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Nurture yourself this winter

nurture yourself this winter

Make time to nurture yourself this winter

In Chinese medicine, winter is a time to go deep within and nurture and restore yourself. The days are shorter, and we are advised to wake up later, go to bed earlier, and rest more. Outside, much of nature goes into what appears to be a state of dormancy. On the surface, branches are bare and still. But deep inside, life is quietly active and gently restoring itself.

This has been a challenging year for many people. Now is a perfect time to give yourself permission to rest and heal. It’s a great time to be introspective as we welcome the new year and new possibilities. What can you nurture that you want to cultivate in the coming year? Try to be still and listen if you need guidance. Sometimes the answer will come in an unexpected and delightful way.

In Chinese medicine, our organs are associated with phases or elements. In the fall, the water element is dominant, and the associated organs are the kidneys and the bladder. Fear is the emotion associated with the water element, and the bladder is associated with letting go. Recognizing and managing any fear is right in line with the energetic shift of the changing seasons.

 

Alignment with the seasons and phases

In Chinese Medicine, there are five phases of transformation: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. While in Traditional Chinese Medicine these are called elements, Classical Chinese Medicine refers to them as phases because they develop and change into one another. The five phases or elements correspond to the seasons spring, summer, fall, and winter. In Chinese medicine, summer is further divided into summer and late summer. Late summer refers to the transformation between the warmer summer weather and cool fall weather. The seasons and phases (or elements) are associated as follows:

 

  • Spring: Wood. This is when nature starts stirring from winter’s dormancy. Trees and plants blossom. New branches grow out of old wood, and new growth begins.

 

  • Summer: Fire. This is the time of warmth and activity. Nature is moving actively, and as a result is growing and flourishing.

 

  • Late summer: Earth. This is the time of harvest. It is also is the pause between the rising of the warming and active phases of wood and fire and the declining and cooler phases of fall and winter.

 

  • Fall: Metal. This is when nature will let go of what is not needed, as seen in the falling leaves from the trees. The soil is enriched with the compost from the dead leaves so it can prepare for the next cycle of growth in the spring.

 

  • Winter: Water. This is a time of rest. Animals hibernate, the days are shorter, and nature gets still and goes within to build up reserves.

 

How the winter season influences the kidneys and bladder

As I shared earlier, the kidneys and bladder are the organs associated with the water element and winter. The water element governs the bones, teeth, ears, reproductive organs, and hair on the head. This is a time of year when people may experience issues with bones, joints, or teeth, fertility issues, urinary tract problems, hair falling out or graying of the hair, or hearing issues. All of these conditions indicate an imbalance in the water element on the physical level. Fears, phobias or lack of will power indicate an imbalance on the mental and emotional level.

 

One way to nurture yourself this winter is to practice the art of yangsheng. Yangsheng is the ancient Chinese art of nourishing life. It is a practice of self-cultivation or self-care. In the Chinese culture, yangsheng is crucial to overall health and longevity. You can read all about how to practice yangsheng in my blog “Learn the ancient Chinese art of yangsheng – nourishing life“.

 

You might also consider practicing the relaxation response. Dr Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind / body medicine, created the relaxation response term and practice. The relaxation response counters the fight-or-flight stress response. It works by slowing down the rate of breathing, reducing blood pressure, and relaxing muscles. It is a great way to nurture yourself this winter. Learn how to practice in my blog “Healing yourself with the relaxation response“.

 

Consider Chinese medicine to help nurture yourself this winter

One of the reasons that acupuncture treatments are believed to be so successful is because they trigger the relaxation response. Additionally, they take a customized approach to helping people feel better. Every individual is unique, and no two people will experience the same symptoms for exactly the same reason. When I see a new patient, I make the time to ask a lot of questions and review their health history. This allows me to determine what is going on with their energy. For example, it is important to determine whether their energy is getting stuck or is deficient. I develop a customized treatment to address their specific needs and restore the balance of energy. This might involve acupuncture needles, ear seeds, qigong exercises, and diet and lifestyle advice.

 

Want to talk about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you nurture yourself this winter? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directionsClick this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Enhance your vitality with qigong

Qigong

What is qigong?

Qigong is a practice of cultivating energy. The word “qi” refers to energy or life force, and the word “gong” in this case refers to work or practice. Qigong is a combination of gentle movements with mindful breathing that balance and move energy. Qigong can be practiced by anyone at any age or level of health.

  

Why I love it

I love qigong because it is so simple and effective. It can be practiced anywhere. I don’t need any equipment or to go to the gym. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining outside or too hot or too cold. I can practice if I am sick or injured. I can tailor and recommend qigong movements to every one of my patients regardless of their age or level of health.

 

Benefits of qigong

Practicing qigong has been said to be like recharging your battery. It gives you energy. Qigong balances your energy, and it can help calm and disperse uncomfortable energy like stress and anxiety. The body is then able to use this energy to heal anything that may need to be healed. Qigong benefits mental, emotional, and physical health. It can also be very helpful in boosting immunity.

 

How I incorporate it into a treatment

In addition to offering telehealth appointments with customized qigong exercises, I will often recommend qigong exercises to my patients who come in for acupuncture treatments. This is especially useful for people who want to continue to enhance their vitality and well-being at home. At the end of an acupuncture session, I will teach patients a simple exercise or two. We’ll practice it together to make sure they can feel the sensations and ask questions if needed. Here are two  examples of simple qigong exercises that can be done at home:

Shaking:

  • Stand with feet shoulder with apart.
  • Start at your hands and begin a shaking motion that moves up your arms and through your body. Include your head, torso, legs, etc.
  • This moves energy and stuck emotions.
  • Let yourself exhale deeply to release tension.
  • Open your mouth and make a sound if you like. This could be a sigh, a grunt, or whatever feels right to you.
  • This exercise is great for stress relief.

 

Calming:

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
  • Inhale and raise arms with palms facing up over your head, and then exhale with the palms facing each other and gently let them float down.
  • When your palms pass in front of your face, turn the palms down to face the ground and continue lowering your palms in front of you until they reach your hips.
  • Repeat at least three times.
  • During the last time, let your hands rest on your lower abdomen with palms facing in, and take a few more slow breaths into your abdomen.
  • This exercise is also referred to as “waterfalls”. It can be helpful to envision gentle water washing over you, easing away tension and invigorating you as you practice.
  • This exercise smooths, calms, and grounds your energy.

 

Resources

There are so many wonderful books, DVDs, and even free videos on Youtube dedicated to qigong practices. Some are tailored to areas like stress and anxiety, headaches, back pain, insomnia, digestion, and immunity to name a few. Others focus on certain populations, like chair-based qigong for elderly or injured people.

 

Here are links to some of my favorite teachers and videos: 

 

Want to learn more about qigong and get customized exercises just for you? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

The value of Health and Wellness coaching

health and wellness coaching

What is Health and Wellness Coaching?

Health and wellness coaching is a structured partnership where coaches work closely with clients to enhance health and wellness through lasting behavior changes that are aligned with the client’s values.  A health and wellness coach holds a respectful, positive, and supportive space for their clients. A recent article from Harvard Medical School entitled “Health coaching is effective. Should you try it?” shares how a Harvard Physician, Dr. Grinspoon, found that health and wellness coaching has helped people attain health goals that had previously been out of their reach. Dr. Grinspoon listed Duke Integrative Medicine as one of top four most respected training programs in the country. I received my foundational and certification training from Duke Integrative Medicine, and I agree that is a top-notch program.

 

How does it work?

It all starts with you, the client. You’re probably reading this blog because you are interested in making a change in your life to improve your health and wellness. Has there been a behavior or part of your life that you have wanted to change, but you haven’t had the tools to be successful? Has a health concern has arisen that you need to address? A coach will help you develop and realize your optimal health vision. You are the expert on yourself and your life, and the coaching partnership focuses on making and supporting meaningful changes that will work specifically for you and your unique needs.

 

Why is it effective in helping people realize their optimal health and wellness?

The coaching partnership is based on respect, non-judgement, and accountability. The coaching methodology I learned through the coaching program at Duke Integrative Medicine is based on the neuroscience of behavior change. This is a very motivating and empowering process for creating lasting change.

Specifically:

  • Coaches work with you as a whole person. They listen to your concerns and ask powerful questions to help motivate you to make the changes you desire.
  • Coaches spend time exploring what is most important to you in your overall health and wellness and allow you to choose your course of action.
  • Coaches guide you through a process to maximize your success.
  • You and your coach work in partnership to identify obstacles to change and create strategies for achieving your goals.
  • Coaches support you in tracking your progress and hold you accountable for your commitments.
  • Coaches provide additional resources as needed for making healthy behavior changes.

 

What are appropriate topics for health and wellness coaching?

Health and wellness are affected by multiple interconnected dimensions. These dimensions include physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, as well as support from healthcare providers. Any concern that gets in the way of taking care of your optimal health and wellness is the perfect place to start. Therefore, any topic you want to bring up that you think will contribute to your optimal health and wellness is an appropriate topic for health and wellness Coaching.

 

Here are some examples of potential topics:

  • Managing stress and anxiety
  • Building healthy sleep habits
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Improving nutrition
  • Starting or adapting an exercise program
  • Making a career change
  • Pursuing an unachieved life goal or hobby
  • Creating a healthy and safe home or work environment
  • Navigating difficult relationships
  • Planning preventative and routine medical care
  • Quitting smoking
  • Working through a health concern like diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol

 

This is just a taste of some of the things that can be covered in health and wellness coaching. Whatever matters most to you is the best place to start.

 

Want to learn more about how Health and Wellness coaching can help you? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is a Health and Wellness Coach trained by Duke Integrative Medicine. She is based in Wilmington, NC, and she is available to coach clients around the world virtually. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

 

Learn the ancient Chinese art of yangsheng – nourishing life

yangsheng

Why yangsheng and the art of nourishing life is important

At the start of the Chinese New Year in February 2021, I listened to a webcast from one of my favorite teachers, Lillian Pearl Bridges. Lillian is an expert on Face Reading. She can tell what’s going on with a person’s health and wellness just by looking at their face. Lillian also has a broad knowledge of Chinese astrology and Feng Shui. I have taken a number of Lillian’s classes, and I look forward to the special Chinese New Year forecast that she presents to Chinese Medicine practitioners each year.

 

This year, when Lillian shared her thoughts about the year of the Ox, she stressed the importance of practicing yangsheng. The ox is a very respected animal, and it is valued for its ability to work hard and endure. This year will require patience and an emphasis on yangsheng. Simply put, yangsheng refers to the practice of nourishing life that has been in existence and documented for other two thousand years. “Yang” translates to nurture or nourish. “Sheng” translates to life or vitality. This is a practice of self-cultivation or self-care that is believed to be crucial to overall health and longevity.

 

How to practice yangsheng

Another favorite teacher of mine is Peter Deadman. He has written a number of books on Chinese Medicine and has delved deeply into yangsheng. He states that there are three main ways to practice yangsheng:

 

First, avoid behavior that causes harm. This includes consuming alcohol excessively, smoking, eating poor quality food, allowing emotions to damage our mental health, and not being physically active.

 

Second, engage in activities that promote health and well-being. This includes eating healthfully, exercising appropriately, fostering positive emotions and managing negative emotions, practicing good sleep hygiene, cultivating positive relationships, and spending time in nature. Follow this link to read my blog on how to improve your sleep. To help manage emotions, click this link to read a blog I wrote on how to manage stress and anxiety.

 

Third, practice exercises specifically designed to nourish life. This includes qigong, taiji (also known as tai chi), and yoga.  Other yangsheng-specific activities include meditation, mindful breathing, and practicing the relaxation response. Follow this link to read a blog I wrote on how you can practice the relaxation response.

 

 

Balance and moderation are key

In our American culture, we have a tendency to overdo things, and we can become unbalanced. To practice yangsheng we need to consider a balanced approach to life. For example, some of us may be great at exercising consistently but we don’t get enough sleep. Maybe we eat really well but we also worry constantly and experience stress and anxiety. In yangsheng, balancing exercise, diet, sleep, and mental health are essential. Everything in moderation. I deeply respect this approach. In fact, the name of the Chinese Medicine school I attended, Jung Tao, translates to “middle way”. Not too far one way or the other. The middle way is preferable.

 

Even though yangsheng concepts are quite simple, they can be very difficult to put into practice. Most people will want more of something that feels good to them. If a little is good, more must be better. This can give way to overeating, overexercising, even oversleeping.

 

Time can also be challenge with so many of us leading busy lives. It is often hard to find time to do all of the things we want to do. As I have been working on cultivating yangsheng for myself this year, I find that some weeks I am successful at including exercise, but I am not able to pay as much attention to healthy eating habits. Other weeks I eat really well and make time to meditate, but do not find time to exercise. Trying to squeeze everything in can create an imbalance of activity and can be counter to the principles of yangsheng.

 

Make time to rest

Balancing doing with non-doing, or rest, is key. Creating free spaces in your day are important to balance all of the activity. What I’ve discovered is most important for me is to be kind to myself and to be as present as I can with whatever activity I am engaged in. That in and of itself is a very important part of nourishing life.

 

Want to talk about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Acupuncture for migraines and headaches

acupuncture for migraines and headaches

Acupuncture for migraines and headaches

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be very effective in treating migraines and headaches. Western medicine conventionally treats headaches with pharmaceuticals and achieves varying results. Chinese medicine takes a different approach by identifying the root cause of the headache from an energetic perspective. Each person is unique, and two people can have the same kind of headache for very different reasons. So, rather than relying on headache medication, acupuncture and Chinese medicine prescribe a customized solution tailored to the individual needs of the patient.

 

Migraines and headaches can be debilitating, making even the simplest tasks feel overwhelming. They can range from a dull ache, a feeling of squeezing or pressure, to a stabbing pain. Headaches can also be so painful that the only option is to rest in a dark, quiet, cool room.  Migraines can be accompanied by visual disturbances, numbness in the body, and even nausea.

 

Underlying causes

During an acupuncture appointment, the practitioner will conduct a thorough intake and work on getting to the root cause of why the headache is occurring. I personally examine a variety of possible contributing factors. For example, these can include: allergies, anger, dehydration, diet, hormones, illness, injuries, jaw tension, posture, sleep issues, stress, weather, and other environmental triggers. It’s important to know how long the headache has been present, how often headaches occur, and how long they typically last. Other things to consider are what the pain feels like, what makes the headache feel worse, and what makes the headache feel better.

 

Location is important

It’s also important to know where on the head the headache is occurring. The main areas are:

  • Occipital and nape of the neck: At the back of the head where the head meets the neck
  • Frontal: On the front of the head, including the forehead, eyes, and cheeks
  • Temporal: At one or both temples and the sides of the head
  • Parietal or Vertex: On the top of the head

 

Chinese medicine diagnosis

Acupuncturists diagnose headaches from an energetic perspective. Headaches most often fall into one of three categories: an excess of energy, a deficiency of energy, or what is called an invasion of pathogenic wind into the body.

 

When the headache is caused by an excess of energy, this means that the energy from the body is rushing up to the head rather than circulating smoothly through the body. A person experiencing this kind of headache will feel irritable, have severe pain on one or both sides of the head, and may have eye pain or blurred vision.

 

A deficiency-type headache is one that can be lingering. This kind of headache usually feels better with warmth and worse with cold.

 

A headache caused by an invasion of pathogenic wind occurs after exposure to wind, usually on the back of the neck. It is typically first felt in the nape of the neck. This can later extend up the back of the head to the forehead. When this external pathogen enters the body, it obstructs the flow of energy in the body, causing pain. After the acupuncturist determines whether the headache is caused by excess, deficiency, or external pathogenic wind, they identify which acupuncture channels are affected based on the symptoms and location of the pain.

 

Treatment

Often a combination of methods will restore the balance of energy in the body and relieve a headache or migraine. Usually, the primary treatment is acupuncture. The acupuncturist inserts fine needles into to acupuncture points in the body to balance the energy based on the diagnosis.

 

I usually include ear seeds to support the treatment. Ear seeds can also serve as a standalone treatment for headaches. Click here to read my blog about ear seeds. When I am treating a patient who has a headache, I will often palpate the areas on the ear that correspond to frontal, temporal, occipital, and vertex headaches. I place ear seeds on any tender areas as well as areas that correspond to the location of the headache. It’s not unusual for parts of the ear to be red, reflecting the energetic congestion experienced in the body.

 

Depending on what was uncovered during the intake, I also counsel patients on nutrition and lifestyle if it appears that anything in those areas may be contributing to the headache. Frequently, increasing hydration, reducing stress, and avoiding certain types of foods can be helpful. I often recommend qigong exercises and guided visualizations to help prevent future headaches.

 

 

When to see a Doctor

It’s important to see a doctor if you are experiencing headaches consistently, if your headaches are increasing in frequency or severity, or if you are unable to perform your usual activities. Doctors will often prescribe acupuncture for migraines and headaches once they have ruled out any serious conditions.

 

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience the worst headache you’ve ever had, vomit uncontrollably, or lose vision or consciousness.

Click this link for advice from WebMD on how to decide when to seek medical attention for your headache.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.