By Keri Krieger
When discussing self care, burn out and how to know when your pushing too hard in your work or life, I would have to say it all boils down to your heart. Now this isn’t an ubiquitous invitation to ‘listen to your heart’ but to truly hear and nourish that most important ruler of the fire element in our bodies. Because when we hit burn out I can guarantee you its the lack of care and respect in this case of yourself. Fire can burn when its out of control or leave you in cold if not lovingly tended to.
In Chinese Medicine I work with the five elements. Earth, Air Fire Water and Wood. Pulses on the wrist are taken and these correlate to each of the organs and the elements they correspond with. These pulses give us feedback on the Qi or energy in each organ; the state of your fuel tank so to speak. This is just one of the diagnostic tools we use. In eastern philosophy there is also a soul or spirit that is associated with each organ and its this spirit that I work most with in my practice. Sure, I still talk about food, lifestyle practices and fitness, but in the chronically stressed, burnt out, and emotionally exhausted people (usually women but not exclusively) I treat its this soul that we really need to be nourishing.
You can be eating all the superfoods in the world and leaping small buildings in your lunch hour but this too can actually be counter productive. If we are not listening to our individual bodies needs and not taking soulful care of our emotional wellbeing all the superfoods in the world will be no help.
The spirit of the Heart is the Shen, its the soul most like what we in the west would call the soul. In a happy thriving person we can see this soul through the sparkle in someones eyes. The light of the Shen is so essential to our feeling loved that its this spirit that is shared in heartfelt gaze between lovers and from a Mamma to her new born. “.....from a Taoist mythological perspective, the light of the shen or spirit comes to us directly from the stars, from the divine, and resides, during our lives, in the empty space at the center of the heart” Lorie Eve Dechar
How beautiful is that! When it comes to burn out, exhaustion and the new prevalence of adrenal fatigue we also need to talk about the Kidneys and the water element. The kidneys are the home of the Zhi. It often gets translated as willpower or drive and determination. The fight or flight mechanism needs to be mentioned here too. The adrenals whilst technically not part of the Kidneys are for the ease of this conversation popped in the same basket. They’re like the yang super chargers for when we need to get out of trouble fast. It makes sense then that the emotion of the kidney is fear, this is an appropriate and useful experience of fear, until it becomes over used as a means of pushing through every. single. day. (you know what I’m talking about)
Now before this conversation gets overly technical, its this alchemical relationship between the heart and the kidneys, the water and the fire elements, the will power and the passionate soul that teach how just how far is far enough. One of the reasons I think we as a culture have become so out of balance is that for generations we have glorified busy, and we put will power and drive up on a pedestal and while doing so we dismissed the song of our hearts as frivolous and unnecessary. There has been many culturally understandable reasons for this. But in this new found generation of entrepreneurs and self employed creatives its time for this balance to be addressed if we are to survive and thrive and share our much needed gifts with the world. Phew! Ok so that technical pre-amble out of the way what does that mean for the average person other than going and getting some acupuncture to nourish their Kidney Qi and keep the Heart fires burning. The answer is LOTS!
Nourishing the Shen
- When the Shen in out of balance we can experience anxiety, insomnia, restlessness that leads to fatigue and a ‘whats the point’ attitude. We literally want to invite this spirit lovingly back into our bodies. In doing so we will feel calm and anchored
- Spend time in nature.
- Cultivate a practice that puts you in touch with your inner voice. Meditation, Journalling. Limit exposure to the constant streaming of media.
- Choose caffeine free
- Have massages
Exercise gently in a way that your breath is encouraged into your belly or dan tien. In acute cases of shock, bach flowers and nurturing loving touch is essential.
Nourishing the Zhi
- Regular gentle exercise, in this case its the regularity and commitment that is essential.
- Spend time near water,
- Stay hydrated
- Have some unstructured time in your week
- Avoid over working
- Foot massage as the kidney channel starts on the feet.
- Nourishing food that includes the salty flavour
And one last thing.
Coeur is the French word for the heart, its where we get the word courage from. When the spirit of the Kidneys and the Heart are in balance we are able to be courageous. Courageous enough to create that business, that relationship or that meaningful experience. It’s this heartfelt courage that we can act upon to achieve our most daring and meaningful feats.
It’s in the melting pot of our hearts (the Chinese pictogram for the heart literally means empty vessel) that will power can be catalysed with love to create the courage you need to be and do all that is your souls purpose in this world. When we come from this place our energy is renewable and virtually inexhaustible.
Burn out be gone!
Keri is an acupuncturist life-coach and passionate advocate of women creating the life of their dreams without hitting burnout! Translating the ancient wisdom of Chinese Medicine into modern language Keri coaches women through big transitions in life and mentors other health practitioners on how to create a thriving practice. With almost 20 years in the wellness industry Keri can be found contributing regularly to health mags traveling the east coast of Australia with her Rockupuncture™ modality and treating at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat. In her down time she’ll be hanging at the beach with her Westie Ruben. You can find her at kerikrieger.com.