order in our lives.
To strengthen this, practice routines that help you feel organized, like a bedtime routine at roughly the same time every night. Try de-cluttering and organizing your things and developing strategies to stay organized. If this organizing principle is too strong, however, you can get too rigid and stuck in your ways. If this is the case, practice playing with your boundaries and challenging yourself to small changes.
Practicing intentional movement linked with breath is a great way to connect the body and mind and become more aware of the state of your energy. You can learn to draw in energy from all around you and shield yourself from harmful energy, to let go of acquired energy you no longer need, and to strengthen and store your internal power. Click here to go to the video portion of this post and try this quick Qigong routine that is great to do in autumn or anytime:
- Drawing down the heavens
- Shaking the tree
- Lung meridian flow
- Protection cross
- I am protected.
- I create healthy boundaries.
- I have a strong immune system.
- I have the courage to forgive.
- I let go of what I don't need to make space for new growth.
- I am inspired.
- I am organized.
- Which affirmation resonated the most with you? Or create your own!
- What are you holding on to that you no longer need? This can be physical things, old habits or patterns, relationships, grudges, worries, or anything that comes to mind.
- Imagine letting go of your answer to the above question. How does it feel? Are there steps you can take to move toward that goal?
- What does courage mean to you?
- What inspires you?