If we pay attention to how the animal and plant kingdoms adapt to the seasons, we can see that they adjust what they do to the energies of that season. In the winter, animals hibernate, slow down or head for warmer climates. Plant activity is almost non-existent with most of the plant’s dormant energy deep in earth. Each season has an energy and a purpose; animals and plants naturally keep in tune with those energies, allowing them to be healthy and to flourish in alignment with the laws of nature.

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) principles, we too would benefit greatly from working with, and not against, the characteristics of each season. Based on TCM’s Five Element Theory, the universe is divided into five energetic elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each element has its own season and a corresponding body system. The functioning of that organ system needs to be balanced for good health. The spring season is related to the Wood element and to our Liver energy, which is very susceptible to stress. The theory teaches us that not working with the season’s energy will throw that system out of balance, resulting in symptoms during the next season. For example, during wintertime, we should be expending less energy; becoming reflective; going within; and nourishing ourselves with warming foods, such as root vegetables, soups and stews. When we don’t follow those seasonal cues by, for instance, exercising excessively in winter instead of conserving our energy stores, we will pay for those mistakes in the spring season. This can result in potential symptoms such as seasonal allergies, migraine headaches, joint aches and pains, and hypertension as well as women’s health issues like PMS or painful periods.

Most of us don’t adjust our activities at all from one season to the next. We are creatures of habit, going to the gym and doing the same workout routines with the same intensity every day, eating the same foods; we do this all with little attention paid to what is happening outside in nature. We can let nature’s wisdom be reflected in our lives by altering our daily routines to match the energy and purpose of the season as well as by easing ourselves into the next season.

Let’s take a look at the current season. Spring, as a rule, is a season that doesn’t quite know if it’s coming or going. Generally, spring months are expected to be cold and damp. Honoring that natural law means we don’t want to jump right into summer fashions; instead, we want to keep our bodies warm and covered even when those teasing, warmer temperatures might have us thinking it is okay to switch to shorts and short sleeves. According to TCM theory, the spring season’s environmental factor is wind. That wind has the power to bring in illness through areas of the body that are left exposed, such as the neck, upper back and legs. Listen to the clues of the season to avoid change-of-season colds, or help reduce period pain and PMS by keeping bare legs covered until beach time.

The spring season is a time for rejuvenation, cleansing, heightened creativity and, above all, being flexible. The tiny crocus doesn’t make its way through frozen snow and hard earth by being hard; its flexibility provides strength to overcome obstacles. Being flexible and “going with the flow” in springtime will keep our vital energy, or qi, flowing. Stuck qi means things aren’t moving. From an emotional perspective, that could mean a tendency toward anger and frustration. Physically, it can mean digestive upset, hypertension, joint pain or arthritis. Keeping moving with gentle activities such as tai chi, yoga, qigong or a walk in nature will match the energy of spring. There’s a reason why we are so inclined to declutter, cleanse, plant seeds and start new projects. We are intuitively matching the season’s energy.

What additional things can we do to optimize our health now as we move toward the summer season? Energy modalities such as acupuncture and craniosacral therapy can help us transition to the vibrational frequency of the next season. We can also try to eat seasonally with liver-supporting foods such as broccoli rabe, scallions and dandelion greens. Embrace opportunities for reducing stress.

For a great way to reduce stress, try searching “Tree Shake Movement” on YouTube and have some fun getting things moving. Remember, it’s about aligning with nature’s spring tendencies of being flexible and going with the flow. Don’t forget to give a nod of gratitude to nature for providing all the answers.

 Karen Hand is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and founder of the Center for Seasonal Wellness in Darien. She holds natural wellness and stress reduction workshops, and uses several healing modalities in her acupuncture practice. Connect at 203-836-3335 or AcuKare@gmail.com.