Heading into autumn out of the high energy of summer is a great time to pause, catch our breath, and reflect on where we have been and where we are headed. It’s a time to reconnect with one’s self and listen to our body’s needs. As we move out of a season of hot weather and outdoor activities, we anticipate the coziness of moving indoors, with crisp air and fall colors outside our window. Transition to an autumn state of mind with these five tips to keep you and your family healthy this fall.
- Body temperature: As the weather gets cooler, regulate your body temp by dressing in layers and avoiding skin exposure to cold wind or drafts. In Chinese medicine, our body’s innate defense system acts as armor to protect us against illness or harsh external environments. By breaking out those fall wardrobe classics you’ll go a long way toward bolstering this system.
- Nutrition: Warm foods take the place of cooling summer salads in this season. Not only are hot meals like soups and roasted/steamed veggies comforting on a cool day, they help assist our defense system (see #1) by optimizing our digestion. We are nourished more efficiently by warm foods versus cold foods, so take a break from those iced drinks and raw veggies when fall comes around. Bonus: incorporate warming ingredients like cinnamon, chili, ginger, garlic, pepper, or onion into your cooking and feel the warmth radiate from your center. Extra bonus: make your own bone broth!
- Sleep: Full of invigorating sun energy at the end of summer, we begin to downshift in autumn. Tip the scales toward conserving that energy by prioritizing rest and avoiding overexertion. With harsher weather and fewer hours of sunlight on the horizon, you’ll recharge your batteries better when you turn off social media and go to bed a little earlier.
- Stress and mood: Stress is a special kind of exhausting for our body and mind, and transitioning to the rhythms of autumn can bring its own challenges for our mood. A change in schedule with going back to school can be hard for some. For others, feeling anticipation anxiety about seasonal affective disorder or the holidays might fuel negative associations with the season. Or maybe summer was especially fun and it’s hard to see it end. Locking in and naming those feelings is the first step. Combat stress, depression, and anxiety by cultivating a cozy space in your home with warm lighting and a favorite blanket. Promote peace with restorative movement like yin yoga or going for a fall colors walk. Send messages of calm to your brain with five minutes of diaphragmatic breathing while lying on the floor. Protect your mind to protect your body.
- Movement: The pace and rhythm of life may shift in autumn, but activity doesn’t stop. Keep moving your body, indoors or out, regularly and in a way that you enjoy. Exercise improves strength and mood, increases energy, and boosts the immune system. There is a world of possibilities between the extremes of stillness and overexertion: go for a walk in the beautiful autumn air, take a group fitness class, or try a new activity you’ve been curious about. Just remember to stay warm and safe, and recover with good food and sleep.
In Chinese medicine we are microcosms of nature. To follow nature as we head into fall will protect our health, galvanize our defenses against illness, and keep us resilient.
Joanna Willis, L.Ac.