I don’t know about you, but when I’m not getting a good night’s sleep due to bouts of insomnia – it can really put a damper on my day physically, mentally, and emotionally. While the Fire element season is coming to a slowing down point – I’ve found through my work with the Five elements that insomnia is a big thing folks deal with if they have an imbalance in their Fire element.
As we find ourselves moving into the season of Late Summer, the energy begins to descend this time of year, almost like a pause on a pendulum swing. The rush and expansive intensity we felt at the beginning of the summer has now reached its peak and is slowly going to start coming down a little (summer solstice is the peak of fire energy). During this energetic and seasonal transition, experiencing chronic anxiety, worry, and living a busy lifestyle can damage the yin within and dry up all the body’s fluids causing yin deficiency. This challenge to our yin is frequently the underlying cause of insomnia: too much fire, not enough water.
In the Martha Stewart Living article ‘The Real Reason Why You Are So Tired’, I mention how fatigue isn’t a disease and rather an opportunity to determine the root cause of these symptoms to better understand the impact it is having on your body. Whether your body is in defense mode, you’re experiencing mental exhaustion from anxiety, overthinking, excessive worry, combined with an insufficient diet and hectic lifestyle – all of these are puzzle pieces that help practitioners like myself build the full picture of why you’re so tired.
Insomnia and sleep disorders aren’t simply caused by mental overwhelm and anxiety – but also an increase in inflammation (back to the fire element!) depending on what foods we’re choosing to nourish our bodies with throughout the seasons and as we start and end our day. When our body is inflamed from consuming highly processed foods, sugar, wheat products, dairy, and alcohol, our brain sends the signal to release the stress hormone, cortisol to help put out the fires of inflammation.
With the boost of energy from the constant calls of cortisol, we’re living in the survival-arousal overdrive state, leaving us to feel depleted, exhausted, and burnt out by the end of the day. So – where to begin addressing the root cause of insomnia and other sleep disorders?
I invite you to think back and reflect on the intentions that were set in the beginning of the year:
Did you meet them?
Did you have the adventures you initially planned?
Did you envision socializing and getting out more?
Reflecting on where you saw yourself energetically expanding and comparing how much of those intentions were accomplished versus overexerted out of obligation or ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ (alongside a deep analysis of what you’re putting into your body!) is a great place to start.
What self-care practices happened this year? How did you nourish yourself? Where did you exert and where did you recoup your energy?
Many of us simply exert, exert, exert without thinking about replenishing. As though we can replenish when we retire. But life doesn’t work like that. I’ve been in private practice long enough to see the repercussions of waiting until retirement to do things (including have fun!). Many people are sick by the time they are nearing retirement – or just plain exhausted. Or have picked up some challenging habits. So find the balance NOW if you can, while you have the energy and resources. .
Another helpful resource is to learn your Five Element Constitution to engage with yourself on a deeper level and begin to understand any imbalances and underlying causes you may be experiencing and what they’re communicating to you.