In the Pacific Northwest, where I live and practice Chinese Medicine, the cessation of the long rainy season (late June this year) marks the dramatic start of summer, and people take off running. More than a few patients report that there is so much they want experience this summer that they pack their schedules full: entertaining a string of out-of-town guests, tending enormous gardens, going on epic hikes and bike rides, lots of parties and cookouts. And yet, with all the doing of these activities which should add up to satisfaction from getting the most out of life, many people confess to feeling depleted. They are exhausted as they attempt to keep up with the demands of the season. Feelings of depression often accompany such fatigue — feelings which can be confusing because adding more “fun stuff” to their schedule is not actually increasing their joy—it’s depleting it! What is happening here is that people are getting caught up in the yang of the season, expending too much of their own yang qi, and burning up their yin in the process.
Summer is the most yang of the seasons. It is associated with the element of Fire, the emotion of joy. As we resonate with the season, the urge to do more, to get up earlier and stay up later, and to be more social is natural. But too much of that throws us off balance. Even in the summer, it’s not daytime all the time — we still have to cycle through nighttime. And living in a culture that already emphasizes yang over yin — doing over being — no matter what the season, it doesn’t take much to tip the balance.
To help you make the most of this active, vibrant season while still feeling exuberant yourself, I offer four tips:
- Begin the day with gratitude. What do you appreciate about your life right now, without doing a thing?
- Schedule in unstructured time. Yes, I’m encouraging you somewhat ironically to plan to be spontaneous. Doing what feels right in the moment is one of the virtues of the Fire element.
- Take time to be alone. Some people need this more than others, but even the most natural extroverts need time to connect with themselves in order to connect authentically with others.
- Balance your active, productive, busy yang schedule by adding yin items to your “to do” list. Anything restful, quiet, and peaceful qualifies. I suggest actually writing in the yin elements of your schedule. Putting a check mark next to “sit outside and appreciate the flowers” helps to satisfy the need to accomplish something while ensuring that what you’re accomplishing actually leads to feelings of joy, rather than burnout.
May you enjoy the season to the fullest!