Self-Care in Autumn- A Chinese Medicine Philosophy

One of the more distinct qualities of Chinese medicine that is truly profound is that we don’t differentiate between an individual’s physical health and their emotional and spiritual well-being. Instead, we see the individual as one whole human whose mind, body and spirit work interdependently, and that no part of this trio works in isolation. This means you can rest in your Chinese medicine practitioner’s care to support you through all aspects of your wellness.

For example, we will consider a connection to what might be going on emotionally for a patient who is manifesting physical pain, or investigate the imbalances of the physical body when there is emotional trauma. In essence, the body, the mind and the spirit have a symbiotic relationship and often mirror one another with symptoms that outwardly manifest.

Chinese medicine associates Autumn with the lungs and large intestine. So on the physical level, if you are someone with a history of digestive challenges, or if you tend to catch frequent colds, this is the ideal time to keep these two organs in check. (Reminder: Chinese medicine is extremely effective in keeping seasonal colds at bay and strengthening the digestive system!)

In terms of the lung and large intestine connection to the mind, both environmental toxins and irregular elimination affect our mental capacities. Put another way, “stuck” energy in the body (i.e., for the lungs = congestion, for the intestines = constipation) can hinder a sharp and focused mind, and block a mind that attracts clear, productive thoughts. Likewise, our mental state can be reflected in its influence on the freedom of the bowels and ease in breathing.

Letting go of the old so that the new can be born is also at the core of Chinese medicine’s connection to Autumn, often leaving us with feelings of sadness and sometimes even depression. These darker feelings are naturally tied to Autumn and I always encourage my patients to honor and respect them as they naturally arise, just as they would respect any other “parts” of themselves. If we don’t, we run the risk of suppressing these emotions to a deeper, stagnant space only to arise more aggressively at a later time. To honor these emotions by letting them come and go without resistance allows for the whole person to fully process and transition into the next phase of their life, much like we see in the natural transition between seasons.

In returning to the connection between the lungs and large intestine and emotional well-being, we can put this concept to work in two actionable ways.

  • Use the breath intentionally to receive newness, openness and opportunity on the in-breath, and let go of whatever you are struggling to hold onto on the out-breath.

  • Receive the foods you conscientiously choose to consume with gratitude for its nourishment of the whole body, then surrendering to what no longer serves your being through healthy elimination.