by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.
The one universal constant for all of us in life is the presence of change.
During various points in our lives, we all go through periods of transition — from birth to graduation, to marriage, and finally death. Throughout our journey, we see the evolution of our bodies and minds, hormonal changes including menarche and menopause for women and andropause for men.
Because transition can be challenging and throw off your rhythm, it’s easy to end up sick or so tired that it takes weeks to recover and feel like yourself again.
While the only constant in life is change, it doesn’t have to be so hard — but it is essential that we equip ourselves with better self-care and be mindful of the potential effects of these changes on our health.
According to the Five Element system of Chinese Medicine, transitions are orchestrated by the Earth element which is associated with the primary organs systems that are in charge of digestion, the Spleen and Stomach.
These organs are responsible for the transportation and transformation of food and thought, and they’re therefore the organs that are most needed, and thus most vulnerable, when something in your life is changing.
Any kind of change affects the Earth element, which is why it’s important to pay close attention to this element during times of transition.
Especially during transitions, it’s essential to harmonize the Earth element and ensure that it’s kept strong and balanced.
Cultivating a Healthy Earth
The health of your Earth element relates to your digestion, as well as your ability to take care of yourself and others.
An out of balance Earth type can present itself most often in one of two ways.
First, a person with an Earth imbalance may over-care for people. In other words, he or she will lack boundaries, meddle and offer advice to people who don’t ask, and be overly concerned with other people’s needs. This person may also tend to accumulate a lot of extra weight and present with a pattern of over-indulgence, whether food or relationships.
In contrast, another person with an Earth imbalance may lack the ability to provide care for herself and others. This presents as poor self-care, as well as a lack of awareness of her own needs. This imbalanced Earth type may complain that she doesn’t like to cook or is always drained from doing too much as a result of her internal disharmony.
In both cases, when Earth is out of balance, the individual will most often have accompanying digestive symptoms including diarrhea or constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or simply an excessive or poor appetite depending on the type of imbalance.
The best way to prevent an Earth imbalance is to make sure you’re doing proper self-care, especially during times of transition.
Times of transition include all seasonal changes, weddings, graduations, menarche, menopause, andropause, back-to-school, moving to a different home or business, and the loss of a loved one, including a pet.
Since Earth is the element that transforms and supports change, it is important that this element be kept strong and vital during any transition or life change. Since the Spleen and Stomach are the primary organs associated with the Earth element, it’s imperative to strengthen and support your digestive system during these times.
6 Ways to Support Your Earth Element During and After a Transition
Eat More Nourishing, Hydrating Foods such as yams, sweet potatoes, and soups. The easier foods are to digest, and the more cooked they are, the easier these foods will be on your digestive system.
Commit to a Daily Relaxation Practice. Your digestive system is closely linked to your parasympathetic nervous system, which when activated helps you rest and digest. If you’re under a lot of stress, the sympathetic nervous system— our fight or flight response—will become active, and over time will result in physical and mental tension and focus that keeps you in survival mode thus inhibiting your ability to properly slow down. To protect and optimize our digestive system, and thus the Earth element, you must learn to relax. Yoga, Qi Gong and even a simple 10 minute mindfulness meditation can be immensely powerful to foster this sense of relaxation throughout each day.
Optimize Your Self-Care. This involves taking time to slow down and relax, but beyond that, it also means you maintain boundaries with your time and energy. One very important aspect of self-care that’s related to a healthy Earth is cooking for yourself and making sure to take time to eat without distractions.
Create a More Regular Daily Rhythm or Schedule. Whether or not you work a 9-5 job, it’s important that you create some sort of regularity with your sleep, eating and exercise. Earth thrives on rituals and predictable rhythms and your digestive system will thank you for knowing when you’ll get your next meal. Changing this rhythm during weekends and vacations is natural and of course acceptable.
Manage Your Finances. Earth has to do with all the things that nourish and keep us feeling a sense of safety. In the material world, money is one of those elements. That’s why it’s important to keep track of where your money is going, to balance your checkbooks and reduce debts in order to prevent the worry that is characteristic of an Earth imbalance.
Clean and Organize Your Home and Office. Earth types who are balanced keep a clean and very organized home and workplace, whereas those who are out of balance, misplace things and tend to accumulate a lot of clutter. Try to maintain a sense of order with whatever system most resonates with you in the places where you spend your time.
When we go through times of change, maintenance of our rhythm and order is what usually falls off our radar first. So the next time you find yourself entering a transition of any kind, try being more mindful of maintaining the simple things including your regimen, a good diet, and a clean home. These simple things can provide a sense of harmony as you move through the uncertainty and constant changes of life.
Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.