The holidays can be a stressful time for many, especially for those who are responsible for caring for others. Many times we put the needs of others ﬁrst, whether be they a child, aging parent, friend, or even responsibilities we have at work. It’s true that caring for others is important for a healthy spirit and healthy society, but we also need to make room for self-care. Our ability to effectively take care of others is directly dependent upon our own strength.
I am fortunate to have had teachers who had not only a wealth of information to share, but who were also compassionate and wise. Below is some helpful advice that has come up through conversations and lectures:
“Being kind to yourself is not the same as being selﬁsh.”
“What are you doing to nourish yourself each day? Ask yourself these fundamental questions:
How free do you feel?
How much joy in your life do you have?
How able are you to transform the circumstances of your experiences?
How easy is it for you to let go? How good are you to yourself?
How honest are you with yourself?”
Our answers to these questions shed light on the energetic aspects of our liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidney. The mind and the body are connected in Chinese medicine. What affects the energetic aspects of our organs will also affect their physiological functions. When all is in harmony, we are able to accept what life brings into our path. We have the ﬂexibility to digest unexpected events and easily let go of disappointments. We’re able to appreciate a larger perspective on life and ﬁnd joy in things simply as they are.
For example, if one is under a lot of stress, including worrying and ruminating, this falls under the realm of the spleen. The spleen is responsible for the transformation of food and ﬂuids in the body, as well as “digesting of information” for the mind. As this aspect gets weaker and weaker, it may become harder to think clearly or make decisions. Physically, one may experience gas, bloat, loose stools, fatigue, and an overall sense of heaviness in the body. When life is chaotic we want to slow it down. The nature of sweet foods is cloying, so one may start to crave sweet foods for comfort. But sweet foods also weaken the spleen function, and so a vicious cycle is created.
As we push ourselves to our limits caring for others, dragging down these energetic organ aspects, we hold on to worry and stress longer. We lose perspective and get bogged down in ourselves, which in turn causes physical discomfort.
Remember: To care for others fully, we must keep ourselves well. Treat yourself as well as those that you care about.