Winter Skin & Healing - Warmth and Introspection
In Chinese medicine there are 5 elements used in different seasons. Wood in Spring, Fire in Summer, Earth in late Summer, Metal in Fall and Water in Winter.
Having some insight into how these elements affect us and how we can work with them can provide us tools for better health and longevity.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine the water element governs the kidneys and Urinary Bladder. Supporting these two organs during the winter is very beneficial. You can do so with the types of foods you eat to the way you provide warmth to certain areas of your body. Face reflexology is also a great way to break up stagnation and move chi in those organ zones.
Looking at Water
When we look at the water element its emotion is fear(kidneys) and anxiety(Urinary Bladder). That same feeling could arise when you are looking into a deep black body of water, looking into the darkness and unknown.
In balance this same element of water can look like a crystal clear flow that is present in everything.
"I am the heart of the flow
The heart beat of the earth
I am the memory tape of all time
I am the medium of emotional transfer
Qi flows because of me
The blood of all life is connected through me...WATER"
Our greatest gift is to know that we are always supported and we can always dive deeper into that emotion if we are able to look at it objectively. What is is saying to you? What can you learn from it?
Water is yin and a very feminine element. The feminine is so intuitive, wild and emotional. There is no container within water which leaves the unknown. We must create a container for her so that her wisdom, energy, creativity and nurturing qualities can be ever present an not spread to thin or flowing endlessly. This time of winter we are being called to harness our water so that the energy and creativity that comes from it are reserved and ready to nourish us through the year and to work with the other elements in doing so.
Some ways to cultivate this is through meditation, journaling, breath work, light movement. Allow yourself rest. Go to bed early and rise with the sun. It's a great time to be with yourself and listen.
Kidneys + Bladder
The kidney and urinary bladder are the organ systems that belong to the water element and they both play an important role in fluid regulation.
The Bladder is the yang organ of Winter. Its is the working and moving force paired with the kidneys. It is responsible for releasing and regulating water ways. As it "holds on to" urine one of the emotional signs of imbalance is jealousy, grudges and fear. Some other signs of imbalance are back pain, bladder pain, urinary incontinence, vertigo, headaches and vision issues. The bladder meridian goes from our feet, up our legs, up our back and up and around our head to our face. Staying cozy is very beneficial, both these organs should be kept "warm".
The Kidneys are the yin organ of Winter. When I think of Kidneys I think of adrenals and energy. The Kidneys are our vital life force. When we overwork we experience adrenal fatigue and we are going day to day with little or no energy. During the season of Winter it is so important to be aware and cautious of this. We do and we will sustain but for our longevity it is not healthy and it will catch up to us. Take it easy these next three months.
The Kidney meridian begins at the bottom of the feet and travels up the inside of the leg to the pelvis, low abdomen and ends at the chest. Some signs that we are exhausting our reserves are lower back pain, week knees, frequent urination, and menstrual or fertility issues. Other signs of imbalance include exhaustion, autoimmune flare ups, very low motivation, excessive fear and anxiety.
Seasonal Self Care
A few things you can do to support yourself and your lovely kidneys and UB is by keeping warm...in the sense of keeping your lower back, neck, feet and legs covered and not letting them get cold. Its just the perfect time to stay warm and cozy with a nice cup of tea. We also want to look at the foods we eat- eat warm cooked food. Soups and stews are great this time of year. As well as looking toward blue-black foods which are believed to strengthen and nourish the kidneys. Some examples of these are eggplant, black sesame seeds, black beans, plums, dark colored berries and seaweed. Other foods that are looked at as being nourishing to the kidneys are walnuts, figs, raisins, brown rice and other whole grains.
During this time it is also important to be surrounded by those you enjoy spending time with as there does tend to be a tendency towards depression, fear or anxiety during the Winter season. On this same note, be mindful of overextending yourself. It's the time to focus on creating deeper connections.
As mentioned earlier journaling and meditation are so supportive during this time. A wonderful opportunity for introspection and potential to see what you will want to grow and flourish as the year and seasons progress. Movement is great so that you don't get stagnant during this "heavier" season. I recommend lighter movement as to not over work your system as well as some good breath work.
Working with essential oils is always a favorite of mine. In my Skin & Healing boxes I included bergamot, vetiver and a Moondrops blend with madarine, blue tansy and rhododendron. I felt this combination would assist in allowing one to go deeper into their spiritual practice. Some other eo's that would be nice are saro and ravintsara which are both great for lung and immune health as well as being uplifting. Black spruce is another great eo for lung support while offering an uplifting yet grounding quality.
As we transitioned into Fall you probably experienced your skin feeling dryer. Maybe even a little flaky and irritated. Now as we enter into the Winter your skin may have adjusted a little to the change in climate although you may still be feeling like it needs a little more nourishing support. There are different teas, herbs and Eos that benefit the skins health such as rose and geranium plus topical support as well.
Some of my top skin tips are:
1. Using a facial oil cleanser. This helps by not striping the skin of its natural barrier while also getting into the pores for a deep cleanse. Typically you apply on dry skin and give your self a good deep facial massage cleanse. Remove with a warm facial cloth. My favorite is the Laurel Oil Cleanser...it feels and smells so good.
2. Exfoliating with a mechanical or enzymatic exfoliant. As your skin is feeling drier and possibly flaky its important to remove that dead skin so that your moisturizing products can effectively penetrate and work with the skin. Depending on the exfoliant it should be done 1-3x's / week. My favorites are Almond Rose Exfoliant and Spiced Rose Enzyme Mask from Laurel. The Almond rose exfoliant smells so good and it is gentle and moisturizing.
3. Spraying a facial elixir or hydrosol. These help to add more moisture to the skin prior to your oil serum. They are also loaded with different skin nutrients depending on which item you choose. My favorite is Laurels
Elixir 1. These elixirs are almost like a serum spray, packed with herbs and flowers to hydrate and moisturize the skin. They have a variety of hydrosols as well as whole plant extracts, essential oils and flower essence.
4. Applying an oil serum. Oil serums are moisturizing and can be more or less so depending on the ingredients used. The Unburden Serum by Laurel is really nice right now because it helps to soothe and balance skin irritations.
5. Facial Balm. Facial Balms are very moisturizing while providing so much nurturing goodness to the skin. My favorites are the Recovery Balm for dryness or irritation on the skin. I also love the Night Balm year round. Both are Laurel items.
6. Moisturising mask. If you have time to do a mask once a week this will up level your skin results. I love the Gentle Mask by Laurel and the Advanced Hydration Mask by Josh Rosebrook. Laurels masks come in a dried plant form, you mix a teaspoon with water and let it seep for a couple minutes so that all the active benefits of the plants are released.
7. Facial Dry Brush. This is actually something that I just started adding into my routine. It sloughs off the dead skin while also supporting lymphatic movement. This says it can be done daily but I have chosen to do this every other night. Along side my always routines of gua sha and reflexology facial rolling.
I hope you are able to implement some of these into your life.