Why are we at the bank on Sunday?!

With my hectic schedule, Sunday has become my bonus day for getting my finances in order. I think about the ease and convenience of finally having banks open for business on Sundays so I can physically go there. But, as I’m looking around and observing the tellers, it’s obvious they are not in tune with doing this kind of work on a Sunday. Everyone is bleary-eyed, yawning and a little dishevelled. Even the customers are in a daze. Maybe because they’re supposed to be at home, sleeping in or watching Netflix? 

The Western world has made a norm out of a seven-day work week. But that kind of schedule is not realistic for our health or our Qi. In fact, it’s counterintuitive: we’re pushing our Yang Qi to do more than it’s supposed to at the wrong time of week. Business should be done in a four- or five-day window, during the week. Weekends should be for rest, resetting and giving yourself the space to do what you haven’t had a chance to nourish or cultivate during the week—namely your yin Qi. This is precisely why I see so many patients with symptoms of exhaustion, adrenal fatigue and the feeling of being overwhelmed. All of this points to various forms of Qi deficiency. 

Finding the balance between work and rest is often confusing to navigate. When you work all week at the office, go home and do more work, and exercise when you are exhausted, it requires an abundance of Qi to keep up with those demands. Your body perceives all of this as work that uses up your energy. Then, when you are at rest, you are allowing for restoration. 

But when do we actually know when it’s best to cycle down if most modern-day conveniences are available 24 hours a day? Our failure to set limits on our Qi’s work time commonly leads to what we call “overwork” in TCM. 

Physical overwork from manual labour depletes your spleen Qi, while mental overwork from long hours of logical thinking, analytical work or prolonged concentration depletes kidney Qi. Both of these are worsened by stress and poor nutrition. 

Overwork is one of the causes behind just about every imbalance leading to depleted Qi levels. And it can easily be managed with a few basic lifestyle adjustments, such as conscious breathing practices, a balanced approach to nutrition and exercise, and plenty of emotional self-care.

Here are some details on how to balance your Qi. 

Breathing. Consciously practice belly breathing. Yes, from the belly, like babies do it! They have it right from the moment they enter this world. However, as growth and development occurs and babies feed off of their environment and hang around stressed-out adults, they begin to follow the chest breathers. Chest breathing is basically breathing backwards by inhaling through the nose while pulling the stomach in and expanding the chest, and then exhaling through the mouth without extending the belly. The majority of adults are chest breathers who use only their accessory muscles in their chest, without taking advantage of the diaphragm to push the breath into the belly. Getting breath into your belly gives your Qi the chance to massage your internal organs. 

So why not do belly breathing, instead of chest breathing? It’s free! Focus on taking a deep breath through your nose for a count of four, while pushing your stomach out. This way, your diaphragm can drop down and open the lower lobes of your lungs, which clears stagnant Qi. Then, hold the breath for a count of four, and then exhale for yet another count of four. You want to exhale by pulling your belly inward, which raises the diaphragm up by compressing the lower lungs to move stagnant Qi up and out of your mouth. 

Eating.Eat as well as possible, and avoid pesticides by eating high-quality organic products to the best of your ability. Pesticides tend to have a hard effect on the liver Qi, which creates stagnation. Avoid overly sweet, heavy, greasy and fried foods, as well. Try to incorporate foods that are in season, to best coincide with the Five Elements. For instance, eat warm, cooked foods in the winter; eat salads, fruits and cold temperature foods in the summer. If you drink alcohol, try to indulge in no more than two to four servings per month. 

Exercise.Let’s talk exercise for a sec. You need to move in order to nourish and circulate Qi and blood to the lungs and heart. When you don’t do enough exercise, it leads to poor circulation, Qi stagnation, damp retention and weight gain. But the other extreme isn’t any better! Over-training causes deficient Qi, even more so if you’re over-exercising while you are also overworked. The combination makes you more prone to injuries and a weakened immune system. 

With this in mind, practice physical activity that will not overextend or exhaust your body. It’s not about feeling the pain or pushing past your limits; it’s about using exercise to enhance your Qi levels. Avoid over-exercise in the winter months; sweating profusely in the cold months exhausts your lung Qi and will weaken your immune system. Winter also makes it harder for your body to recover from physical fatigue because yang Qi is in hibernation. 

Emotions.It’s imperative not to keep your emotions bottled up and festering. This builds Qi stagnation, which only feeds the negative emotions even more. Be open to recognizing what areas of your daily routine create stress triggers or bring down your mood. Strive to create space for yourself on a daily basis to breathe and check in with yourself. Some quick things to do include feeling where your posture is and noticing where in your body you’re holding physical tension. Maybe you need to get up from your desk every 30 minutes or avoid any form of technology for an hour. Take care of you!

Down time.A key part of caring for your Qi is making sure you get enough rest. That means getting sufficient sleep, building in time to just chill out... and even (gasp!) taking days off. How about a “wellness” day, instead of a sick day? Try building in a few segments of your busy schedule to stay silent—an hour a day without any communication is cleansing and tranquil, with a built-in reset.

So remember: Sundays are for banking your Qi, not for banking!When your bank says it’s now open seven days a week, tell yourself, I’m good for doing business Monday through Friday. Your Qi will thank you!