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Complementary Corner

Post-Holiday Blues

Renee Lehman

(1/2015) Going back to daily routines after all of the cooking, cleaning, shopping, partying and pressure of the holidays (financial and otherwise), may cause some people to experience tiredness, illness, difficulty concentrating, or lack of interest in activities. Also, in this post-holiday time period, with the decrease in activity, and the dreading of several months of cold weather, many people may think, "Now what?" This may bring on feelings of sadness/depression and anxiety.

In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health, reports that more than 1 out of 10 Americans (approximately 14.8 million) over the age of 12 take medication for depression, and more than 40 million American have some sort of anxiety disorder.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, what can lead to depression and anxiety and how can it be treated?

As a reminder, TCM deals with balancing the flow of the natural vital energy, or Qi which flows through all living things. Each organ of the body has Qi, and this Qi flows through the body on specific pathways called Meridians and is essential for health. When the Qi is balanced, moving smoothly, and in sufficient quality and quantity, health and wellness are promoted. When the Qi is unbalanced or blocked in any way, disease or dis Ė ease, will occur. This dis Ė ease may show up as symptoms on a physical, mental/emotional, or spiritual level.

Depression and anxiety are considered to be an excessive amount of the emotions of sadness and fear, respectively. TCM understands depression and anxiety to be rooted in a Qi imbalance in one or more organs. Depression mainly stems from an imbalance between a personís Liver Qi and Spleen Qi. Anxiety is usually related to a deficiency in a personís Kidney Qi.


In TCM, the Liver is considered to be the "architect of your life" or the "commander of the armed forces in defense of life." Just as an architect creates a blueprint for a home, and a commander creates a plan of attack based on observing what s/he is up against, the Liver is responsible for assessing the circumstances within and around us, and creating a plan on how to flourish in life given these circumstances. It also accounts for unexpected obstacles to your life plan and creates contingency plans so that you can still reach our goals. This leads to self-esteem, self confidence and success!

On a physical level, the Liver is responsible for regulating the smooth flow of energy in the body. These include but are not limited to: smooth blood flow and hormone release within the body and regulation of the menstrual cycle, supple joints and tendons and flexible muscles.

On an emotional and mental level, the Liver is responsible for the planning and organization of our life. It is constantly, accurately re-evaluating and reorganizing your plans to meet your goals and creating new objectives once goals are met. All the time, doing this in a way that keeps you at ease while achieving these goals. To reach your goals we require rational, clear thinking; clear perception of the future; being able to see the "big picture;" and the ability to carry ourselves with hope and benevolence. Finally, if a specific goal that you have is unattainable, then having the ability to "gracefully yield" falls under the realm of the Liver.

On a spirit level, the Liver is responsible for your "inner blueprint." To have a sense of purpose, to "take up your space," and to be able to grow and develop your spirit are things that you can all strive for. What a great joy it is to feel fulfilled!

In TCM, the Spleen is responsible for transporting nourishment, energy (Qi), blood (other forms of nourishment), urine, lymph and other fluids. It is also responsible for supporting and holding things in place.

On a physical level the Spleen is likened to a fleet of delivery trucks carrying extremely important packages to customers 24/7, 365 days a year. Just imagine how important it is for a distribution center and its delivery trucks to deliver produce to your grocery store! No transportation can occur if the bridges along the roadways are not supported properly to keep them from collapsing, even if the delivery trucks are full and ready for delivery. If the Spleen is weak, then it can act like a delivery truck driver who is tired and wants to go home to sleep so he ignores the stops near the end of his route, or like a bridge that has collapsed so deliveries cannot be made. This can show up as weak, or cold hands/feet (nourishment not making it to the ends extremities), general weakness and lethargy, sinus congestion, accumulation of fluids in the extremities, or prolapses of organs and or vessels.

On an emotional and mental level, the Spleen is responsible for the ability to move "information" where it needs to go and then "hold this information." In other words, the Spleen is responsible for the capacity to think, memorize and concentrate.

On a spirit level, the Spleen gives us the ability to "deliver" an abundance of love, nurturing and compassion to oneself and to others. A Spleen that is in balance will show up as one being grounded, being appropriately thoughtful, having a generous spirit and having a good connection to Heaven and Earth.


In TCM, the Kidney is considered to be the foundation for the entire bodyís Qi! The Kidneys are at the root of all of our physical functioning. They are the source of our potential (they are considered to be our "battery pack"). The energy from our "battery pack" activates our metabolism and motivates us to live (think about surviving through the winter). They provide the basic impulse toward the ability to grow and reproduce (think about the endocrine system). On an emotional and mental level, the Kidneys are responsible for mental strength (adaptable thinking), long term memory, concentration, cleverness, and the ability to be "still." On a spirit level, the Kidneys are responsible for our inherent constitution, resiliency (which includes inner power and courage in times of difficulty), the ability to fulfill our potential and manifest ourselves in the world and having the faith for a "future harvest."


Although medications for depression and anxiety can be helpful during difficult times, itís important to recognize that these conditions are symptoms of deeper issues. A TCM belief and analogy that my mentor, Nan Lu, OMD often uses is as follows: "Drugs can help alleviate depression and anxiety by temporarily lifting the individual out of the condition. But like pushing a ball under the water, the problem eventually pops up again unless the root cause is fixed."

So what can you do to nourish your Liver Qi, Spleen Qi, and Kidney Qi?

  • 1Eat foods that nourish Liver Qi: dark green lettuce and vegetables; sprouts and sprouted foods (like bread); sour foods like lemons, etc.; and avoid saturated fats, over-salted and over-processed foods.
  • Take time to meditate or use a relaxation technique to help decrease your muscle tension. This will also help keep you from depleting your resources.
  • Practice letting go of long term resentments and judgments toward yourself and others.
  • Let anger give rise to "effective action" instead of "fuming" about what angered you.
  • Work on resolving childhood issues that interfere with your ability to have a sense of satisfaction with your life.
  • SING, this strengthens Spleen Qi!
  • Eat foods that nourish Spleen Qi: carrots, squash, red beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, fruit, and grains like rice. Separate fruit from meal time, and limit fluid intake with meals (helps with digestion). Rather, eat fruit and drink fluids in between meals.
  • Balance the amount of activity and rest (work, rest, & play). This is a great example of using your resources wisely.
  • Exercise wisely (do energy building exercises like yoga, qi gong, and tai chi), versus performing exercises that use up a lot of your energy and run your "batteries" down. Consider The Dragonís Way Wu Ming Qigong Program for Stress Management and Weight Loss to help address underlying body imbalances.
  • Eat foods that nourish Kidney Qi: foods that come from saltwater (fish, seaweeds); seeds; salty-flavored foods (if you donít have blood pressure problems); and dark colored foods (red/black beans). These types of foods support your Kidneys (think about how kidney beans look like a Kidney) and Bladder.

To do this, you may need a professional to work with you (a physician, nutritionist, acupuncturist, personal trainer, massage therapist, counselor, spiritual director, or other wellness professionals).

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA.  She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman