The Weariness of Spring

March 24th, 2014

 

 

“I know I should be glad that the light has finally returned but I find it hard to get out of bed in the morning. When I look out the window and see a sunny day I just feel anxious.”

 

 

These were the words of a client who felt she was suffering from something that, in Sweden at least, is known as ‘spring weariness’. It is not an official medical diagnosis of course but it sums up many people’s difficulty in adjusting to the sudden change that springtime brings after a long period of psychological (and partly physiological) ‘lock down’ to survive the ravages of a long, dark and cold winter.

 

 

What’s the story, morning glory?

 

Sunny day

 

As always, I’m so glad you asked. In traditional Chinese medicine spring is the season associated with the Liver and Gall Bladder energy systems. This energy oversees such diverse functions as vision and the eyes; flexibility and the connective tissue; fat metabolism; blood distribution (as opposed to blood circulation) and blood pressure; our view into the future, planning and decision making; our ability to problem solve and retain our integrity in a conflict; the ability to relax and focus on the wider view instead of getting lost in the frustration of detail.

 

Much of these functions are reinvigorated with an increase in light. Our eyes – essentially the external opening of our brain and central nervous system – immediately jack into this ‘new’ energy source and our metabolic process begin to ramp up from the hibernation of winter.

 

 

“What lies under the snow in winter is revealed in the spring thaw.”

 

This translation of a Swedish saying is also true in the internal environment of the body – and indeed the mind as we shall see. The liver’s strong directional energy sets in motion our sluggish metabolism and urges us into greater physical activity.

 

The liver energy system is seen, in Confucian terms, as the general of our internal defenses. “On your feet soldier and get on out there and take on that world!” is its message in spring. What often follows are dietary adjustments to lighter, less fatty foods, new physical training schedules (or at least the plan for them!), more time spent outside in increasing light and warmth and new goals for the coming months.

 

This rise in energy and activity also churns up what has been lying dormant inside us. Physically that can mean waste products secreted away in our fat reserves and even our intestines if we have been on a particularly heavy winter diet and/or low physical activity. Those defenses include what is called the ‘Wei chi’ or our immediate immune response via the immunoglobulins in our mucosa. Spring is often a time of allergic reactions at this level.

 

Psychologically what we have been avoiding can come up too. The excuses of winter have gone. It is now time to put up or shut up. For some this can create a kind of performance anxiety. At an emotional level we may have longed for the light for so long that once it is here we feel compelled to be happy about it and use every spare moment to make use of it – regardless of how we actually feel.

 

In nature, spring is a particularly active, if not violent period. Thousands of liters of sap flow upwards through the trees to create new leaves and flowers. The scarcity of food after a long winter gives rise to fierce battles: new buds and bulbs are dug up and eaten before they have a chance to flower; larger animals rob smaller ones of their food, their eggs and offspring, or their life. It’s a tough world out there in the spring

 

© Robert Bateman

© Robert Bateman

 

 

 

Catching the wave

 

How we have managed our reserves in the winter determines to some extent how much energy we have to catch the new wave of spring energy. A healthy body and mind welcomes each season in appreciation of a change. If we are already exhausted however we will feel merely swamped by the wave crashing over us and will not be able to harness its energy to drive us forward.

 

Instead we will feel stressed and overwhelmed. This can manifest in a number of ways:

 

  • Anxiety about the future and our ability to cope
  • Difficulty making decisions and sticking to them
  • Chronic bouts of irritation, anger and frustration
  • Poor sleep despite feeling tired all the time
  • Reduced capacity to recover quickly from physical exercise
  • Changes and problems with the menstrual cycle

 

In traditional Chinese medicine most of these can be listed under the energy diagnosis of ‘stuck liver chi’.

 

 

The defeated warrior

 

The spiritual level of this energy is called the ‘Hun’ – the spiritual warrior. It is that part of us that protects the integrity of our true Self against the demands from the outside world to abandon ourselves and follow the will of others or the collective programming.

 

 

We mentioned in last week’s blog about fear and the body (click here) that we could become depleted by the tug of war from many competing wills both inside us and in the world. Our warrior needs to have a clear directive where to channel our energy. When we are lost in indecision and doubt we cannot give that directive and this powerful energy becomes frustrated and despondent.

 

 

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!

 

From The Big Lebowski. Polygram Filmed Entertainment. All rights reserved,

From The Big Lebowski. Polygram Filmed Entertainment. All rights reserved,

 

The warrior may even take its sword to us in the form of self-destructive behavior. Aggression and needless conflicts or passive aggression that only hurts us can be part of this pattern. Eventually this prolonged lack of direction and feeling of frustration can tip into depression.

 

Think of a once proud animal in the wild reduced to being in a cage. At first they may rage at their captivity. After a while however, they see that one day will essentially be the same as any other. Their liver chi no longer sees a future of any meaning for them and they give up.

 

 

Springtime strategies

 

The Wood element and the color green are associated with the spring. The liver can benefit from green energy too:

 

  • Swap out that heavy winter food for plenty of fresh, green fruit, vegetables and juices.
  • Get out in the green of nature. Connection with this energy has both a calming and invigorating effect.
  • Find a tree with those almost neon green new leaves of spring and take a sun shower in the filtered green light it gives.
© www.desktopnexus.com

© www.desktopnexus.com

  • At a more technological level a series of monochromatic light sessions would help in a similar way to re-calibrate our bio system to the change of season.
  • Slowly ramp up physical exercise if you have had a quiet winter. Too much too soon, while keeping the chiropractor and physiotherapist in business, will not be so fun for you and your body.

 

 

A spring in the step

 

Finally, if it is possible and warm enough, try and spend even a short time each day in direct contact with the earth via your bare feet (and hands if you like gardening). It is another way to calibrate our individual energy system with the planetary one.

 

 

Till another Monday finds us with a spring in our step,

 

 

PS: For those in Stockholm this Monday evening, 24th March 2014, there is a Conscious Health open lecture concerning our relationship to many of the elements discussed in this blog. What a startling coincidence. For details click here.

 

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© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation: info@jeremyhalpin.com

 

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