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March 9, 2021

Self-Care for Springtime Qi Stagnation

Young green plants sprout through moist dirt. Sunlight dapples through the forest behind them.
We’ve approached the one year mark of restrictions on our day to day lives due to COVID-19. What’s more, we’ve arrived at springtime: a time known to 5 Element Theory as an era for movement, growth, and change. All things considered, you wouldn’t be alone if you find yourself experiencing wide emotional swings from hope to frustration to despair and back to hope again.

If you’re feeling a little stuck, flustered, or bored, you may have what we Acupuncturists diagnose as “Qi Stagnation”. Qi stag, as its known shorthand, can show up as depression or irritability, pain or discomfort that comes and goes, a sense of bloating in the belly, PMS, or a stifled feeling in the chest or throat.

Luckily, you don’t need to drop in on your Acupuncturist every time you’ve got the Springtime Emotional Itchies (though we do recommend it if you can!). There’s plenty you can do for yourself to work out those kinks and keep yourself from becoming an exposed, live wire this Spring.

Movement

One of the very best things you can do to treat your own Qi Stagnation is to get moving. Moving your body moves your Qi! Incorporate some cross-body arm movement or twisting motions to gently massage your Liver (the pesky culprit behind much of our Qi Stagnation) and get the Qi flowing again. Our best advice is to move your body in ways that feel good for you, to exert yourself enough to break a sweat, and to work out only as much as it energizes you– pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion during work out sessions might temporarily alleviate Qi Stagnation but can bring on a whole host of what we call “Deficiency” problems.

Herbs for Qi Stagnation

You can reach for western or eastern herbs and spices to put into your homemade drinks, soups, baked goods, or even around your home to help move your Qi Stagnation. Many aromatic herbs have the function of “moving Qi stagnation”– so if it smells good to you and inspires you to take a deep breath whenever it’s around, it’s likely a medicine for Qi Stagnation.

Lavender

With functions like “smoothing Liver Qi” and “Calming the Spirit,” Lavender is the perfect herb you might already have at home or growing in your neighborhood to help you breathe through the chaos.

Citrus Peel

A variety of peels are used in Chinese Medicine. They’re usually aged and dried, but fresh will do, too! Fresh peels are considered more gentle and can be added to hot water for a refreshing, qi-stagnation-moving drink.

Mint

Mint is commonly used to treat the symptoms of colds and allergies in Chinese Medicine, but it has a secondary function of releasing Liver Qi Stagnation that makes it a staple for any tea cabinet.

Fennel

Like mint, fennel is known for a different primary function (“warming the interior”), but it has a secondary function of regulating the Qi, especially that pesky Liver Qi!

A Note on Temperatures

Each of these herbs and spices has its own distinct “temperature”– when ingested, it either has a cooling effect or a warming effect. Choosing the right herbs for your constitution requires knowing if you are a person that needs internal warming or gentle cooling. For example, if you find it hard to digest food or have a sluggish metabolism you may need some more digestive fire & warmth, or if you know yourself to be hot-headed (with a literally flushed face & sweating), you may need some cooling. Your Acupuncturist has likely assessed whether warmer, cooler, or neutral/harmonizing temperatures are more appropriate for you– be sure to ask them which of these household staples is most appropriate for you. If you add fennel & fresh citrus peels to a hot, dry constitution, you may just make the irritability worse!

Fragrances for Qi Stagnation

Any fragrance that you personally find relaxing is relieving your Qi Stagnation! Here are some of our favorites:

Sandalwood

Sandalwood has been overharvested to the brink of extinction, so please purchase & use it mindfully. That said, the reason it is so deeply coveted is because it is a powerful Qi moving substance that helps calm the spirit & bring on peace & tranquility. If you already have some sandalwood incense or essential oil at home, allow the scent to bring you some ease & peace through this time.

Rose

You can drink rosebud tea or simple give roses a whiff to relax your qi & gentle move stagnation. With the added benefit of aiding digestion, rosebud tea is a great way to get the benefits of this sweet flower.

Spicebush

Lindera strychnifolia is the variety used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but its American Spicebush cousin can be used just as readily in incense or potpourri for a Qi-moving boost.

Expression & Creativity

Spring is a time for creativity and taking on new projects. Bust out the watercolors, try new recipes, or sing a little louder in the shower: any creative expression you’re called to will help you move your Qi Stagnation.

Finally, get self-expressed. If you find yourself routinely experiencing moodiness or flipping your lid at the drop of a hat, there’s a good chance you’re being too “polite” the rest of the time & stuffing yourself full of unexpressed feelings. Keeping our feelings inside & internalized is a deeply normal response to a world that doesn’t seem to welcome or have time for emotional exploration & sensitivity. Many of us learn these coping skills in childhood. When we suppress our feelings, they end up popping out at inopportune moments and can seem out of proportion and out of the blue. Test out expressing your needs, desires, or dislikes when they’re just an internal whisper; you might find it freeing and preventative of the later internal (or external) shouting.

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