Winter and the kidneys: why so tired?

In contemporary life we rarely pay attention to the transitions of the seasons. we often view them as more of an external, even as a superficial circumstance, rather than the profoundly indispensable and significant force they are.

Winter is the time of year where the quiet and yin of nature continues its deepening state from the harvest and gathering of autumn. Yin in this context means quiet, internal, cooling, withdrawal, and slowing. It also refers to decline, degeneration, and death. Its is the end of the cycle, the winding down of the spiral, in order to circle again into renewal, regeneration, and beginnings. In Chinese medicine, this is the time of the kidneys, when care for them is most necessary. I often think of this a the growth of a seed which settles itself for the winter, storing its nutrients and energy, to burst forth in spring. Do we think of the seed as being foolish for waiting for warmth and sunlight? Somehow I doubt you feel this way. And yet, in our urge to be busy and productive, we consider it wasted time for ourselves.

Winter can be the ‘death’ or ending of many things, either physical or emotional, literal or metaphor. I find this awareness of the requirement for quiet facilitates an understanding of what best assist you, as an individual, in order to maintain health and contentment throughout this time of year. Somehow in the modern world (and this is a reflection of many things, our entire ethos being out of sync with natural rhythms of the world) the perspective is on these parts of the cycle – degeneration and endings – being somehow ‘dark’ in a dreadful or unacceptable way.

Actually these are fundamental requirements. In order for new growth, there must be space for it to fulfill. You cant top up a glass that is already full – all that happens is overflow. And filling a bucket with a hole in it is counterproductive without stopping to patch it. The expectation or suggestion that one part of this cycle can be skipped, and might be unnecessary, is the equivalent of running your car engine all day and then being surprised that you need to stop and refuel – or that the motor will, eventually, break down – even if you have a fantastic car. To quote David Attenborough – anyone who believes in exponential growth is either mad (or an economist).

Winter is the time of letting things still in order for regeneration and renewal. I often find this time of year is when people always on the go, constantly ignoring their requirement for rest, become unwell, exhausted, and ‘break down’. It becomes impossible to ignore the need for rest. This is the call of the body for recovery – its the term we often hear called ‘adrenal fatigue’.

It might surprise you to learn that the idea of the kidneys in Chinese Medicine, while encompassing energetic and emotional aspects as well as physiological – it startlingly similar to the functions of the kidney in western medicine. They are responsible for birth, death and reproductive functions, and affected deeply by overwork – both physical and intellectual. They hold and are affected by the emotions of fear and shock. While this is too substantial a topic for this post, its worth keeping in mind that all these aspect will have an impact on the functioning of the kidneys.

Tips for kidney replenishment:
Allow yourself to rest a little longer: schedule more time for sleep and relaxation
Engage in more relaxing restful activites, such as reading a book or doing an art practice
Restorative physical exercise, such as tai chi, chi gung, and restorative (dont get me started on so-called “Yin”) yoga, or walking in nature
Cinnamon and ginger, both in food and as tea
Deep colour teas, such as Per Erh, Oolong and Black teas (although these do contain caffeine, so watch your intake)
Soups and stews, especial utilising the bones and marrow
Warming meats such as lamb and beef

About Jade

Jade is a Registered Acupuncturist with a Bachelor of Health Science in Acupuncture, currently completing a Masters in Applied Science in Chinese Herbal Medicine. She has passion for mental health and recovery, having recovered from Post Traumatic Stress herself, and has a clinic space in West End, Brisbane with a focus on chronic health, pain and mental health disorders. Jade loves good food (cooking and especially eating), tea, and thinks you are never running too late to greet a cute furry animal. She does not believe in Magic Bullets.