Do You Feel the Wood Element Energy Rising Already?: Tips for Staying Sane as we Move from Winter to Spring
Every year, it’s either my acupuncture patients, or the plants in my yard (sometimes both) which alert me to the fact that the wood element energy, associated with the liver, is starting to rise up around us.
Because it seems to be raring its nasty little head earlier than usual this year, I'm posting about this energy, how it affects us, and what you can do to avoid the common symptoms that seem to flare up more often once we really start heading into Wood season.
The 5 Elements of Acupuncture Theory
In Chinese medical theory, there are 5 elements that are each associated with a season and their corresponding organs.
We’ve been in the middle of the Water element, the winter season where nature around us, and ideally our bodies, are more calm and restful.
But around 2 weeks ago, there was a sudden shift I noticed when for the first time, the days were noticeably getting longer.
A subtle excitement took over as the first hints of the possibility of spring started to arise.
Even though we’re in one of the coldest spells of the year right now, sure enough my patients started coming in over the last several days reporting symptoms that are commonly associated with the liver getting out of balance, or rising up.
The liver is the organ associated with the spring
If you’ve been my patient over the course of a few years, you’ve seen me often write that the Wood season is commonly the most loved, yet most feared time of the year for acupuncturists.
That’s because it’s associated with the energy of the liver, which is often, in 5 elements terms, given the name “the general”, or “the sergeant”. The liver energy is that energy we feel in the springtime when we feel we can take on anything, and possibilities seem to have no end.
It’s the energy that classic “type A” people are driven by every day, being natural liver, or Wood “types”.
It’s the visions we get of great things we wish to accomplish and the energy we need to see them through.
All of these are powerful and important aspects for everyone to have access to in our personalities.
The problem is, that along with all these powerful traits, comes the other side of the same coin:
- that Type-A energy which allows us to be so productive; easily turns into bossiness, overcontrolling and micro-management; when things don’t move fast enough or the exact way we want them to.
- those visions of greatness can turn into visions of false grandeur, and we can lose integrity in our quest to get to the top.
- the liver regulates our stress levels, but conversely gets easily stressed under all this pressure and becomes unable to do its job, leaving us constantly tense and behaving like “the general”. We can become inflexible and easily angry, impatient, and anxious.
Physical symptoms related to the Wood energy rising
Because the wood energy, like the spring plants from which the element gets its name, wants to shoot upwards and move or progress quickly, we can often get physical symptoms of the liver energy rising, at this time of year.
As the energy shoots up, people will have more symptoms in their head or upper body, and with not being able to get settled and grounded or calm. It was these symptoms occurring more often in my patients suddenly, which prompted me to write about this topic, so that people can be on the alert and take steps to stay balanced as this energy begins to rise in them as well.
Some common “Liver rising” symptoms which I’ve been seeing more of recently, in patients who usually don’t struggle with these issues:
- waking often or more restless sleep
- increased impatience, irritability, and frustration or anger
Patients who have liver imbalance as the main thing we’re treating, are commonly experiencing:
Exacerbation of liver related symptoms for which we’ve been seeing steady progress during treatment; for example:
- Qi stagnation issues (like pain or discomfort)
- irritability or impatience
- liver related digestive issues such as IBS or acid reflux
If you fall into that second category, you may notice some setbacks as we head towards and move through spring, and it will be even more important to keep your liver happy, in order to maintain balance in your liver.
Tips for keeping your liver happy over the next few months:
I’ll be writing more about this as we actually enter into Wood season when spring begins, but for now, you can follow these three tips to help keep your liver/wood energy balanced:
1) Relaxation Techniques: I can’t stress how important relaxation techniques are, and in particular, meditation. I will soon post a blog which includes information related to a fascinating study that was just done that measured the changes that happen when we meditate, as compared to just doing calming activities. But in the meantime, you can start trying to implement some kind of relaxation tools into your daily routines.
2) Relaxation techniques: In case you didn’t quite get how important this is the first time I said it, I’ll repeat it again. :-) Every time you meditate, it’s like you’re self treating yourself and sticking a little invisible needle into those pesky liver points that help so much to regulate your liver, calm your liver, and keep it happy.
3) Relaxation techniques: OK I really mean it. If you want to keep your liver happy, one of the best ways to do it, and to keep the great successes we’ve had during treatment progressing forward and not regressing, is to implement relaxation techniques into your regular self-care practices.
What? Don’t have self care practices?
Well my best advice is to start working on that now, so that when the wood season really gets here and the tempers are flying higher, you’ll already be set with tools right at your disposal.
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