If you feel a little depleted or run-down, or as though your vitality isn’t what it used to be, you’re not alone. Research shows that fatigue, exhaustion and stress are common amongst pretty much everyone, but also that the millennial generation (those born between 1981 and 1996) are twice as likely to experience constant exhaustion today as people of the same age were 20 years ago. Feeling exhausted or lethargic is a symptom linked to what Traditional Chinese Medicine called depleted ‘Qi’. Qi is the body’s vital energy, determining our immune health, resilience, fertility, ability to heal, and our general wellbeing. When we have well-functioning Qi, we feel strong and are able to adapt to life’s twists and turns; we feel grounded yet full of energy, with a balanced mood and good quality sleep. Most of us are born with plenty of Qi, but throughout life, issues such as stress, poor quality food, environmental toxins or a disconnection from nature all start to deplete our vital stores of Qi, leaving us feeling low, and being more susceptible to physical and emotional illnesses.
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners understand that deficiencies and blockages in Qi are often the root cause of ill health, and that in order to restore our bodies and minds back to their optimum functioning, we have to bring the body back into a balanced state, so that the vital energy is able to flow freely again. So, if you want to nourish your Qi to start feeling your more resilient, strongest, most grounded and vital self again, try a few of the tips below!
Nourish Your Sleep
Tiredness is one of the first signs of Qi deficiency, and with so many different aspects of daily life preventing us from getting good quality sleep, it’s not surprising most of us experience this symptom of depleted Qi often. When we sleep, the body goes into repair and process mode; mending damaged cells and ridding the body of old and worn out hormones. We also process emotions and memories when we sleep, which is why our mood is so dependent on a good night’s rest. Without sleep, our vitality simply can’t start rebuilding itself, so start to rekindle your relationship with sleep by setting up a relaxing evening routine. One of the most common things I notice in people who are exhausted and depleted, is that they leave all their evening rituals – like bathing, meditating, reading or simply taking a few slow breaths – until just moments before they go to bed. Although we all have different lifestyles, setting an intention to start your evening earlier can go a very long way to improving your sleep. Here’s a few ways to improve your evening wind-down and sleep:
- Plan out your week days using the Daily Greatness Business Planner, and purposely schedule when you’ll be finishing your work tasks for the day. Having strict boundaries between when you’re working and when you’re switching off is key for improving relaxation and sleep. Choose a specific time each day, then switch on your out-of-office notifications and switch off your laptop.
- Use bath salts like the Olverum Bath Salts to release tension with intensely nourishing therapeutic minerals and ten carefully selected essential oils to soothe aching muscles, relieve stress and re-energise the spirit. Taking a bath roughly 90 minutes before bed also stimulates the release of melatonin in the body – a hormone we need in order to sleep well.
- Use the Spritz Wellness Liberty Print Aromatherapy Sleep Mask to block out light whilst you slumber. Surrounding ourselves with artificial lights at night prevents us from producing that all-important sleep-hormone melatonin. As well as dimming the lights at night or opting instead for relaxing lavender-scented candle light, ensuring your eyes are exposed to complete darkness can hugely improve sleep. Even a small light from streetlamps outside or from your phone can disrupt sleep quality, so use the relaxing lavender-scented mask for better sleep at night and more energy throughout the day.
Nourish Your Breath
Whilst we all breathe, we don’t all breathe well. The way we breathe has a huge impact upon mental and physical health, as well as hormone balance, stress levels and Qi. The next time you’re in a public place, look around (in a totally non-judgemental way of course!) and notice how many people are breathing through their mouth. Mouth-breathing has been linked to higher levels of inflammation and higher risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as poor immune health, fatigue, and lack of vitality. Much of this has to do with how wonderfully the nose is designed to help us breathe. The tiny hairs that line the nasal passage trap bacteria and debris, and the nose plays an important first-defence role in the immune system too. The spiralling shape of the nasal passage also helps control the rate at which we take each breath, and allows us to get much more oxygen into the lungs. When we combine nose-breathing with slow, full, conscious breathing, we start to rebuild our stores of Qi instantly, and nourish ourselves inside-out. Here’s how to start nourishing your breath to improve your Qi:
- The Breathing Book by Donna Farhi is a simple and practical guide to re-establishing proper breathing techniques that can dramatically improve your physical and mental health. You’ll be guided through a thorough and inspiring programme that you can tailor to meet your specific needs with safe, easy-to-use methods.
- The Yogamatters neti pot is a great way to clear your nasal passages so you can breathe fully and clearly again. If you’ve never used a neti pot before, it may seem a little strange at first, but the benefits are well worth it. Be prepared to feel clearer, calmer and far less congested after using!
- Throughout the day, check in with yourself every so often. Are you breathing through your nose or mouth? Is your breathing shallow or full? Take a moment to pause for three full breaths, which will also serve as a way to calm the nervous system, aiding in rebuilding your Qi.
Nourish Your Nervous System
Just because stress is so common, doesn’t mean we should put up with feeling it constantly. Stress from work, home, family, friends, finances, and even aspects such as life purpose and self-image can all wreak havok on the nervous system. Stress can be seen as the root cause of pretty much all illnesses, and is linked to most autoimmune and chronic conditions. If you feel your levels of Qi are depleted, look to your stress levels and start lowering them:
- A consistent yoga practice is a great way to lower stress levels. Whether you practice with online classes, with a local community, via apps, or with your own home practice, getting on your mat daily can help look after your physical and mental health in profound ways. If you’re just starting out, grab a Yogamatters Starter Kit, complete with sticky mat, bag and block. If you want to gift yourself a more sustainable kit, opt for the Sustainable Starter Kit, or the Eco Starter Kit.
- When you get started with a yoga practice, it can be easy to lean towards one style of yoga. Some of us love powerful vinyasa flow classes, whilst others prefer the stillness of yin, but switching up your practice and trying different styles is a great way to connect with different teachers and learn about the wider world of yoga. Restorative yoga is a balm for the nervous system, and is great for calming the adrenals – which are said to store our Qi energy. The Yogamatters Organic Cotton Buckwheat Bolster is a must-have for restorative postures like backbends, and Viparita Karini or ‘legs up the wall pose’ as it is commonly known. Books like Relax & Renew by Judith Lasater will give you a wide range of postures and practices to try.
- Check out the schedule of your local studio to see if they have any restorative yoga classes, and look for a restorative yoga retreat you can immerse yourself in for a few days.
Do you feel vibrant or fatigued? Stressed or soothed? Try these Qi – building practices and let us know how you feel!