Building our Reserves

Dr. Kristin Schnurr, ND

During winter, snows replenish earth’s water reservoirs and plants return their sap to their roots, re-collecting their energy. We too need a “winter season” to restore our energy, build our reserves and reflect on our lives. Paradoxically, the winter holidays demand a different type of energy, we are often expected to be active, busy, outgoing and gregarious. This expectation when we are called to be quiet and restful, can be the cause of additional stress as we experience opposing pulls on our energy.

According to Acupuncture Theory, all seasons have an associated natural element, organ and emotion.  In the case of Winter, these are Water, the Kidneys/Bladder, and Fear/Will, respectively.  

Our energy levels can be likened to a water source with a reserve cache. Ideally, we want to use the reserve sparingly, and replenish it quickly if used. When we are constantly dipping into our energetic reserves we can become depleted. Winter gives us an opportunity to restore these reserves so we can be ready for the energetic demands with the shift from extreme yin to extreme yang in the Spring.

We are physically, 75% water. Without the cleansing flow of the Water Element, the mind loses its flexibility, our memory suffers and we have difficulty clearing old negativity and habituated patterns that no longer serve us.

The Kidneys and Bladder are the organs controlled by the Water Element and associated with Winter. The bladder is your reservoir of energy; the kidneys are the storehouse of constitutional energy, or essence. Physical symptoms of an imbalance may manifest in the form of urination problems, decreased libido, hormonal imbalances, anxiety disorders or a deficient metabolism.    

Willpower is the domain of the water element, exhibiting in its two extremes the power of ambition and the paralysis of fear – those with an imbalance in this element can manifest either in their approach to life.  Water gives us the ability to be internally quiet, to listen with our mind and spirit.  When this element is unhealthy, we respond to life with an excess of fear or with a complete lack of fear.  Neither extreme is appropriate, both are expression of an imbalance.

The light is returning and days are getting longer, fortunately, there are still a couple more months of Winter with which to nourish ourselves in preparation for Spring. 

Suggestions for self-care during the Winter Season (or anytime you need to replenish your reserves)

  • Take time to be still and reflective.  Use the quiet time for inner work that will build your reserves.
  • Practice “wakeful” resting.  Know what rests you – meditation, walking, painting or writing – and make time for these activities in your life.
  • Keep warm – don’t allow yourself to get bone cold.
  • Eat warming foods, root vegetables and beans, squash and grains.
  • Get more rest.  Follow the winter sun – go to bed earlier and rise later.
  • Seek inner warmth – spend time with close friends.
  • Take time to play – with your kids, games with your friends, a vacation.
  • Monitor changes in the quantity and quality of your energy throughout the day, using that awareness to make wise choices about how you use your time.
  • Dream.  Let ideas and plans germinate.  Wait until spring to begin new projects.
  • Spend time beside different bodies of water (oceans, lakes, streams, rivers) and notice how you feel.
  • Consider the additional energetic support of acupuncture.  Each person carries within their own healer, acupuncture works to encourage this innate healing process, gently reminding the body to follow its own unique path to health.