We’re approaching the longest day and most yang time of the year, the Summer Solstice.

What is yang? It’s associated with the sun, daytime, summer, light, heat, activity, joy, the fire element, and the masculine.

Yang qualities are revered in our society. The value placed on productivity in your workplace and free time may give you the impression that you’re never doing enough. Do you even feel pressured to have fun plans for the weekend or your summer vacation? Instead of making you feel happy, this constant energy output can leave you burned out and unable to do anything. The burnout cycle is a prime example of yang becoming excessive, and then deficient.

To have yang, you also need yin. Yin both counterbalances yang and nourishes it.

While burnout can be a year-round problem, you may notice that summer and winter are more challenging than other seasons. Imbalance can be present as feelings of overstimulation, anxiousness or getting sick easily.

If you tend to struggle in the summer or winter, what can you do to counteract our culture’s yang imbalance and improve your health? See below for a few ways to help you restore harmony between yin and yang between in office visits.

I also recommend coming in for a balancing treatment now and in winter, sometime close to the solstice.

Prioritize Your Health this Summer

Enjoy the sun appropriately.

In East Asian medicine, there is a tradition of burning moxa (dried mugwort) on certain points around the solstice to increase health and vitality in the coming year by building yang. I can’t burn moxa in my office building, but the sun is excellent source of infrared heat, like that emitted by moxa.

Sitting in the sun for 5 to 20 minutes can give you a burst of energy and improve your immune health, much like burning moxa. At this time of year in Marin, spending time in the sun also fosters vitamin D production, which has similar effects.

A simple way to incorporate a healthy dose of sunbathing into your day is to eat lunch outside. If you’re going to spend more than 20 minutes outside, apply a mineral-based sunblock, and/or wear layers and a hat to avoid sun damage.

Reduce caffeine.

If you reach for caffeine when you’re lacking energy, you’re not alone. Caffeine is like an emergency shot of yang, giving you energy to keep going, even when your body says it’s ready to rest. Cut back on your caffeine consumption this summer to avoid pushing your body past its capacity.

Lower caffeine intake is especially important if you’re feeling anxious and overstimulated, as caffeine activates your sympathetic nervous system, sending your body into fight or flight mode.

If cutting back on caffeine doesn’t feel realistic to you, at your next visit let’s talk about herbs to support your energy levels. They offer healthier and more sustainable ways to increase your energy.

Catch a cat nap.

If you can, try lying down and closing your eyes for 20 minutes instead of drinking caffeine. Even if you don’t fall asleep, your body will thank you for slowing down, giving it a chance to restore itself, and building the habit of living at a more sustainable pace.

Bonus points when you combine your cat nap with suggestion #1 to go outside and enjoy the sun on a pleasant day. This winning combo simultaneously nourishes your yin and yang.

Spend time with people you love.

Summer is the season of the fire element, which highlights our relationships and sense of connection to others.

Take a moment to consider how and who you want to spend your time with this summer and schedule those activities first. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by end of school parties, vacation plans, and other social obligations.

Say no to invitations that fill you with dread, or that you are unexcited about. You’re also allowed to say no if you just need a night off to rest.

Schedule unplanned blocks of time.

Water, the most yin of the five elements, loves unstructured time. Nourish your yin by blocking time in your schedule to nap, daydream, doodle, read, go for a spontaneous hike in Point Reyes, or cook a healthy meal. I also encourage you to give yourself the option of doing nothing. Do what feels restorative to you when the time arrives and don’t overthink it.

Build your yin through acupressure.

Illustration by Dr. Maura Hartzman, LAc. Commissioned by Pure Joy Acupuncture. Do not use without artist’s permission.

You can nourish yin by strengthening and stimulating yin meridians. The Kidney channel is the yin meridian associated with the water element and is especially helpful in building yin.

You can build your yin by stimulating Kidney 3. To find Kidney 3 on yourself, cross your ankle over your knee. Find the ankle bone on the side of the body that’s facing you (medial malleolus). Kidney 3 is halfway between the medial malleolus and the edge of the ankle (Achilles tendon).

To stimulate Kidney 3, try gently circling with your fingertips 5 times. Switch directions and circle that way 5 times. Then return to your original direction and circle 5 more times. This is an active (yang) way to activate the point.

A more yin way to stimulate is to hold the area gently with your fingertips or palm until you feel a sensation or heat or pulsation.

Curious to learn more about how to use acupressure to support your health? Sign up for Acupressure for Common Complaints, a 1 hr introduction to acupressure on Saturday, June 29th.

Learn how to locate and activate 6 points that relieve headache, insomnia, improve digestion, and increase energy that you can take home for yourself and your family.

Feel free to come by yourself or bring your loved ones with you to this one hour class.

The class with be held at the Pure Joy Acupuncture office and is $35. All proceeds will go to JL Soul Camp, or organization committed to creating safe spaces for black and indigenous women to rest and recharge.

If you are interested in attending, please contact me directly at (415) 994-0252 and I will save your spot. Space is limited, so RSVP today.