The Pandemic American Summer

by Jennifer L Fockler

The Pandemic American Summer, Jennifer L. Fockler, L.Ac. in Chicago, IL

This summer has been one for the history books!

 

For a lot of us, being stuck at home has really changed our perception of time. I feel like the last two weeks of March lasted for an eternity, but April went by in a blink. Days seemed simultaneously long and short at the same time.

 

There have always been different kinds of calendars and different ways to tell time. The traditional Chinese calendar is a mix of lunar and solar with things broken down into 72 pentads. Many of the names for these periods are cues for the seasons, for example, when birds migrate or plants bloom.

 

I think in a lot of ways, our need to garden during the pandemic ticks a lot of boxes. You get out of the house, get some exercise, and maybe grow some food. It can be a way of taking control back, of your immediate environment, but also growing your own food can save you some dollars and can be a necessity if you live in a food desert.

 

But more importantly, it connects you to the seasons!

 

This is a huge part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the idea of living in harmony with the seasons and how to stay healthy with right timing.

 

So, jumping on the bandwagon, I want to tell you my favorite Chinese Medicinal herbs that are easy to grow and do well in pots if you have limited space.

 

Mint—good for sore throats and cooling off on a hot day, especially if it’s in your cocktail. It’s also easy to dry so you can use it in the off season.

Chives/garlic/onion—delicious in everything, good for your immune system with many different varieties. You can even sprout an onion or garlic bulb that you already have.

Dandelion/Chickory---yes, this is NOT a weed. You can consume it from the root to the flowers. Use the leaves in salads, roots in tea, and flowers in wine.

 

There’s never been a better time to invest in your back yard, if you are lucky enough to have one, or jazz up your porch/balcony. Grow some plants and create a chill spot in the sun or explore new parks or hiking trails.

 

Summer food to me is always corn on the cob, watermelon, tomatoes and other seasonal fruits and vegetables. Chinese Medicine always wants to be aligned with the seasons, this means you need to eat seasonal foods and summer is one of the best times of year.

 

Foods that are very cooling for hot days include the mentions above, but also cucumbers, cantaloupes, avocado, and pears. They contain a lot of water and minerals to help replace fluids lost to the heat.

 

My favorite summer fruit is the peach. It is very cool in nature and good for the lungs, promotes body fluids and induces sweating. The peach is a symbol of long life and good health in China, often associated with immortality and eaten by the Eight Immortals once every 3,000 years. When you bite into a perfect summer peach, you can understand why this fruit and tree is so well loved.

 

And what if your pandemic experience hasn’t been gardening and barbeque? Maybe you’re dealing with some heavy sh*t, whether it’s financial or existential or anything else.

Following, are some of the ways I deal with being in a funk. I hope it helps some of you as well.

 

---Acknowledge the ‘bad’ feelings and try to sit with them instead of pushing them away. This can look like watching a sad movie so you can cry it out, journaling more or with longer entries, or maybe staying in bed for the day if you have that luxury. Part of this is also knowing that these feelings will pass at some point.

---Check in with your supplements and herbs. Personally, when I run low on certain nutrients, I notice a change in my thoughts. It’s a subtle shift and it’s taken me years to figure it out, but the negative self-talk can creep up on you. Some key nutrients for me are B vitamins, magnesium, and herbs. These might be different for you.

---Get moving! Exercise and other forms of movement set off a cascade of ‘feel good’ chemicals in your body. In TCM, it helps move your Liver Qi and can help you process difficult emotions. Try not to overthink this, cleaning chores count, walking around the block counts, and dancing in your underwear counts too.

---Talk about it. Sharing your highs and lows, as it may be now, with friends and family is what life is about. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s important. Maybe your current situation is not conducive right now and that’s okay. There are options. Maybe you need more than just talking and that’s okay too. There is nothing wrong with advocating for yourself, period.

 

Acupuncture and herbs are excellent for dealing with these difficult and highly charged emotions. Some of the best treatments I have received made me cry like a baby and I felt brand new afterwards.

As summer winds down, my ardent wish for all of us is to just catch a break. Not very ambitious, but it’s real!

Hugs to you!