So a couple posts ago, I self-diagnosed a little Springtime Gallbladder Meridian imbalance. The Gallbladder Meridian (aka Gallbladder Channel, along with its close partner, the Liver Channel) governs the healthy expression and processes of creativity, planning, brainstorming, analysis, and decision-making. Even if you are merely over-stimulated in the brain and eyeball department, the nine self-care tips below are for you!
1. REST YOUR EYES.
First, get outside. Even if just for five minutes. Try to find something green and growing. Stare at it with wide-open eyes, then relax. Dandelions, especially flowering ones, are particularly good for this exercise (they’re everywhere and also an amazing healing herb). Have your eyes relaxed yet? No? Look at something far away for a while. Focus on the far horizon. If there are trees or a grassy hillside at the horizon, even better.
2. Allow your body to naturally wake up with the sun, and naturally let go of the old to make room for the new.
Try to go to bed before 11pm, and then try to actually get out of bed by 6 or 7am, allowing time for a good elimination before breakfast. Letting go is very healthy! Especially at this time of year. In Chinese Medicine, the Metal Phase controls the Wood Phase, and the Large Intestine is in the Metal Phase. When this part relaxes, the Gallbladder as part of the Wood Phase will be able to have more freedom to move, rather than being restricted. Imagine a tree with a metal band around it; the wood has to deform itself in order to get around the metal that is holding it in. You don’t want that to happen figuratively in your body! The result is indigestion, headaches and irritability. So instead take a short walk immediately upon rising, have some extra flax seeds or oatmeal, and enjoy a relaxing bowel movement in the morning. Yep.
3. Speaking of movement, move, move, move! Stretch!
Watch the panda video above as an example of the perfect amount of playful exercise to pursue in the Spring. Get involved with some form of group exercise- it doesn’t have to be fast exercise! Ride bikes with friends, play catch outside, go for a walk with friends, play pick-up soccer… This will help to stretch out those tight ligaments and tendons in a playful and relaxed way. Make sure to keep a relaxed and gentle attitude, don’t push it too hard or you may end up injuring the same ligaments and muscles that you’re supposed to be healing and invigorating. A warm bath, hot tub, or foot bath afterwards would be ideal.
4. Take a moment at the end of the day to honor all the hard work that you (and your feet) do.
Taking a moment to experience the joy of a footbath will relieve the tension of the day, and it moves the circulation in a way that is stimulating and relaxing at the same time. A five-minute footbath will do wonders for your physical and mental health! From the Herbalpedia:
Mugwort Footbath: 2 handfuls mugwort herb, dried or fresh and 2 quarts cold water. Bring the herbs and the cold water to a boil in a covered pot, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes. Strain the liquid into a bucket or large bowl, adding more hot water as needed.
Administer hot mugwort footbaths for disorders of the pelvic organs, tension, cold feet and headaches. Cold footbaths are used for swollen and tired feet. For this purpose, let the brew cool before adding cold water.
If you want to get fancy and enjoy an awesomely relaxing aroma, add any/all of the following fresh or dried herbs: Lavender, Rosemary, Sage, and Hops. A few drops each of essential oils of Lemongrass, Mint, Clary Sage, and Rose also work nicely, and this helps reduce PMS tension if that’s happening. The foot bath can be an art as well as a pleasure.
5. Let your Gallbladder Organ relax- minimize coffee, alcohol, and greasy foods.
Instead of coffee or even caffeinated tea, try sticking with herbal teas or yerba mate for a few days. They not only help you avoid caffeine, but they can also help your system get rid of rancid fats and toxic accumulations (especially if dandelion leaf, dandelion root, or burdock root are involved). A great herbal tea for waking up in the morning is peppermint ginger tea! Add some dandelion for extra springtime goodness. Soon to come: Dandelion recipes.
6. Try Nettles. They are a magical Liver-Gallbladder-Kidney tonic.
At many grocery stores you can find nettle tea. Some natural food stores will also sell fresh nettles in the springtime, which are truly delicious in soup or simply wilted with butter. Just make sure to use gloves and cook them until completely done, or you may experience itching! Simple nettle soup recipes can be found here and here.
7. Spend time near water.
Water nourishes wood. Find any kind of pool, whether it’s a bird-bath or an ocean, and watch the riffles created by the wind. From a warm and relaxed vantage point, spend several minutes observing the movement that the breeze creates in the water. Allow your brain to relax.
8. Dry skin brushing! Yes, it feels sooo good.
The Gallbladder Meridian is associated with the Lymph system. When you wake up, before you take a shower, follow these directions for an invigorating skin massage/exfoliation/lymph invigoration. Taken from Carrie L’Esperance’s excellent book, The Seasonal Detox Diet:
- Acquire an all natural vegetable fiber brish or loofah. Make sure it is not made of synthetic fiber (this can irritate the skin). A long handle is helpful for reaching your back.
-Begin by gently brushing with one-stroke movements. The skin should not become red. The basic principle is to brush from the outermost points of your body (hands and feet) toward the center.
-Start by brushing from your feet to your abdomen, then from your hands up your arms toward your heart. Brush across your upper back and down the front and back of your torso. Cover the entire body surface (except your face) once only.
-For your face, use a softer brush since blood vessels are nearer the surface of the skin and can be broken if brushed to hard. Begin in the center of your face and stroke outward. Then brush down the sides of your face and neck. This gentle friction vitalizes your skin and keeps it glowing.
THE TOTAL PROCESS TAKES ABOUT 1 TO 3 MINUTES.
-Brush the skin when it is dry, since it may pull and sag if it is brushed wet. Aloe vera is a wonderful skin toner after a dry skin brush massage.
If you want to really get the Lymph going, to jumpstart spring health and immune system function, you can try the LYMPH CLEANSE:
The following lymph cleanse is especially useful to help relieve the toxic burden on the lymph system. If you come down with a winter cold or flu, be sure to do a lymph cleanse!
1. Drink the following on an empty stomach: 1 quart distilled water mixed with 2 level teaspoons sea salt.
2. Stroke your skin with a skin brush, using single strokes toward your heart.
3. Grate a heaping handful of raw ginger, wrap it in cheese cloth, and immerse it in your hot bath.
4. Drink a cup of hot ginger tea while bathing. Stay in the bath for a minimum of 20 minutes. Blue violet tea is also good for the lymphatic system.
5. Stay warm (wear a bathrobe, slippers, etc.) and go to bed.
6. Stay covered, warm, and sweating for 20 to 30 minutes or more.
7. Massage your body with equal parts olive and peanut oil combined with a few drops of peppermint or lavender, then take a cool soapy shower. (Optional: shower and skin brush again.)
8. Combine juices to make a total of 1 gallon. Use fresh pink grapefruit, oranges, and pineapples. Add 1 cup each of fresh lemon and lime juices to the gallon of juice. Fast on this for 2 days and drink plenty of distilled water.
The “tree-like” lymphatic system in the body contains twice as much liquid as in the blood vessels. Lymphatic flow helps process and eliminate wastes resulting from the heat and energy created in rebuilding worn-out tissues. The lymphatic system makes it possible to fight off infections and other foreign agents. When the lymph nodes become clogged with waste products, we feel pain. A good massage therapist who specializes in Lymphatic Pulsatilis Techniques will be able to assist with lymphatic congestion.
-Lymph cleanse and skin brushing instructions taken from:
9. Regulate irritability and stress with this quick meditation.
Look at a tree that is far away and try to observe the motion, however slight, of its branches swaying and leaves trembling. Now, (why not?) imagine that you are a tree. Just for a moment, feel your feet growing down beneath the soil, searching out nutrients and basically breathing them in with root hairs like the bronchioles of lungs. Feel the tensile strength of your trunk, which has the capacity to twist and bend with incredible force yet the most graceful strength. Feel the impetus of movement within your body, as your cells create an osmotic and tensile balance which allows fluid and sap to be given forth to every branch, every leaf, and every new bud and replicating cell of your being. Feel the wash of brilliant sunlight (or even filtered sunlight), activating and enriching you, creating a peaceful and continuous energy. Imagine your skin’s pores opening slightly, allowing yourself to breathe through this membrane that separates you from the air. Now feel how content you must be, that all you have to do is simply exist. Simply be a tree. The earth provides nourishment; the sky provides nourishment; and you receive nourishment. Receive in order to give.
Any more suggestions are welcome. Please let me know if you’ve tried any of these techniques, and what works to help you de-stress during the heady rush of springtime energy!