It’s easy to spread ourselves too thin with enjoyable activities and not even realize it…until a huge wave of overwhelm, anxiety, or exhaustion (which looks likeanything from getting a cold or flu this time of year or not sleeping well, to full-blown anxiety attacks) hits us over the head like a tons of bricks. Pixies, IMHO, are extremely susceptible to such waves, as we take deep enjoyment in all the season’s merriments, and sometimes over-do without realizing it!
It’s ALSO easy to prevent this from happening in the first place, and of course, to heal those waves when they do occur.
I offer this post in hopes that this holiday season, I will do more of the preventative things, and meter out my energy and time more carefully, thus avoiding the traditional post-holiday-crash that has occurred the past years. Ah, hopes. We’ll see!
Anxiety and overwhelm are to heads of the same monster. One is just a more intense version of the other (although I am not going to say which is which, because I have experienced both firsthand as being really nasty monsters). What we can understand, however, is that anxiety and overwhelm happen when the Spleen meridian gets saturated, stressed and depleted. The Spleen meridian in Chinese Medicine is our system of filtering information and input from the outside, and integrating it or getting rid of it, based on whether or not it serves us. Very important. The Spleen organ is an immune organ, producing cells that fight infection (and harmful input…see the connection?) and is related to the earth element of grounding, healing and soothing us. The Spleen meridian plays a role in keeping blood and energy in the organs and body, digesting food and integrating nutrients, as well as processes of thinking, studying and memory. When the Spleen is imbalanced, we are worried, anxious and obsessively focusing on things.
So as we run around shopping, cooking, eating, drinking, listening to holiday music (voluntary or not) and adding sprinkles off sugar to everything we see, our Spleen becomes depleted. It is overrun with information and doesn’t have a chance to restore and replenish.
We may feel this as tiredness, or stress, or burdens of the season. We may not feel it at all. What happens when the Spleen is *really* depleted, though, is that we get nasty monsters rearing their heads, and nice phlegm-y colds. Ugh.
To Prevent Depletion of the Spleen:
Grounding: In the colder months, it’s tougher to ground. Ideally, we walk around outside, barefoot. This simple connection of our energy with that of the Earth is deeply healing for our systems, and helps drain off excess energy. In the late autumn and winter, however, chances of that are slim! We can still ground however…and it still works!
Instead of going barefoot, simply go outside. Take deep breaths and let the cold air refresh you and cleanse you. After walking about a bit, stand still, and visualize roots growing from your feet down into the earth. The roots you send down are any color you like, but visualize them going to the center of the Earth to our heated core. Then, as you breathe out, send anxiety, stress, irritation or any other emotion down your roots, into that white-hot core of the Earth. The heat at our core will transform all energy that comes it’s way – negative or positive- into neutral, clean energy. You can then either offer this cleansed energy to fuel other creative processes of the universe, or you can draw it back up your roots, into your legs and belly, letting it nourish YOU!
Adaptogenic Herbs: The class of herbs known as adaptogens is quickly becoming deeply respected and, as more and more research is done, turned to for all sorts of support. Adaptogens do exactly what their name sounds like: they help us adapt to the stress of our lives. They provide foundational support for the nervous, immune, and cardiovascular systems. Any one of these herbs taken regularly will strengthen the system and work to prevent meltdowns.
I certainly recommend speaking with your health care practitioner or herbalist/nutritionist before you start taking any new supplements.
Adaptogenic herbs are: Echinacea, Licorice, Astragalus, Ashwaganda, Eleuthero, and Schisandra. These need to be taken daily for at least a couple of weeks, if not several months, to truly help us heal. Dosage will vary person to person, so again, please check with a qualified professional before beginning any new herbs or supplements!
Light abdominal massage stimulates the free circulation of spleen qi and eliminates stagnation. Perform this exercise standing or sitting with your spine straight. Place your right palm on your upper abdomen. Inhale fully and gently. As you exhale, massage the abdomen with your palm, moving in a clockwise direction. Use the breath to whisper the sound “hu” as you exhale. Repeat 10 to 20 times. In addition to strengthening spleen qi, this exercise promotes good digestion.
Circling the Qi Gong Ball: One of the keys to strengthening Spleen qi is to engage in smooth, continuous movement. This exercise targets Spleen qi. Stand with your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Hold your hands in front of your torso, with the right hand on top of the left. The palms face each other as if you were holding a basketball, and your fingers point at 45-degree angles away from you. Turn to the left, continuing to hold the ball. Turn to the right, rotating your invisible basketball so that the left hand is on top. Turn back toward the left, rotating the ball so the right hand is on top. You’ll know this exercise is working if you experience increased bowel activity and you have improved appetite.
All of these exercises and suggestions give the most benefit when practiced daily. You can mix and match or just choose one, if you don’t have time for all of them. Remember: some is better than none, and the practices we engage in daily act as deposits in our health bank accounts over time.
How to Come Back from Anxiety and Overwhelm:
Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, life gets hectic and we find ourselves in the feelings of anxiety and overwhelm.
The first, most immediate tool that we always have on hand, is the breath:
Place your hands on your belly.
Breathe in as you push your belly against your hands, slowly counting to 5. Hold your breath and count to 3. Then breathe out, deflating your belly, to a slow count of 7.
This rhythm of 5:3:7 is extremely grounding, and signals the bodymind that all is well and you are safe. As you breathe out, you may send your roots down (even if you’re indoors, this is highly effective!) and breathe out your excess energy into the Earth’s core. When we push the belly into our hands on the inhale, we turn on the diaphragm and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and the body’s “rest and digest” response, which is opposite “fight, flight, or flee”. This takes us out of anxiety and overwhelm immediately.
This technique can be done anytime, anywhere, and is subtle enough so if anxiety hits at a party and you can’t leave, you can at least take the edge off.
Then, when you have some time, get out your journal:
Write about why you are anxious or overwhelmed in a stream-of-consciousness way. Don’t censor yourself. Just let all the words and emotions flow onto the page. All the things you are keeping inside that seem petty or silly, let them out.
Then take some deep breaths, maybe even take a nap!
And come back, to write yourself a letter sharing the reasons why all is well. Remind yourself you have all the resources and abilities to handle whatever is before you. Remind yourself of how loved and supported you are.
Then, listen to this meditation: Meditation to Heal Anxiety and Depression It’s well worth the 20 minutes, and will help you let go of even more levels of stress and depletion. If that one doesn’t work for you, simply type “meditation to heal _____” in YouTube’s search box, and be amazed at your resources and results.
Kava Tea, especially before bedtime, is a wonderful soother-of-the-system.
Theanine is an amino acid that helps us calm down when tightly-wound. You can take it as needed (keep some in your bag or car), and it comes in chewable tablets, which absorb within seconds to provide relief.
Eat enough fat! Fat is essential for brain and cellular health! Coconut, avocado, and butter are all incredibly healing foods to take almost daily. Also cashews have been proven deeply effective in soothing the system, and even in combatting depression! Walnuts are another amazing one, so add them to salads and other dishes anytime you can.
Avoid processed sugar! Ugh this one is SO tricky this time of year, isn’t it? But here’s a recipe I make and take with me wherever I go, as a contribution to the dessert table that can ease my cravings. I actually eat one or two of these, and my cravings for other sweets go away, or at least, calm down a bit!
Raw Brownie Bites via the Detoxinista
Makes about one dozen
1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves
1/4 cup cacoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (alcohol free, if you prefer)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup soft dates, pitted (about 10 Medjool dates)
1 tablespoon water
Blend all ingredients, roll into tsp-sized balls, and then roll in raw cacao powder to dust.
*Pixie variations: I reduce the number of dates to 7 or 8 and increase the cacao powder by an extra tablespoon or so, as I like my brownie bites to taste more like dark chocolate. I also love adding 1 tsp of cinnamon or pumpkin spice, or even 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper! You can also roll them in coconut flakes instead of cacao. I have even added coconut flakes (about 1/4 cup) to the blender in this recipe, but you may need a bit of honey or water to help it hold together if you do so.
What are your other tried-and-true methods for relieving holiday stress, anxiety, and overwhelm?
Hopefully this post gives you a few new tools to start working with, and helps you enjoy your holiday season to the fullest!
Blessings and Bright Warmth,