Why we feel more irritable in Spring and what we can do about it

Spring is the season of change: flowers sprout from the frozen ground, trees grow flowers, tiny buds explode into leaves within days, grey Winter gives way to the green and colourful landscape of Spring. In Spring, days are mild while nights are cold; strong winds blow. Everything changes day by day, moment by moment. 

Chinese Medicine developed at a time when the bond between nature and mankind – or as the ancient Chinese would say, between Heaven, Earth and Humanity, was still intact. It uses the same language to describe nature and the human body.

The spectacular change that we see in Spring carries the signature of Wind. Wind is about sudden, erratic movements, unpredictability, upset. Wind takes its toll on the human body, our moods and emotions. As the ancient Chinese believed, humans are governed by the same forces as their environment: the earth, the seasons and even the stars. The powerful forces that disrupt nature at this time of the year can also upset us humans.

Where there is change, there is also resistance to change. This is why people can feel more irritable than usual at this time of the year, without apparent reason. Irritability can grow into anger and even rage. Those who are generally more prone to irritability or anger may feel more irritable and angrier in Spring; they resonate with what’s going on in nature.

In Chinese Medicine, Spring is associated with the Wood element, which in turn is associated with the Liver organ whose negative emotion, as you might have guessed already, is anger. When the Wood element is in harmony, it is associated with creativity, vision, flexibility and resilience; when it is out of balance, it is associated with irritability, anger, inflexibility and the sense of being stuck.

Seeing clients at this time of the year often involves support to resolve blockages within the body and mind by moving the subtle yet powerful life force that the Chinese call Qi.

Acupuncture does a great job in moving the Qi, as well as calming the mind, allowing people to let go of tension, irritability and anger. If there are signs of Heat (such as manifest anger or headaches), points can be added to the treatment to clear Heat; pricking a point on the leg with a tiny lancet to release a few drops of blood can work miracles.

I usually make dietary and lifestyle recommendations to encourage my clients to carry the treatment into their daily lives, allowing them to take ownership of their own health.

Foods that are naturally sour, such as sourdough rye bread, miso, sauerkraut or lemons will always move the Qi as do vegetables that are within season and hence carry the signature of Spring: spring onions, tender salad leaves, spring radishes, tenderstem broccoli, sprouted seeds. It is advisable at this time of the year to stay away from heavy meals, red meats, fried foods and alcohol as these are energetically ‘hot’ and can make you feel more irritable or angrier. Spring is a great time to fast, helping the body to resolve blockages by eliminating toxins.

Gentle exercise such as qigong or yoga, singing and dancing, or walks in nature are also a great way to move the Qi and connect the body and mind with the season.