This is Wellness by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

Austin

I was given the task of writing about wellness which I thought was going to be easy enough until I sat down to do it. I mean, you would think someone in my position could put together a few comprehensive sentences about wellness, but I was stumped. I had so many ideas about wellness, but I couldn’t seem to form a single cohesive paragraph. I tried mapping it out with one of those brainstorming webs you learn in grade school. Truth be told, I do that before I write any blog. It usually helps, but this time I found myself confused and no less clear on the subject. My only takeaway is what wellness is not. It isn’t one thing.

There is a saying in Chinese Medicine, “the healthy man is the man that always has something wrong with him”. At first it doesn’t make much sense. We are programmed to think that health is the lack of dis-ease. Not true. Dis-ease, being the lack of ease, the lack of comfort, the lack of efficiency in the body. It is the dis-ease that makes us strive for balance. It reminds us that we are human and have to care for ourselves and for others. Think about all the bad habits dropped or good habits gained when someone experiences dis-ease. Acupuncturists joke that we can always find something wrong with someone. This is part joke, but mostly true. We live in a world where we confuse common and normal all the time. We are taught that gas and bloating after eating is normal or that painful periods are normal. While these things are common they are not normal. We live with all kinds of common symptoms that we don’t address because we think they are normal. Big misconception. Dis-ease is not normal; it is common.

So what is wellness in a society constantly battling dis-ease ranging from common issues to very serious illness? Does the presence of dis-ease take away from our wellness? Can wellness and dis-ease co-exist? Absolutely. It is Yin and Yang. You can’t have one without the other. Without sadness there would be no joy. The same goes for dis-ease and wellness. When we think about wellness as a process, wellness as an outlook, wellness as a willingness to change, then wellness becomes a state of mind. It can affect our approach to dis-ease and greatly improve our ability to transform. It can help us find peace and acceptance right where we are. To me there is no greater gift than this. This is wellness.

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Spring is here! Guest post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac.

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Spring is here! Even if the weather still has random wintery moments (welcome to NC), the energetic shifts that come with the season change are in full effect. So even on days when we reach for a scarf, things are changing. We tend to feel the physical and emotional changes more moving from Winter to Spring than other season changes. Spring’s energy is a bit chaotic and more noticeable than the subtle changes we experience when we transition to other seasons.

In Chinese Medicine Spring is associated with the Wood element. All the trees start to bloom and grow. We see baby animals and beautiful flowers everywhere. Everything is alive! Everything has a newness and the energy around us feels a little like a young child set free on a new playground. It can be both exhilarating and exhausting. It’s important to recognize the chaos but not get caught up in it. Take time to meditate or just sit quietly. As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer we can easily find ourselves committing to too much, saying yes to everything, resulting in getting run down quickly. Make sure to build in breaks and be conscious of overbooking. Trust me. Say no. Take some breaks and you will be able to do the stuff that really matters without burning out.

Spring is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder channels. These channels provide the body with a smooth flow of Qi which is essential to balance. Our Liver Qi has a tendency to get stagnant due to stress, overwork, and emotional upset. Needless to say, a lot of us have Liver Qi Stagnation. Liver Qi Stagnation can present as anger/irritability, headaches, stiff or painful joints, tension, excessive sighing, or issues with the eyes just to mention a few. Symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation can be more prominent and persistent during the Spring. It is very important to move Liver Qi before it wreaks havoc on the other channels. Acupuncture, meditation, and regular exercise are great ways to move Liver Qi. Something to keep in mind while choosing an exercise routine for the Spring is that the Wood element governs the tendons and sinews (you may notice a flare up of tendonitis). Focus on exercises that are less rigorous and more stretching and strengthening like yoga, Pilates, walking, swimming. Tai Qi and Qigong are also great for this time of year.

I hope this has been helpful in explaining a few of those Springtime symptoms you may be experiencing. Just like the trees we are always growing. Spring is a great time to refresh your self care routines (or finally create one) and create new health habits.

Pro tips: get acupuncture, maintain regular exercise, build in breaks, and enjoy your Spring!

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Year of the Dog…Guest post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

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I love the new year. It is the perfect time for reflection and new intentions as well as cleaning up and cleaning out. I love getting rid of what no longer serves a purpose in my life and freeing up some space for newness and change. This process is not always easy but there is beauty in the struggle and always an opportunity to learn something new. However, the expectation that we change our behaviors immediately and sometimes drastically is unrealistic without easing into it or doing some serious planning. That is why I consider the first few months of the year as my time to ease into my new habits and intentions. It is nice that the Chinese New Year comes anywhere between a few weeks to a month and a half after the Gregorian calendar celebrates the New Year. Though I am not Chinese, I enjoy learning about other cultures and their approach to the new year and self improvement. It is an additional time to reflect, learn, and fine tune my intentions.

 

According to the lunar calendar the Chinese New Year begins February 16, 2018 and lasts until February 4, 2019. Each year is associated with a zodiac animal; this year is the year of the Dog. The year of the Dog comes every 12 years. The years are also associated with the five elements, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire. This year is the year of the Earth Dog. The Earth Dog comes around every 60 years. Though it is considered bad luck if the zodiac animal of the year is the same as the year you were born in, a little heads up can help you be aware and possibly aid in some decision making. I am just going to skim the surface on this topic. You can definitely go deeper into the subject if you desire. At the very least these predictions can be entertaining and give you something to consider when setting new intentions for the new year.

 

The characteristics of people born in the dog years are said to have some of the most desirable human qualities. They are loyal, honest, amiable, and kind. They don’t need much in the way of material things and are happy with the basics, food, shelter, water, and a little love. They work hard and rest hard, a nice balance of yang and yin energy. On the flip side, they can be stubborn, self surviving, and have a brutal bite.

 

The year of the Dog is predicted to be good for business and technology and a great time to make lifestyle changes.  It is said that this year is a perfect time to start a new business or start learning something new. Health might be a bit more challenging for folks so it seems that this is a great time to focus on eating a balanced diet, limiting sugar, getting lots of sleep, and exercise. Dogs like to work hard, play hard, and rest hard. It will be extra important to rest and rejuvenate after work and social events.  Unfortunately, the year of the Dog may bring political turmoil (shocking). I don’t think anyone is surprised by this. Our current president is a dog.

 

I hope this post has given you something to think about and inspired you to get rid of something (physical or emotional), set a new intention, or motivated you to put your health at the top of the To Do List. Happy New Year, y’all!

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Rose. Thorn. Seed. Guest post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

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At the end of every year my family spends a weekend with 2 other families to celebrate my husband’s birthday and the New Year. On New Year’s Eve, after we put the kids to bed and all the adults put on PJs, we get some refreshments and gather around the fire to discuss the highlights and lowlights of the previous year and our hopes for the coming year. This little exercise turns into hours of laughter, tears, and inspiration and we call it Rose, Thorn, Seed. It is also something we practice daily in our house and I want to share it with you.

The basic idea of daily Rose, Thorn, Seed is that we each share our Rose of the Day, the best part of the day, our Thorn of the Day, the part we did not like or enjoy, and our Seed for tomorrow, a thought or action we want to plant for the next day. Simple, right? Right. Very simple and very effective when you are looking for a way to get to know your partner better, get your kids to talk to you, or get to know yourself better. You can do Rose, Thorn, Seed by yourself with a pen and paper, mentally over a glass of wine or cup of tea, or with a partner, friend, or your whole family.

My husband and I started this when we lived in Brooklyn, before kids. We were both in school and working 2 jobs and never saw each other. We led completely different lives. I was doing acupuncture, yoga, working as a nanny and dancing, while he was working with computers, making Facebook video games and working on an Off Broadway show. I had as little insight into his world as he did mine. By checking in each day with our Rose, Thorn, Seed it sparked dialogue about things we would otherwise fail to mention about our day. We had been together since college and I started learning new things about this man. This proved to be such a helpful tool for us that we started doing it with our friends on their birthday, New Years, and daily with our kids.

Rose, Thorn, Seed is also a great exercise when you are feel like you need a change but don’t know exactly what that change is. When you aren’t feeling fulfilled with life or your job but you can’t quite pinpoint what is disappointing you. For example, if you want to figure out what kind of job would be good for you, try writing down what made you feel good that day as it relates to your work. Write down what did not make you feel good and what you would like to see happen differently tomorrow. Over a few weeks you may see a pattern to everything listed under your Rose and notice what inspires you the most as well as a pattern to your Thorn. You can use your seed to help direct you to more fulfilling days at your current job or help guide you in a search for a new one.

I hope you find this little exercise as helpful as we do. My desire for you is that you start living a life filled with lots of colorful roses, few thorns, and some new seeds.

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The Holidays…Guest post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

Hey Folks,

The holiday season is here and in full swing. While all of us might not celebrate the holidays this time of the year we can’t help but be affected by them. This is when schedules get filled with social events (both wanted and unwanted), lots of money is spent, food and drink flow, and expectations are high. No matter how much you love or hate the holidays it is filled with extreme highs and lows. So how do we balance out those extremes? I have a couple thoughts….

Stop making the holidays about gifts. There are so many other beautiful ways to spend your energy. Get creative and do things that feel meaningful to you. Examples…

  • volunteer (there are tons of places looking for help…soup kitchen, public schools, tutoring, local non-profits, arts organizations)
  • have an experience instead of a gift (get together and do something!)
  • write holiday cards to folks that don’t get a lot of attention during the holidays (folks in nursing homes, overseas, jail, the hospital, etc…)
  • deliver treats (food, cards, etc)  to folks who have to work on holidays (fire stations, hospitals, police stations, grocery stores….)

Take care of yourself (and I don’t mean by spending money!).

  • go to bed early
  • eat cooked foods and avoid raw, cold foods
  • take salt baths
  • drink extra water
  • avoid sugar to the best of your ability
  • spend time outside even though it is cold
  • exercise (even 5 minutes is better than 0 minutes)
  • say no when you don’t want to do something and don’t feel guilty about it
  • spend time looking inward and reflecting on the year
  • stretch daily (set a timer to remind yourself to take stretch breaks)
  • if you have the means, schedule acupuncture, massage, or a fun class for yourself

Stop feeling guilty about what you eat. Even though I think sugar is kin to the devil, I truly believe the hateful things we say to ourselves are more damaging. It is really hard to avoid eating foods we view as “bad” over the holidays. Instead of beating ourselves up about it let’s focus on moderation (or not… go to town on that pie!) and use gratitude instead of shame. “I am going to eat this cookie that was made for me out of love.” “I am going to eat this cake in celebration of ________.” Our minds are powerful, let’s not let a cookie destroy our well being.

Do your best to stay in the moment. When the To Do List is long and the days are short it can feel overwhelming and stress gets elevated. Try to stay in the moment by making a gratitude list. You can do this with pen and paper as a daily ritual or simply stop in the moment of frustration and mentally list 5 things you are grateful for. I find that a gratitude list can also be helpful when preparing  yourself for visits with challenging family members or co-workers. Since contact is inevitable over the holidays prepare for the interaction by making a list of their positive qualities and/or ways that your life is possible and/or improved because of this person. Even if this list is short (sometimes very, very short) it can be a useful way to put yourself in a good place before entering a stressful social situation.

I hope you found this post helpful in some way and can have a few more relaxing and gratitude filled moments this holiday season. As an acupuncturist I found it important to write something that might help folks through the holiday stress, but I recognize the place of privilege I am writing from and the people of privilege I am writing to when I suggest people go to bed on time and take epsom salt baths. Not everyone can do that. However, I still believe these things are important to implement if you can. I understand I am not touching on true stresses that come from not having enough money, lack of physical or emotional support, devastating illness, or loss.

Your friendly acupuncturist,

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The Energy of Fall- Guest Post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

austindixonGuest Post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

In Chinese Medicine the seasons play an important role in our health and well-being. Our body and mind are better when we eat seasonally appropriate food, wear seasonally appropriate clothing, and follow sleeping patterns that correspond to the rising and setting of the sun. There are certain energies or emotions that are connected with the seasons that can often explain why people feel certain ways during a particular season or seem to experience a recurring issue at the same time each year. Since the temperature is finally starting to give us a break here in North Carolina and the leaves are changing, I am going to focus on Fall.

Fall is the season that is connected to the Metal element and Lung and Large Intestine in Chinese Medicine. When the energy of Metal is strong you are able to let go of the things that no longer serve you and hold on to what does. Think about animals storing up for the winter. There is no space for unnecessary items. Fall is the perfect time to reflect on how the year has been progressing, recognize what is working for you and what isn’t, and to begin to let go of what you no longer need.

Sounds easy, right? Ha!

Letting go can feel so overwhelming and borderline impossible to many (most) people. Our new age friends might throw around the phrase “just let it go” as if this was a simple task equivalent to tossing an empty Kombucha bottle into the recycling bin at Whole Foods. Don’t let them fool you. Letting go is hard. Like, really hard. I am not one who shies away from change, but even typing about letting go has my palms sweating. So, let’s get real and talk about what this looks like for those of us who may want to hold on to our Kombucha bottle (I could totally use this for something!).

Now, I am not a therapist and can only speak to my personal experience with letting go of emotional baggage. Since everyone is different and may not identify with my personal struggles I won’t bore you with the details of my own emotional balancing. I will say that mindfulness practices go a long way. Finding the right one for you can be life changing. I also highly recommend therapy. I know some great therapists in Durham if anyone needs a recommendation.

Another technique I firmly believe helps nourish our Metal energy is cleaning out. I truly believe everyone can benefit from de-cluttering, both physically and mentally. Some folks have more clutter than others, but we all have something we can let go of. De-cluttering your home or work space is a great exercise in sorting and examining what you actually need. It can be hard to figure out what we need to let go of emotionally.  Learning to de-clutter and let go of physical things will give you more skills when it comes to doing the same with emotions and mental baggage.

When the energy of the Metal element is not on point it is hard for us to realize we have too much stuff and even harder for us to let go of any of it. So. Let’s start small.

Start with a drawer. Or a closet if you are feeling bold. Or a whole room if you are really ready to get your Metal element in good shape. No matter how much you are trying to tackle make four piles. The first three piles are easy-ish: Keep, Trash, Give Away. Pile four is a little harder. Every time we start going through old stuff we always find something that “Oh my god, I totally forgot about this and I love it so much and I will use it all the time now that I remember it.” These items get their own pile. Since the first three piles are pretty instructive when it comes to the next step (keep, trash, or give away) we will focus on pile four. It is best to keep this pile small. If these items are from a drawer they should fit into a ziplock bag. If these items are from a closet or room try to keep them limited to one box. Give yourself two months to use these items. Mark your calendar and go about your life. When your calendar lets you know that two months have passed, reflect on what you have actually used out of that box. If you have not used anything from your OMG-I-LOVE-THIS box, it is all packed up and ready to be donated. Easy-peasy. If you have used these items then you know that they are truly important to you.

I find it most helpful to do this every couple of months. Once you start cleaning out on the regular it might not be so overwhelming and you are giving your Metal energy a little tune up on the regular.

I hope this helps. Please remember that the energy of Fall is different than Summer. You are supposed to slow down, reflect, let go, sleep when you are tired (this means go to bed earlier) and eat warm, nourishing foods.

Happy Fall Everyone!

Austin Dixon is an acupuncturist at InsideOut.  Check out her full bio here and her website here. Call the studio to schedule an appointment with Austin!