Following on from our Spring Self Care Tips comes the following overview on Summer Self Care through a Traditional Chinese Medicine lens - please like, share or comment if you found it useful!
Beginning every year on the summer solstice on June 21st, summer brings 3 months of bountiful sunshine, rain, light and activity which is usually welcomed after a long, dark winter. A season of growth and abundance when vegetables, flowers and animals thrive, it is a time when social gatherings increase and we have time to tend to our own inner light, nurturing our souls with activities that spark joy in our hearts and stoke our own inner fire. It makes complete sense that summer is linked to the fire element, and the corresponding organs are the heart and small intestine.
Heart & Small Intestine Characteristics
In TCM the organs each have characteristics (physical and emotional) and summer and the fire element is associated with the heart and small intestine.
While the heart's primary role physically is to pump oxygenated blood around the body, energetically in TCM it is viewed as the 'supreme ruler' or emperor of the other organs, in charge of maintaining a sense of peace and harmony among them. The heart also houses our 'shen' or spirit - if we are mentally or emotionally restless it could be due to an imbalance with our fire element.
The emotion associated with fire is joy - the spark of life from which everything else is created. When our fire element is balanced we feel an overflowing enthusiasm towards life, but when it is out of balance we can feel apathetic. Other signs of a fire element imbalance include: restlessness or agitation, excessive or too little perspiration, insomnia or restless sleep, anxiety & irrational phobias.
The small intestine helps with the important roles of digestion, assimilation and elimination. While this is crucial in a physical sense this is also important in an emotional sense, and TCM views the small intestine also as separating useful, 'nutritional' interactions with others from those which are not and are 'indigestible'.
Below are some practical tips for body, mind and spirit on how to best practice self care throughout the summer months.
To help support your body
~ Eat cooling foods. The taste associated with this season is bitter, so foods like spinach & kale are perfect. For those of you not a fan of spinach, I find that if you add it to any smoothie you can never taste it, so why not - free extra added nutrition at no cost to your taste buds!
~ Drink lots of fresh, pure water. Dehydration can be easy in the summertime as we zip around in the heat of the day, expending lots of energy. Try to drink even when you don't feel thirsty, and notice how your body sighs in relief!
~ Move! Get sweaty to help cleanse toxins from the body. Cardiovascular exercise helps the heart healthy. Extra daylight means we have more time to fit an early morning or late evening run in, too :)
~ Stay cool. Avoid overheating by wearing cool, light colored clothes, seeking out shade and taking a dip in the nearest lake or pool. Taking part in Yin yoga practices are also very cooling for the body and soothing for the mind - the perfect end of the day down time.
To help support mind & spirit
~ Remember to rest. Try to dedicate a portion of each day (however small, it may just be 5 mins) to allowing yourself time to rest and digest. Whether you meditate, read, walk or simply enjoy a cup of tea very slowly, space to allow yourself to re calibrate and de-stress can allow us to enjoy the other activities in our day even more.
~ Engage the senses! Summer is a beautiful mixture of colours, smells, textures and tastes - savour them all! Try walking barefoot in the grass, listening to bird song, literally stopping and smelling the flowers and appreciating the abundance of natural beauty around you.
~ Trust your intuition. The heart may rule the physical body but it also rules over head, in terms of sensibility, sometimes. If your heart is telling you something take the time to stop and listen and take heed - this is the deepest part of ourselves.
Do you have any additional tips on taking care of yourself throughout the summer months? I'd love to hear in the comments below.