Acupuncture Tips to Combat Seasonal Depression
Updated: Dec 17, 2022
With the waning of the light, it's natural to feel a sense of loss. For some of us, the waning of the light is REALLY scary, and I also want to normalize that. And, I want to remind you that there is help available to you, and it's important to get help if seasonal depression feels too intense for you to manage on your own.
With the harvest pulled in for the winter, autumn, according to acupuncture theory, is the time when we take stock of our reserves. Historically, we would count, sort, and store our grain and we would decide how to portion out our food and supplies to last us through the winter.
Acupuncture philosophy incorporates these seasonal energetics to observe and reinforce that we are part of this seasonal shift. Even though we are now largely disconnected from this cycle, it's still patterned into our genetics and it continues to influence how we feel and act. So it’s natural to feel some grief at this time of year! The energy of nature is sliding down in preparation to go inwards (in wintertime).
One of the gifts of autumn is clarity. With the leaves stripped from the trees, we can see the structure of the branches. With the grain and tomatoes stored and canned, we can make better choices about how to portion out our nourishment until spring.
With this sense of coming scarcity can come a ruminating over-thinking perfectionism. Believe me, I was the kid who color-coded her closet and I can (and have) fallen prey to this myself.
What autumn teaches us is that it’s much more important to take stock, make a plan, and begin the execution of that plan than it is to make the plan perfect BEFORE you actually begin.
It’s easy to get lost (to ruminate) in how to distribute the grain, to worry about if it will be enough, but the truth that nature teaches us at this time of year is that nourishment is precious, and nourishment is a daily rhythm that you need to both survive and thrive.
The same is true for self-care.
Self-care should be both nourishing and repeatable. What we do daily, or on a regular rhythm: weekly, monthly, etc, is more important than what we do once.
Contemporary science even gives us this advice for exercise (move around throughout the day rather than running hard once then collapsing for the rest of the week) and sleep (the science is mixed but it seems you can’t “catch up” on sleep after an all-nighter).
At this time of year, with the waning of the light, it’s more important than ever to nourish yourself. Rather than waiting for the perfect plan of what will help you best, I invite you to take stock of your internal grain bin (your heart) and identify one small action that will invite you into a deeper relationship with the qualities that you need this autumn leading into winter.
You absolutely do not have to pick the perfect thing to nurture your heart. And, in fact, I’m even encouraging you to be a little carefree in choosing what to do. Maybe try something different? Something new? Please definitely try something SIMPLE, do-able, and repeatable for sure.
We often underestimate the incredible power of agency, of being an active participant in your life and in your health. This is the power of feeling capable and in command (but not necessarily in control) of your well-being and health.
I was helping someone recently with headaches and sinus pain after a dental procedure. The pain and headaches had been lingering for weeks. The dentist was on a wait-and-see basis with this person, so they came in for an acupuncture session to get some extra support.
We chose acupuncture points for blood flow, circulation, and drainage. And I also suggested that this person try Aruyvedic (a system of classical medicine from India) practice called “oil pulling” (in which you gently swish coconut oil around in your mouth to pull out bacteria; coconut oil is antibacterial and antimicrobial).
When I offered this advice, I wasn’t sure if the oil pulling was the perfect thing (which I was honest about when talking with this person). And I also didn’t know for sure if it would “work” for them.
But two days after this treatment, this person wrote to report that they were now headache-free, sinus-pain-free, and super excited about their new oil pulling practice.
Did the acupuncture help? Of course. (Or, at least, I definitely like to think so, given the results).
Did the oil pulling help? I think, in this case, absolutely yes! (Here's some science about oil pulling.)
It may have been the coconut oil itself, doing a lot of the work. But I’m also fairly certain that one of the factors that helped most in this person’s healing was the restoration of a sense of hope and of empowerment.
Knowing that they could come to acupuncture and be cared for, and knowing that they had a new tool they could try on their own to support themself at home, was definitely a huge influence in helping this person get back on track.
I see this often in my practice. One tiny change can make a huge difference in how you’re feeling! So I truly invite you to start, refresh, or renew a very do-able (maybe even so do-able that it takes only a few minutes a day) self-care practice today.
Not sure where to start? Want to do a fun exercise to help you create your own self-care plan? Download my Self-Care ebook today!
No interest in acupuncture? Live far away? No problem! Book a “Self-care Strategy Session” in the privacy of your own home on a HIPAA-compliant Telemedicine video chat (cameras off or on, your call) platform. We will talk through what’s holding you back, and craft a plan together to help you feel better.
May autumn invite you into wellbeing.