Consider for a moment, what kind of a spender are you? Are you the kind of person who looks, ahead, plans for your financial future, spends carefully and mindfully and invests regularly in your savings?
Or are you more laissez-faire? Do you spend today and worry tomorrow? Do you readily take loans so you can have what you want now, and then chase your tail keeping up with the interest and repayments?
Whatever your modus operandi is financially, perhaps pause for a moment and reflect on whether you treat your health in the same way. We have a kind of ‘Health Bank Account’. Of course, this is in part determined by any legacies left to you by your parents and more specifically (in terms of Chinese Medicine philosophy) your grandparents. Did they bestow a wealth of awesome genes and rude constitutional health into your account?
In Chinese Medicine this is referred to as your Jing – your Essence, that special vitalised metaphorical oil in your barrel that you will draw on throughout your life. This is tantamount to being your savings account. The kidneys are the storehouse for your Jing, so taking care of one’s kidneys is of particular interest in Chinese Medicine, ensuring that you don’t burnout, work or play too hard, have gazillions for children, burn the candle at both ends or run into health deficit.
Meanwhile, we also have a health current account with much the same income and expenditure dynamic. Eating nutritious food, sleeping well and at appropriate hours, finding our sweet spot in life between output with our engagement in the world and input with more tranquil, nourishing and restorative interludes, feeling connected to loved ones with a sense of belonging and a lifestyle that evokes plenty of joy, laughter and fulfillment are all ways we can cultivate our health income.
Conversely, we can spend like crazy and run up significant health debt. Endlessly worrying like a dog gnawing on a bone, being habitually stressed, over-riding our need for quality restorative sleep, eating non-functional, biologically alien foods that tax our body and resources heavily, sacrificing ourselves on the altar of our jobs, necking medications instead of attending to the root cause of dis-ease…let’s face it, we are not short of ways to run up a pretty daunting health debt these days. Indeed, it seems there can be a bizarre kudos in running yourself into the ground in some circles, as if your worth is measured in terms of how darn hard you’ve worked and how much you’ve neglected your own basic needs.
By contrast, in Chinese Medicine we revere those who master the art of living in a profoundly balanced way. Understanding our output as Yang, our input as Yin, our expenditure as Yang, our savings as Yin, we aim to keep the Yin and Yang of life and health in exquisite balance, dancing in tune with the undulating seasons of the year and all the natural cycles and dynamics that we are inextricably part of and whether we like it or not, are affected by.
The onset of illness is not the best time to start attending to your health. You can’t simultaneously pay off your debts and save money. And if you have had a lifestyle of drawing on your reserves and your savings, then you will have little to buffer you during the hard times of illness or those inevitably intense patches in life (work deadlines, relationship troubles, moving house, family dynamics, pandemics) when you most need some savings in your health bank.
In Chinese Medicine we aim to be several jumps ahead, tending to the health of our patients in a way that fosters accruing some savings in advance of needing them. Of course, for the most part, I see patients in my clinic who are running low on their reserves, perhaps even exhausted them, and their body is sending them a plethora of memos on a daily basis to attend to their overdraft urgently, aka your red reminders in the post!
Occasionally someone comes in looking for pre-emptive treatment and for me as a practitioner, this is always a particular joy. I encourage my patients to look ahead, to consciously and proactively invest in their Health Savings and manage their Health Current Account wisely. If you know that you are prone to winter ails, flus, coughs, and seasonal lurgies, then in Chinese Medicine we advise addressing this at least one if not two seasons earlier – so do a course of treatment in summer or early autumn. If you know that you are wanting to start to a family, come in for treatment to optimise your menstrual cycles and promote egg quality six to 12 months earlier at least. If you can see your menopause coming down the track, come five to 10 years earlier – you will seriously thank yourself. If you know that you have a demanding time coming up (you’re competing in a tournament, running a marathon, moving to a new job with a steep learning curve, writing your thesis or sitting exams, facing an unavoidable operation, going through a separation or house move) come for some sessions to build up your inner resources before you need to spend them. Ultimately, it’s about understanding that we can influence the trajectory of our health far more than we perhaps realise. So be the captain of your own ship and steer yourself to calm and harmonious waters. Your Future Self will thank you.