Winter solstice marks the longest night of the year, the deepest dark which gives way to the start of lighter evenings. Phew. And rather than dwell on the darkness and cold I prefer to look towards the light and see winter as an opportunity to prepare for the coming energy of Spring.
Winter and Chinese medicine
In Chinese medicine is based on traditions that are 1000’s of years old and are rooted in observations of our natural world. We use the seasons, the most obvious natural phenomenon, to help guide us on how to ‘live in line’ well. Simply put it’s about living according to what’s available to us now.
The Yin & Yang of Winter Solstice
In winter the days are short and the nights are long. We’ve moved from a place of busyness (in spring), to ripening (in summer) and abundance (in autumn) to winter. What do we have in winter? We have hibernation, we have conservation, rest and readyment for the cycle of seasons to begin again. The day of winter solstice is the very shortest of the year whilst (of course) the night is the longest. The good news though, is that the days will be getting longer from here on in.
Days relate to yang, a moving energy whilst nights relate to yin a calming energy. This observation of nature tells us to conserve what energy we have (our yang energy) and embrace the calm of yin throughout winter.
Winter Solstice Traditions
In China it's traditional to get together with friends and family to celebrate ancestors and the passing of another year. It's marked by eating well, community, reflection and celebration.
This year, we've created an online event to honour Winter Solstice with you which includes acupressure and essential oils for menopause with Yoga Nidra wonderful 'yoga sleep' which is deeply relaxing and restorative. Tickets available here. Jo has also curated 3 'Winter Wellness Kits' to enhance your experience - check them out here
How Winter Connects To Our Health
Each season has unique set of things that it relates to or, as we call them, correspondences. Winter relates to the water element, the colour blue or black and the organs of the kidneys and bladder. In a clinical setting you might observe someone with a water imbalance as they have a groany voice or dark rings under their eyes, perhaps they experience issues with their lower back, knees or ears. The emotion attached to the water element is fear.
The kidneys are uniquely linked to our aging process, anything we can do to support them in midlife will help us age well. Here's some top tips for strengthening your kidneys in winter, especially at Solstice.
Self Care Suggestions for Midlife Winter Solstice
- Give yourself time and space to reflect on how your year has been. What’s been good and what you’d like to change. Form an intention for your future self to reflect on next solstice.
- Prioritise your mental health. In winter our natural inclination is to stay indoors more and it’s a healthy way to be, except that we must ensure we get outside daily and keep in touch with friends and family too. Make sure that, even though it’s dark, you don’t cut yourself off from your community.
- Stay warm. Traditional Chinese medicine is not a fan of cold water exposure, although it can be great for some women in midlife. In general terms Chinese medicine’s number one health preversation technique is staying warm. This is because when we’re warm our energy flows freely around our body which keeps our health in balance.
- Take care of your feet. In Chinese medicine the soles of the feet relate to the kidneys (which correspond to winter). Your feet are the furthest away from your heart than any other part of your body, and they’re relatively boney. It’s very important to keep them warm to maintain good kidney health in winter. One suggestion for keeping feet warm is having a good stamp!
- Have an ear rub! The ears relate to the kidneys and winter. One easy 60 second winter wellness reset is to rub the outside of your ear gently every day. If nothing else it’s extremely calming which takes pressure off the adrenal glands which is key to good midlife health.
- Be asleep by 10pm. Consistently getting to sleep around this time has been shown to be more restorative for hormonal health than sleep getting to sleep after midlnight.
Chinese medicine explains it's “better to remedy by food than by medicine.” It views food as deeply healing and in winter recommends suggests that, to live well, we should eat yang (warming) food in winter to counteract the cold or yin.
A particular favourite in colder parts of the country includes fatty dumplings, with meat and warming yang herbs such as ginger and garlic. If you’re prone to stomach issues this may not be for you, but warming roasted foods would be great.
Nourishing Winter Foods That Are Good For Menopause
As we age our kidney energy (the organ related to winter) dwindles. Which means that yin diminishes and needs support. Winter is time of abundant yin, it’s a time which can be tremendously helpful when nourishing yourself in midlife. It’s important during winter to nourish both yin and yang to stay balanced and the following suggestions are great foods to help menopause.
- Congee is a traditional dish for winter, it’s a warm comfort food made from 1 part rice (preferably brown) and 8 parts liquid. It’s warm so yang but watery which is great for water and winter too. Brown rice is good for your digestion, whilst black rice can be helpful to support hot flushes as it supports our kidneys. Use red rice if you need food for menopause and fatigue.
- Nuts and seeds are fabulous menopause foods. In traditional Chinese medicine they nourish the kidneys and take care of the brain and heart. If you’re looking for food for menopause during winter, seeds are best roasted or cooked to give you a good balance of yin and yang.
- Chicken broth soup made with the essence of chicken bones is both yin and yang. Throw in some green vegetables like courgettes and spinach, add some root vegetables and you’ve got a perfectly balance of protein and low GI veg with a large helping of green veg.
About Jo Darling MBAcC Lic Acu, Founder Menopoised®
Jo Darling is an acclaimed Chinese medicine practitioner with expertise in women’s natural health and the founder of Menopoised® She’s passionate about helping women transition through menopause, whether natural or medically induced and is an experienced oncology acupuncturist.
Jo’s mission is to empower women to live healthier, happier lives sharing her 15 years of clinical experience harnessing the ancient wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine. She successfully works with patients to support them with mental and physical health imbalances from hot flushes to anxiety, low mood or low energy, migraines, insomnia and much more.
Jo integrates a range of Chinese medical techniques including acupuncture, gua sha, moxibustion and offers lifestyle advice (yang sheng) to help women help themselves. She offers both in person and remote treatment incorporating the use of essential oils to activate specific acupuncture points.
How Jo’s Cancer Patients Changed Her Life
Her work with cancer patients, helping to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormonal treatment has been life changing not just for her patients but also for her.
She noticed her cancer patients often experienced immediate and intense menopause symptoms (as a side effect of their treatment) and for some their hot flushes were so overwhelming they couldn’t even drive to her clinic. Menopausal herself and rocked by her best friend’s cancer diagnosis she decided enough was enough.
“I looked around for effective natural solutions, aligned with my principles and ethos that I could recommend to my patients. What I found was nothing. At least nothing that was proven to be effective that women could use at home and get the same effects as seeing an acupuncturist.
That’s when I took things into my own hands and created Menopoised®. Effective, natural, side-effect free and beautiful to boot. Because, quite frankly why shouldn’t products for menopausal women look and feel gorgeous!”
Armed with her extensive knowledge, practise-based evidence and expertise in Chinese Medicine she set about creating beautiful, effective products herself under the brand name Menopoised®.
For when your menopause is too hot to handle, helps get your cool back naturally. Each box contains four ready-to-wear magnets and 24 replacement plasters. Fast-acting, wear anytime and side effect free. Read our FAQs here.
When your menopause is getting you down, our aromatherapy pulse point oils help you Embrace Cool, Find Calm and Be Collected. Each intuitive and thoughtful blend is formulated to harness the natural healing principles of Chinese medicine.
Let the oils ancient botanical wisdom take care of you. Set of 3 x 10ml pulse point essential aromatherapy oils.
Embrace Cool releases the natural essences of wise Clary Sage, calming and balancing Geranium, refreshing Lemon and Cooling Peppermint to help take the edge off those moments of feeling overwhelmed and overheated.
Find Calm with delightful and luxurious Neroli to float you to cloud nine, whilst Lavender calms, Patchouli soothes and Ylang Ylang relaxes. A welcome moment of peace when you need it most.
Be Collected is a clearing blend that releases the natural essences of Rosemary to help you keep it all together along with cool Peppermint and woody Cypress, for those times when you need to be on the top of your game.
This luxurious Cool and Calm cream blends pure essential oils to calm the mind, balance the hormones and cool you down when you’re feeling the heat.
When your temperature’s rising Rose Geranium supports hormonal balance and cooling Peppermint brings a breath of fresh air and clarity. Woody Frankincense instills a sense of peace whilst Lavender’s relaxing properties infuse calm. Wise and cool Clary Sage helps to calm the nerves, with an affinity for hormonal health.
Beautifully blended to nourish and restore this Cool and Calm cream harnesses the richly moisturising properties of cocoa and shea butters to help rehydrate and protect tired skin.