Monday, January 13, 2014

How Socks Made My Day--Simple Self Care

Photo Credit: Teresa Y Green
I bought these knee socks last week. They are kind of a big deal. I bought them to go with my new boots--the boots come up to my knees, and I didn't have any socks long enough to protect my legs from getting chafed.

Usually, I am a frugal shopper when it comes to clothes. I buy very nice stuff, but I buy it from thrift stores, where Liz Claiborne jeans cost $5. When I got the boots and realized I needed socks that no one would be able to see, I planned to buy some plain socks in a pack from a department store. Then I went to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, one of my favorite places. Their gift shop is full of beautiful garden-oriented things, from jewelry to plant markers. Wandering through the shop is like a small museum tour for me, oohing and ahhing over the the butterfly, flower, bird, or bee-themed cards, lamps, mugs, nightlights, and other items. So I stopped to admire the scarves, and saw a display of knee-high socks. Full of color, with patterns from paisley to butterflies to flowers. And saw these. I fell in love.

While they were reasonably priced, one pair cost more than I had planned to pay for my three-pack of plain socks. They were totally impractical--no one but my husband would ever see them under my boots. I walked past them, then circled back. Then took them to the cash register and on to their new "forever home."

New socks are not a big deal. But I emphasize self care in my practice. Sometimes I find I need my own advice. These socks represent my plan to do little things to take care of myself, so I have plenty of resources to give to others.

Sometimes patients resist the idea of self-care, because they feel others in the family have a bigger need, or they equate self-care with selfishness. Since I've been in that place--and go back and visit occasionally--I try to help. Self-care does not mean ignoring others' needs to have whatever you want in life. It is taking care of yourself, so you can joyfully give to others. When I look at my socks, I feel happy. I smile. The touch of beauty in my day changes my mood. When I take my new, improved mood to the office, or to my husband, or anywhere populated by my fellow human beings, I am able to be a more positive version of myself. Solutions to problems come easier and can encourage people and be believable, because I am happy myself.  Interactions with cashiers, sales people, and my fellow drivers are friendlier--moments that may be fleeting for me, but can make the day of someone who needs a smile and basic respect.

Too often, I find myself seeing life as something I can only manage by a combination of running full-tilt and hanging on for dear life, scraping by and fighting through fatigue and frustration. One of my goals for the next year is to have fewer moments in that mentality, and more moments enjoying the life I've been given, and sharing what I have and know with others. My pretty socks are a small item that enriched my life. The feeling of luxury they gave me made me feel expansive, and more capable of giving to the people in my life.

Are there any small ways you take care of yourself? Please share them in the comments!

Monday, January 6, 2014

I Can See Clearly Now: Part Two of the Five Taxations--Vision

Stock.xchng Stock Photo
Recently, I wrote an article on The Five Taxations. They are five ways we can over-(or under-) exert ourselves and have consequences on specific areas of our health.  Today I want to cover the first in my Five Taxations series. The Yellow Emperor's Canon of Internal Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing) states: "to observe over a long time harms the blood." 

Almost everything we do in our modern day involves "observing over a long time." Many of us spend hours at computers, dealing with lighted screens, flashing ads, and that ever-moving cursor. Our modern age, with its televisions, smart phones, artificial lighting, and fast pace give us unique challenges to our vision.  I often remind patients that 150 years ago, the only reasons someone would have their eyes darting rapidly from side-to-side would involve danger--someone or something was after you, or you were after it. Today, our eyes constantly track rapidly back and forth--whether we're watching for traffic while driving or reading an ebook. All that use strains your eyes.

But it does more. In Chinese medicine, eyes relate to the health and function of the Liver. Wearing them out stresses this organ system. Your "Liver energy" also manages your body's response to stress, it's ability to do things smoothly and on time (whether that's getting sleepy at the right time or digesting food without incident), and has a lot to do with pain. The Liver governs the movement of qi. Qi getting stuck causes pain. (See this article for an explanation of stuck qi, and how to fix it) The Liver and Gallbladder meridians, which work together, affect the head, eyes, inside and outside of the legs, and influence the workings of every other system. Keeping them happy is a big deal. Here are a few ways to help your vision, and your Liver and Gall systems working well.
  •  Give your eyes a regular break. If you read or work out on the computer a lot, take regular breaks--at least every 90 minutes. Whenever possible, find a quiet place and close your eyes. Gently rub around your eyebrows and under your eyes. Give yourself time when you don't have to "observe frequently." Allow your eyes to unfocus and take a few moments off in a quiet place a few times a day.
  • Get enough rest. Lack of sleep is so common as to be endemic in modern society. Now we know what Chinese medicine has known all along--sleep is absolutely necessary to process stress. One of your Liver-Gall Bladder's jobs is to file away the stress of the day while you dream--and it is at its most active between 11pm and 3am. Many creative people use these hours because they have a burst of energy. But they sacrifice their "unconscious sorting" time when they do so. Get the rest you need, and especially get your rest during these hours--you'll find you have more creativity during the day if you allow it to build and do its job at night.
  • Eat Liver-and-Eye healthy foods. Foods with a slightly sour taste, like berries, vinegar, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, citrus foods and green vegetables, are good for "soothing Liver." Not surprisingly, a lot of foods currently considered good for eye health are in these categories. Goji berries and chrysanthemum tea (made from the flowers of the
    Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum plants) are used in Chinese herbal remedies to strengthen Liver blood and especially to strengthen the eyes. Most Asian markets will have instant beverages called "Chrysanthemum Tea," which may be heavily sweetened but can be used to help your Liver qi. You can also buy an unsweetened version online (see bottom of page for an affiliate link).
  • Deal with stress. Stress, especially emotional stress, is one of the major obstacles to Liver and Gall Bladder meridian functioning. Dealing with stress as it occurs will allow this organ system to keep up with its job of making thing happen at the right time in your system, and will allow it to properly nourish your eyes. 
Our modern world is especially hard on Liver energy, and especially hard on eyes. Take steps to prevent wearing out the windows to your soul. You'll be more creative, less stressed, and better able to build the life you want. 


Huang Di Nei Jing quote taken from Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen: An Annotated Translation of Huang Di's Inner Classic - Basic Questions: 2 volumes