Spring is upon us. As many of us plot our gardens, and springtime yard projects, it is fun to check in how the seasons connect to our internal biorhythm. In Chinese medicine the season of the spring relates to the liver and the gallbladder. These organs have a rich relationship to the epic growth that we see during the season of the spring.
In Chinese medicine the liver and gallbladder organs relate to the emotions of anger and frustration, as well as to the aspects of planning, creativity, strategizing, and bringing goals into fruition. Often when circumstances arise that block our flow of creativity or movement towards finishing a project, we experience frustration, irritability, and even anger.
The energy of the liver and gallbladder meridians and organs in Chinese medicine is best represented by the plant life around us. Look at the first crocuses pushing tirelessly upwards out of the frost hardened ground, or the sunflower growing tall, stretching towards the light. The energy or qi (pronounced chee), of the liver and gallbladder in our bodies propels us, tirelessly towards our goals. When stress creeps into your life—either from a stressful work environment, poor scheduling, over scheduling, or our own internal monologue, the liver and gallbladder energy does not circulate properly in the body. It gets stuck. Most often it gets stuck as it rises up in our body, at the apex of our shoulders, at our neck, and our head, causing tension headaches and teeth clenching. The classic liver meridian headache is one the rises to the vertex, or top of our head with pressure behind the eyes. The gallbladder channel sweeps across the sides of our skull multiple times, so the classic gallbladder headache is one involving our temples and the sides of our heads. Being easily irritated and reactionary is also a sign that our liver and gallbladder energy is not moving smoothly.
As the springtime energy starts to create a sense of urgency and a need to start growing, whether you are a plant or a human, that energy can act in fits and spurts. It is natural to feel some tension ebbing and flowing, as the springtime energy develops a proper flow. In early spring, the weather furthers this fit and spurt nature, by warming up, then having a few days of a cold snap, and then it warms up again, creating a yoyo effect. You may notice extra road rage or strangers being slightly more irritable or aggressive in check out lines and coffee shops.
A few simple activities can help alleviate the stress brought on by this start and stop early spring energy.
Eat More Roots: Sweet roots and vegetables will sooth the liver and gallbladder meridian. We often crave sugars when we are stressed. But refined sugar will do more harm than good. The sweetness that your liver really craves is the sweetness of root vegetables such as beets and carrots, and of winter squashes like acorn, butternut, and Kabocha squash.
Eat Sour Flavors: Sour flavors will strengthen the liver and help move its energy when stuck. Think about incorporating more high quality vinegars into your diet, put lemon wedges in your water, and find ways to incorporate citrus into your cooking.
You can make your own salad dressing with 2 T raspberry vinegar, 1-2 T olive oil, a pinch of powdered ginger, pepper, and salt. Whisk it all together in a small bowl. You can make endless variations of this just by switching out the type of vinegar, and increasing or decreasing the ginger or adding mustard.
Relax and Recharge: Find a re-set and relax practice that suits you. The best way to chill out your liver is to hang out with plants outdoors. Go for a short walk when overwhelmed or your productivity wanes. Leave your electronics behind when you go for one of these walks. Focus on each footstep, the air around you, and each inhale and exhale. Even just a ten-minute, distraction free jaunt will calm you down.
If you cannot go outdoors, practice deep breathing into your lower abdomen. Place your hand across your low belly and practice making your hand rise and fall with each deep breath. Close your eyes. Count one on your inhale and two on your exhale. In five to ten minutes, you should feel some of the stress drain out of your shoulders and neck.
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