Qi Care for Women, Qi Care for Men
In my practice, I often see some gender-based differences in how men and women approach caring for their health. While there are lots of exceptions, of course, there are some clear basic trends.
In terms of the way their Qi flows, men are like blowtorches; women are like ovens. This is the definition of yin and yang. Men are more yang, while women are more yin. And, at the same time, there is a constant push and pull of both aspects in each person, depending on the immediate requirements of their environment and their natural hormonal cycles. We all know that women’s hormones tend to have surges along with their menstrual cycles every 26 to 32 days or so. But ever notice how women talk about their husbands getting “hangry” every few days? That’s because men have their own hormonal surges every seven days from testosterone (yang, yang and more yang), like their very own cycle. All that yang and nowhere to go!
Beyond hormones, women are natural multi-taskers and tend to handle this with ease because of their yin, which tends to lend them a natural temperament of ease and calm. Men, when tasked with doing more than one activity simultaneously, often handle it in a quick and irritable way—not because they are incapable of multitasking, but because they have so much more yang fire surging through their system, which makes it easier for their reactions to be quick and short.
How does the gender contrast translate to health?
Women are more intuitive when it comes to their bodies; they are often more deeply connected to their health and conscious of their thoughts, and they pay close attention to any physical imbalances. They rarely brush off or ignore what’s happening. However, that mindset tends to extend into the practice of caregiving, which ultimately puts them into a caregiver fatigue state from taking care of everyone else. This can lead to exhaustion and physical breakdown.
Men, in contrast, tend to be impatient when it comes to their health. As well, because our culture tells men they’re not supposed to have emotions or be physically weak in any way, men are not given permission to pay attention to or take care of their wellness. As a result, they tend to put their health last, literally waiting until something gives out before seeking care. By then, too much time has gone by and damage has been done, and the opportunity for prevention has passed.
Studies show that single men have significantly poorer health compared to those that are married. Generally, this is understood to be because men in relationships have a counterpart who is watching their diets, making their doctor’s appointments and encouraging them to take care of their health. Single men don’t have anyone to stress the importance of getting their heads out of the sand and taking care of themselves.
I see this contrast daily with my patients. But I’m also seeing some reassuring changes. As our ideas about gender shift over time to become more progressive, I’m beginning to see men, young and old, who are starting to pay more attention, in the same way women do for their health. When I converse with my male patients and insist they allow for time for their self-preservation, I often feel an immediate shift in their attitude, because someone has granted them permission to care for themselves like never before. It’s finally a chance to nourish and cultivate that yin Qi that is often ignored, because yang Qi is so dominant in today’s Western society.
This is a good thing not just for men—but for the women who partner with them, too. Why? Because the better care men take of their health, the less the work falls to women, and the less exhausted women are from doing all that emotional and physical labour. The dark side to those studies about how married men are healthier is that married women tend to be less healthy than single women. Carrying too much responsibility for a husband and kids tends to shorten women’s life spans. But we can change that!
Women: don’t forget your Qi!
In general, women need to focus more on their own self-preservation. If you’re always acting as a caregiver to others, or always multitasking to run a household or a relationship, you need to understand that your own healing and wellness require just as much work and effort as doing things for others.
Two main areas make good starting points for shifting your idea of care from being outwardly focused to being inwardly focused. The first is rest and the second is your emotional well-being.
When our bodies are at rest, they are actually working at an high pace to conduct repair and restoration work at a cellular and energy-based level. Without stillness, there is no balance or opportunity for internal healing and restoration. And remember, rest isn’t just about sleeping! Preparing for sleep in the second half of the day is just as important as getting the actual sleep we need to be ready for the next day. Ideally we should all be aiming to do active, energetic yang activities in the first half of the day, and then transitioning to slow, gentle yin activities in the second part of the day to prepare our bodies to get adequate sleep.
As for your emotional well-being... Emotions dictate so much about the physical aspects of our bodies on a Qi level. And, in turn, the direct environment that our physical body is engaged in changes the quality of our Qi on an emotional level. In short, our emotions are intrinsic to our physical being, and should never be taken for granted or considered a separate concern.
Women are often caught in doing thankless work for family relationships, leaving them without resources for self-care and happiness. This is a state of ongoing sacrifice, not a way of living. Women need to recognize their worth, and adjust their expectations as a result! Women need to realize that they deserve to be paid for their efforts, whether it’s in love, health or money. The return flow of energy and effort from the people women care for will help rebalance their emotional world.
The key to Qi health is always balance.
Balance between activity and rest, between energy outflow and energy inflow. Balance in emotions. Balance in relationships. To achieve this balance...
Women: Remember that it’s important to put your health first, and not deplete all your energy pouring out care for others. You are allowed to set boundaries! You are allowed “me” time! Don’t sacrifice your own health for the sake of other people’s. Release the pressure in knowing that you are not responsible for the emotional well-being of your partner or other’s that are in your circle. You can put yourself first—yes, I said it! Now, go and set those boundaries!
Men: Remember that your health is your job! But beyond that, recognize that in taking care of yourself, you’re also taking care of the women in your life—the better you are at doing the preventative maintenance on your own, the healthier the women you love are likely to be. That old saying, “Happy wife, happy life,” has never been more true!
Let’s help each other be well!