By Jason Callanan, TCM Practitioner and Acupuncturist at The Neigbourhood Clinic
Are you waking up in the morning feeling tired and heavy, like you haven’t had any sleep?
Are you feeling drained in the afternoon?
Is coffee the only thing getting you out of the house in the morning?
Do you look at a dog chasing a ball with boundless energy and enthusiasm and wish that you felt that way yourself?
Fatigue, lethargy, tiredness are an increasing issue with a greater number of patients in our clinic.
I believe our modern fast paced lifestyle can claim some of the blame.
We wake up suddenly to our alarm clock, our heart starts racing from the initial shock. We stumble and stagger with bleary eyes toward the coffee machine for our caffeine hit to provide us with a false blast of energy, just so we can make it to the shower to begin getting ourselves ready for the work ahead, be it paid work or the duties of looking after a family. We stumble back home and stay up way to late watching TV or on computers, under the illusion we are “winding down”. Only to wake in the morning feeling more exhausted. We tend to pass it off as “getting older”.
Poor sleep quality, improper nutritional intake, too many commitments and not enough down time all add to the feeling of exhaustion.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has centuries old treatments available to increase our energy. TCM has this fundamental concept of Qi, which very loosely translates as energy, but more to do with a life force behind everything we intake, create and release. Our Qi likes to move freely and smoothly. Many things in our modern life consume, stagnate or fail to cultivate and nurture our Qi.
Emotions can block our qi from moving freely.
Poor sleep habits fail to adequately provide us with rest which is vital in rebuilding our qi
Poor dietary habits fail to cultivate and can even consume our qi
Excess work and sexual activity and alcohol consumption all drain our qi
Long-term illness can remain trapped in our bodies depleting us
All of these things can lead to us feeling fatigued.
Tips for combatting fatigue:
First and foremost importance in energy replenishment and cultivation is to rest well. Deep restful sleep is critical in combatting fatigue.
Many people have poor sleeping habits of going to bed late, staying up late watching TV/computer then turning off and expecting to get too sleep straight away. Melatonin is our sleep hormone, which is only turned on an hour, or two after the photoreceptors in our eyes recognize that darkness has fallen. Think of last time you went camping, an hour or two after sunset we start feeling sleepy as we don’t have artificial light tricking our minds into thinking it is still daylight. Getting into better sleeping habits not having stimulates such as caffeine or alcohol in afternoon or night, not taking in too many fluids at all after 6pm so we don’t wake in the night to urinate and disturb sleep. Practicing a “wind down ritual at night like breathing exercises, stretching, meditation to prepare our minds and body for sleep.
Begin waking every morning and gently mobilising the body with stretching, tai qi, or Qi gong practice to wake the body softly and begin circulating qi and blood to the joints and muscles. When we sleep TCM theory believes the qi and blood retreat into the organs, joints and muscle tissue to repair and clean any damage or build up from the day. Just like warming up a car in the morning, we need to wake and warm our internal qi before beginning our day.
After waking the body we need to feed the body.
TCM has an old saying “Eat breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a king and dinner like a beggar”. This is because TCM theory believes breakfast should be the most nutritious and hearty meal of the day to fuel us for the day ahead, lunch should be filling enough to fuel the afternoon, and dinner should be the smallest meal, this is because at night the body doesn’t require much energy instead it shifts its focus on cleaning, repairing and regenerating the internal cells and tissues of the body.
3/ Check in
Take time out during your day to check in with yourself and see if you are overdoing it, and allow yourself a few minutes to stop, close your eyes, and do some restorative breathing techniques. This can assist you to recharge yourself at regular intervals to help minimise fatigue.
TMC tools to treating fatigue
Acupuncture – TCM theory states that acupuncture can help the organs to build or cultivate qi, move qi that becomes stagnant in the body so it can flow freely and feed our movement and function.
Massage/Acupressure – can assist in moving the stuck energy in our muscles and joints to circulate freely again
Herbal medicine - used for thousands of years to regulate the production, flow and balance of energy in the body
Vitamin supplements – many processes in the body require adequate levels of vitamins and minerals in the body. If the dietary intake is low short- term supplementation can assist in energy production.
Cupping therapy – cupping can release stagnation of energy and blood in the body helping to relieve tiredness from toxicity in the tissues.
Tai QI/Qi gong – much more than just breathing techniques these traditional tools of TCM can help circulate and cultivate the energy in the body. Moving stagnation of energy to a place of pain or weakness with the mind and breath
Meditation– restorative and calming it can help you focus the mind and quiet the chatter to help restore the qi
Article by Dr Jason Callanan, Chinese Medical Herbalist, Acupuncturist and Acupressure Therapist at The Neighbourhood Clinic.