Nature Medicine and Resting
It is a beautiful, peaceful morning today with large flakes of snow very gently falling straight down towards the Earth. It is a late winter snowfall that will melt quickly when the sun comes out. For a few moments and minutes after seeing it I was thinking, “Oh spring where are you?” Then I looked at the snow falling a little longer and I thought well that is beautiful, and so peaceful. One of my favourite authors these days is Stephen Jenkinson and in his book Die Wise (2015) he recounts a story told to him. It’s a longer story than I have time for today, but what was recounted was that one thing, perhaps THE thing, that sets the dominant North American culture apart from Indigenous cultures is an expectation to live. Reading this story in the book had a profound effect on me; I suddenly became aware that I was indeed approaching my life in that way most often. I can’t describe it fully but I can say that it helped me realize the truth of how fleeting life is. If I expect to live, rather than be in awe of each day of my life, I can’t fully appreciate what’s sitting in front of me… like late winter snowfalls.
I set out to write about how often I see in my practice people who are tired but who do not know how to rest. People often really don’t know how to rest; they are unable to settle themselves into what their body, mind and spirit needs to feel full and well. It is a profoundly important thing to cherish the needs of the body and allow them to be satisfied. In this way we can fill our cups up so the awesomeness of each of us can spill over and water each other, our communities and our lands.
In naturopathic practice NDs are treating adrenal fatigue, or burnout, a lot. The symptoms can include fatigue, sugar and caffeine dependence, insomnia, anxiety, low blood pressure, over reactions to situations and more. Of course these symptoms can be other conditions and problems as well, and NDs are trained to pull apart the various contributing factors to get to the bottom of fatigue, which more often than not is multifactorial. However, I think that probably a majority of us are overworking and not respecting our body’s needs. The rushing around that typifies so much of North American life is horrible for our adrenal glands and our nervous systems - I’m an 100% guilty of this so often with big ideas and a good dose of worry thrown in there a little too often!
I’ve found in my short life so far that as I’ve learned to connect to Nature in various ways, Nature changes me. There is a deep peace in Nature that can replenish us and teach us what resting feels like. I can say that for most of my life, though I got pleasure and relaxation from Nature especially swimming, the connection has continued to deepen and help me further. I’m sure many of you know what I’m referring to. When we are tired we are meant to rest, not drink coffee or tea or eat something for a quick sugar fix. If you’re tired by 8 or 8:30 at night, lay down and read something relaxing and go to sleep at 9pm. One of my teachers used to say our ancestors slept on average 10 hours per day. How much would you sleep in the winter if all you had was a candle? Perhaps it sounds morose to some (or many), but I like to remember that I could be dead tomorrow, which would make this morning’s snow fall my last. That makes me want to try to release worry, this is definitely a work in progress, which not only helps me feel healthier but helps me appreciate my day more. So, I encourage all of us to rest and rest deeply when we can, breathing in the incredible beauty of this little county on Earth, your adrenal glands and nervous system will thank you.