Let’s be honest, these last 6 months have been challenging and nerve-racking! We have all experienced some amount of overwhelm, anxiety, worry, loss, fear, grief. And these emotions use up a lot of life-force energy, don’t they? When this happens, our immune systems take a beating, and our coping resources wear thin. We all have a certain amount of reserve energy within us, that helps us weather crisis and challenges. There’s a good chance that we have used up all, or most, of this “back up battery power”. Now that we are entering our seventh month of pandemic times, it is crucial for us to find productive ways to replenish our reserves, and keep going in the best way possible. Our immune systems and our mental well-being depend on this.
A Love Note From Ayurveda: How May I Help?
Ayurveda is often affectionately called a sister science of Yoga. Let us look briefly at the Sanskrit meaning of the name. Ayur means life, and Veda means science or wisdom. So, Ayurveda teaches how to live wisely in order to promote physical, mental and spiritual health and longevity. Since everything is interconnected in both the Yogic and Ayurvedic world views, we see ourselves as part of creation. This is contrary to teachings that imagine the human being as having dominion over other forms of life; instead, we are led to a paradigm of ecology versus economics. It is natural to live in harmony with Nature, rather than to consume, dominate or exploit other beings or resources. The former attitude brings balance and wholeness; the latter brings depletion and conflict. We are invited to honour the cycles of Nature and the Wheel of Life.
Autumn As Teacher
In the Northern Hemisphere, autumn is the time for conserving energy. We have already experienced the new growth of spring, as well as the bounty and harvest of mid and late summer. Now we are beginning a season of folding inwards; of resting and replenishing. Later in the year, we will be invited into the “hibernation” of winter. Next year, we begin the cycle anew.
How can we conserve and replenish our reserves of energy this fall? Here are a few general and proven tips that help all of us stay warm, steady and well-rested. (These tips can be further customized for your unique constitution, with the help of a professional Ayurvedic practitioner.) As an experiment, pick one of the following suggestions that would be easy for you to implement, and try it for one week. See how that works and feels for you, and then choose another one the following week.
Ways to Replenish Energy in Autumn
- Eat warm, nourishing foods, preferably that you cook yourself, with love. Look for inspiration at the fruits and vegetables that are in season. Soups and stews that feature or include root vegetables are perfect. Simple recipes are excellent! Avoid fried, processed, and convenience foods. If you are so inclined, this is a good time to include organic or ethically raised meats, fish and dairy; the natural heaviness of these foods is nicely grounding at this time. Eat organic or local foods as much as possible.
- Eat slowly, with appreciation. Avoid anything that may distract you, like watching TV or reading while eating. Put your cell phone away! Try a silent meal once in a while; conversation can distract us from the experience of our food, and also cause us to swallow air.
- Eat until you feel about 75% full. Overeating dulls your digestion, and adds unnecessary weight. Imagine filling 1/2 your stomach with food, 1/4 of your stomach with liquid, and leaving 1/4 empty. Another tip is to notice your first burp during your meal; that can be a good sign that you are at a healthy stopping point.
- Hydrate well, to counteract the dryness inherent in fall. Warm and hot teas, stews and soups are excellent. Let go of iced, cold, and bubbling drinks; they interfere with your digestive process. Remember Ayurveda’s rule of thumb: “It’s not what you eat, it’s what you digest.” Poor digestion and the accompanying accumulation of toxins in our tissues, will eventually lead to many health problems and diseases.
- Avoid or limit caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol and recreational drugs.
- No snacking between meals. Give your digestion enough time to deal with the last meal. (Note: some people with fast metabolisms actually do need to take in high quality snacks between meals. You know who you are.)
- Watch what you take in with your senses. This includes social media, news, entertainment, and even the company you keep. Choose wisely. We all know what it’s like to feel drained by certain people or obligations, or to be uplifted by others.
- Get as much rest as possible. See if you can get to bed by 10pm, and up by 6am. (This step alone, has been a game-changer for me.) Put your digital equipment away at least one hour before bedtime.
- Keep to a regular schedule. This includes meals, as well as sleep and rising times. Ideally, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time each day. Your digestion and nervous systems will thank you. Regularity creates stability, and this grounds us during the mobile and changeable time of autumn.
- Say “no” more often; don’t over-schedule yourself. Do less, and be more. Remember, this is not the season to push yourself; it’s the time to conserve and replenish. Simplify your life.
- Exercise daily, but don’t overdo it. Walking, biking, dancing, Yoga, and QiGong are excellent options. Keep your body and your energy moving, and remember that you don’t want to feel depleted afterwards.
- Spend quality time with loved ones, whether they be humans, animals, plants, minerals, or other. We are wired to thrive in community. Remember the Covid rule: “Physical distancing, social closeness”.
- Spend time in Nature. The fresh air will do wonders for your lungs and your mood. If you are city-bound, make friends with a local tree or park.
And, Remember to Feed Your Joy
Meditate, pray, reflect, journal, practise gratitude, dance, sing, and/or daydream every day! Include whatever inspires and delights you as a regular part of your life. Remember what brought you joy when you were a child… These activities are not only healing, but they rest and down-regulate our nervous systems.
Happy Autumn! May we all be warm, grounded, rested, and replenished this fall. May we all become more and more adept at living in harmony with nature. Let’s discover together, what it feels like to make small changes that add up to a beautiful life.