Let’s sink into the rhythm and changes of nature’s cooler, darker and slower seasons. I will help you navigate through autumn to find vitality and avoid (limit) SADs. Let’s embrace the inward energy and welcome the shift in energy of fall. Welcome to Autumn.
As we head into the third week of November here in Western Canada it is abundantly clear that autumn is here. Much of the brilliantly coloured leaves have made their way to the ground. The days are getting shorter and the mornings are brisk.
At the crux of the changing seasons autumn is often first celebrated. The gorgeous colours, the bright blue skies, impressive sunsets and the frost hasn’t quite touched the garden yet… Until autumn gets interchanged with ‘cold and flu season‘ and everyone complains about the rain-rain-rain (at least here in the temperate rainforest). These darker days can become heavy, overbearing and seasonal affective disorder or SADs may be experienced.
But I want to invite you into these darker, cooler and rainy days to explore the beauty of this season through the lens of TCM.
Disclaimer I am not a trained Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. I do however, have a passion and affinity for TCM. For the last 10 years I have researched and intertwined the basic principels of TCM into my holistic nutrition practice.
In autumn it is normal to slow down, to go inwards, to want to do less, to become more introspective. Likewise, it is normal to want to see people less, sleep more and even to have a decreased sex drive. It is part of the natural ebb and flow of nature. We can’t be on all. the. time. These feelings of wanting to do less can be embraced as part of your own cyclical rhythm.
Yes I am a broken record, repeating myself with this message of slowing down and doing less but only because you need to hear it. Especially during the fall and winter season when culturally we don’t give ourselves permission to slow down or do less. You must be doing, doing, doing all the time or you’re not living up to some unattainable standard. The reality is if you continue to live in a constant state of moving, doing and going you may have a higher chance of experience SADs and eventually you may burn out because you are going against your natural cycles.
Looking back at nature we see the plants and trees losing flowers, leaves and fruit to conserve their energy. They shed their external to redirect energy to their core for survival. What can we learn from this? Can you do less, can you say no more often, can you move with more compassion and easy?
When you use these slower seasons to honour your body you will not only thrive more when spring hits you will have your reserves full to go at a momentum that you didn’t think possible. Hunker down and catch your breath so you can shine bright tomorrow.
Autumn is also a time of celebration, harvest time! After the excitement and growth of summer it is time to reap the benefits of all our hard work.
Reflecting upon nature once more we see squashes, tubers, apples, hardy greens, tomatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, onions and mushrooms for example. These types of foods are a great place to base our meals around.
Eating seasonally offers many benefits.
- You’re eating food at its peak nutritional content.
- The longer a food sits, the less antioxidant and enzymatic power it has.
- You can often eat food grown in your own backyard, porch or town/city. This reduces your carbon footprint and supports local economy.
- You eat a more varied ‘diet’ throughout the year bringing in a wider variety of nutrients.
- It tastes so much better. Hello freshly picked, still-warm-from-the-sun berries.
- There is often a reduction in pesticide and contaminants.
- Syncing with nature is syncing into your own internal rhythms
Syncing with Nature’s Bounty
The yang of summers heat and movement are cycling into the yin of fall and winters darker and slower days. As the days get colder we need to support our body with the grounding tubers, squashes and hardier veggies. It’s no longer time to focus on raw produce but rather start nourishing with soups, stews, chilis, curries, fruit crisps and roasted foods.
Focus on yellow and orange foods which have an affinity for nourishing the digestive system. Eating more cooked foods will keep your digestive fire burning hot throughout the cooler seasons. Furthermore, drinking more room temperature, warm and hot bevies such as hot apple cider, dandelion, chamomile, ginger and chai tea, will help to keep you feeling amazing all season long. You’ll have more energy, less bloating and more hormonal support.
Try this Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprouts and Acorn Squash recipe that highlights some of these yummy autumn foods.
Adding warming herbs and spices such as ginger, garlic, oregano, clove, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne and cardamom are an additional way to keep your digestive and immune system working like a boss.
On the other hand, limit excessive sugar and alcohol intake, too much raw and cooling foods such as salads, cucumber and watermelon to keep your digestion, mood and hormones on point.
Adding chard or kale to your stir fry or stew is a great way to keep getting your dark leafy greens during the cooler months. If you do opt for a cold salad fortify it with warming herbs and spices. For example, add a salad dressing with ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper to bring in the heat and counteract the coolness of the raw food.
Harvest time can go beyond food too, can you reflect back and admire all you’ve cultivated since this year too? Can you observe areas you’d focus on more next year? Now is the time to start brainstorming what you want your next year to look like. This is an opportunity to gather, reflect and claim your bounty.
Use this phase to your advantage, what can you let go that is no longer serving you? A way of thinking, acting, a relationship, a pattern of being, clear out your closets and cupboards too.
Go inwards like the trees and relish in all that you are. Nourish your body with warming foods, drinks and consider doing less strenuous activities.
Moving with Autumn
With the invitation of going inward for fall let’s look at what that could mean for your movement. In the summer you may have done higher intensity, strenuous activities numerous times a week with ease and grace. In the fall you may need to turn down the dial.
For you this may mean reducing the number of days you work out, the intensity or switch one hot yoga class for a yin instead. Or perhaps you (re)start meditating. Designate 5-10 minutes every day to stop and focus on your breathing. Simply breath and be present.
It is important to stay moving and get outside year round but it is equally important to honour the seasonal energetics by adjusting your physical mentality of going hard all the time to see results.
Don’t go out running for the sake of running off those extra gingerbread cookies, find an activity that you enjoy outdoors simply for the joy of it. Try cross country skiing, snowshoeing, walking or skating. Get that vitamin D in anyway, even if it is cloudy outside get out there!
Turning down the dial by 1 or 3 isn’t going against your fitness goals, this is optimizing your body’s needs to get the best results with the cycle it is in for a long term, sustainable way of life.
Do you feel the shift within as autumn starts to root in? Are you feeling a little more introspective? Do you hear the couch calling you more and more?
Maybe your IBS or chronic cough is unexpectedly back again after a summer of relief. In TCM each season has an element, organ and emotion associated with it. Autumn is connected to the element metal, the organs lungs and large intestine and the emotions grief and sadness. Meaning during this season the lung and large intestine can become vulnerable and the emotions may be closer to the surface than you’re used to.
That isn’t to say, now that autumn has arrived everyone will have lung issues, poop problems and be blubbering puddles on the floor. But that extra focused energy can create enough of a shift to prompt you to work on what you’ve been avoiding. It is your body asking you to start dealing with it now and prevent a larger explosion/implosion later. The body always starts with whispers before it shouts with full blown disease and imbalance, are you ready to listen?
As the sun decreases so does our energy. The energetics of this time of year is a time to let go. If you want to dive into the grief side of autumn a bit more check out my instagram post.
If you are experiencing prolonged sadness or depression you may need to consult with a qualified health care professional.
Find ways to connect back into your body. Feel your lungs grow big with the crisp air coming in. Expand deep into your lungs and exhale, releasing completely. Practicing deep breathing as a way to support your body in the autumn. To support the large intestines keep your soluble fiber high, keep moving and mentally don’t hang on to things too tight or long. The lungs take in the new and the large intestines releases the waste, (although, the lungs do some releasing themselves to a smaller extent) both are equally important to have a balanced system.
Although grief, sadness, a lack of letting go and SADs can be associated with this season, when the organs and body are balanced you may feel light, flowing with life, have clarity, inner peace and joy.
Tis’ the Season
We’ve talked a bit about what autumn can look like but how can you apply this to your life today to thrive during this time of introspection and darkness?
I appreciate what November to January can mean for many people – going non-stop until it’s a big blur of endless colds and spiked eggnog. Between the recurrent colds, school plays, extra curricular activities, gift buying, work, financial stress and holiday parties it can seem impossible to slow down.
We need to find balance in this; we need to slow down, do less to gain more stability.
To clarify, I am not suggesting you drop all activities and obligations. I’m not asking you to stop your holiday traditions, miss your kids school play or become a hermit. However, I do invite you to ask yourself what truly is a priority for you? What can you say no to? What can you drop or delegate to someone else? Contrary to (your) popular belief you don’t have to do everything, you can in fact delegate tasks to other people. It may not be done EXACTLY the way you would have, but the trade off of perfectionism for adrenal and mental health is well worth it.
When we tune into the rhythm of our body and nature we set our bodies up for success. Drop the myth that if you aren’t going HAM everyday all day then you aren’t succeeding because that is an outdated and limited point of view, that will ultimately lead you down a path of exhaustion. Take those moments to rest, catch your breath and be the example everyone needs to see in order to have strong adrenal and hormonal health.
Navigating through Autumn with Ease
Keeping in tune with falls energy, here is a simple and organized overview of how to support yourself through autumn with vitality and avoid (or limit) SADs.
- Eat mainly cooked, warm and hot foods
- Limit raw foods and drinks
- Focus on orange and yellow foods
- Feel the feelings, and work through them
- Get out in the sun
- Get that stuff off your chest, don’t hold it on for another season to fester
- Find someone to talk to
- Cry if you feel like it
- Poop daily
- Infrared sauna
- Slow down
- Do less
- Take a vitamin D3 supplement
- Delegate tasks
- Say no more
- Sleep more + practice good sleep hygiene
- Dress warm, keep your neck and chest (lungs) covered
If you need help adjusting your meals and food ideas to autumn I would love to empower you with my 7-Day Custom Meal Plans. Don’t forget to grab my free 3-Day Hormone Balancing Meal Plan to Beat PMS too.
Can you be like a tree and remove unneeded outer distractions to go inwards? Can you welcome the comfort of yourself?
Start nourishing yourself today to prevent the holiday/winter crash a couple months down the road. Honour the seasonal shifts and lean into the slower times to not only counter seasonal affective disorder but experience the joy and vitality of autumn.
All information contained in on Marrow Holistic Health’s website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent health problems. For all serious health issues, please contact a medical or nutrition practitioner. The information provided in this program is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this program, be it direct or indirect, consequently, special exemplary or other damages. In all circumstances, it is always wise to consult your physician before changing your diet, taking supplements or starting any exercise or health program.