ACH Blog

Transition Into Autumn

Isobel Cosgrove - Tuesday, September 01, 2020

As I look out of one window in the sitting room, I can see Late Summer in the trees. All is green and full, with seeds forming. Out of the next window I can see early Autumn. The tree colours range from yellow to pale red to reddish brown, and leaves are beginning to fall.


worm's eye view photography of trees


When I first started writing Blogs, during Lockdown, it was Spring. And since then, every season has been earlier than usual this year. As I look back I can see the impact of the Covid crisis, and also how life has changed throughout Spring, Summer, and late Summer. Now we are approaching Autumnal days, what changes will we be facing in September?


All of the news this week has been about how we are going to manage children going back to school. They have been at home for 5 months since mid March, and going back in September will be a really big transition. They will be pleased to spend more time with their friends. And getting used to working from 9am to 3pm in class will be a big ask. Especially for young children. So not only will they make a transition from Summer to Autumn. They will also make the transition from home study, to long days with a school timetable.

flat lay photography of blue backpack beside book and silver MacBook


 All transitions are a challenge, and it takes time for us to get used to the change they bring.

I feel sure that teachers will be mindful of the demands of this transition, and that parents will give more downtime to young ones who are tired at the end of the school days.


As days shorten, and temperatures drop, at the beginning of Autumn, we all need extra down time, and warmer and more nourishing food. In the animal world they prepare in Autumn for dealing with cold and dark days at the end of the year. And so in the world we live in we need to adjust our food, our rest time at nights, and our daily routines to accommodate these Autumn changes.’


In my first Riverford Boxes in September I have yellow squash, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, onions, which I can use to make some warming stews. I have rhubarb for crumble. And I have been out picking blackberries with my grandsons. We have mixed the berries with apples from the garden and made pies and some jam. The late French and runner beans are still being picked, as are tomatoes and corn. This is the harvest season.


variety of vegetables


There is a sense of the fullness of the year in August and September, following the period of strong growth in Spring, and the flowering in Summer. We have fruit in the hedgerows, on the trees, and vegetables on allotments and in gardens. Let's make the most of this moment, before the early frosts, and the windy days at the Autumn Equinox.


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Mid Life Transitions

Isobel Cosgrove - Tuesday, June 30, 2020

I am doing a Webinar, “40 years of Treating Menopause” this week, and I have been reflecting on all of the life transitions we go through.


So many school leavers have been unable to do a proper ending with friends, teachers and mentors this year. This is a big loss for each student, as acknowledging this ending facilitates the process of moving on into work or college. In a similar way, those who are graduating from University or college this Summer are doing so without the familiar rituals which have marked the end of higher education. There has been a loss of closure.


group of fresh graduates students throwing their academic hat in the air


After graduation, we begin to form our adult lives, both professional and personal, between the early 20’s and early 40’s. In Chinese Medicine it is understood that the period from 42 to 49 is a time when we can make some lifestyle changes. In the West we now call this time Peri Menopause. Chinese doctors have long understood that to transition through a healthy Menopause we can prepare by making sure that we start paying more attention to eating well in our 40’s. Instead of coming home late, and having a main meal at 9 in the evening, we can eat protein early in the day [as it takes 6 hours to fully digest protein] and have a lighter meal earlier in the evening.


cooked dish


To avoid menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and insomnia, daytime hot flushes and dryness, anxiety and low moods, we need to find a different rhythm to our working days, taking short breaks, drinking more water, avoiding intense exercise so that we can wind down slowly before bed. And perhaps most important, we must challenge and put aside the negative cultural messages we hear in the West, that maturity and reaching Mid Life is inevitably accompanied by physical decline. We are told that “ 50 is the new 30”, and encouraged to “stay young” by continuing to do intense exercise regimes in gyms, stay up late, drinking or clubbing or both, eat as we have always eaten: to ignore the changes in our hormones, and in our lives and bodies in general as we enter the Mid Life phase.


bird drinking water


These messages undermine the work we all have to do to make the transition from Peri Menopause into Menopause, and into the mature time in our lives. Moving from youth into maturity brings many opportunities and gifts. Transitioning from a predominantly Yang stage of life, which usually is career and action oriented, into a more Yin phase, offers us the chance to have a deeper relationship with ourselves, and then with others.

Life can move at a different pace, we can go through our days more gently, having more time for reflection, for creativity and for contact with those we love and care for. We can move into the next stage of our lives as Second adults, who support and nurture the growing alpha adults of the next generation.


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Chinese medicine and our connection with the Earth

Isobel Cosgrove - Monday, June 01, 2020

In previous blogs, I have written of how we have been able, through lockdown, to plant seeds, grow vegetables and fruit, and cook from simple raw ingredients in a way we could not in our previous working or school lives. 


Here are some further pieces of Chinese wisdom on how we can eat to promote better health and wellbeing:


Our bodies take in nourishment most effectively early in the day. Our stomachs have more digestive energy in the morning, before 11am. When we lived on the land, before the Industrial Revolution, our day began early. We milked the cows, checked animals out in the fields, fed those in barns, and then came in for a farmhouse breakfast. In the 21st Century, we are more likely to grab a coffee and pastry on the way to work. 


fruit sandwich on a blue ceramic plate

 

In 2020, since March, we have had more time to prepare and eat breakfast. Maybe we soaked porridge oats, or made a pancake mix, or we cooked bacon, eggs and beans. Either way, we are probably eating well. At lunch, we can sit down together for salad, soup, or leftovers. Or we may cook a steak on the barbeque. This is much better than snacking or buying fast food during a working day. 


Eating protein at breakfast, and/or lunch gives us much better, longer lasting and stable levels of energy during the day. Because this is when we are most active, daytime is when we need most energy. If we wait to eat protein in the evening, after work, our stomachs do not have the same ability to digest as they did in the morning. For example, if we eat a lot of protein at 8pm, it will take a further 6 hours to digest. This may well disturb our sleep, as supper at 7pm will only be digested by 1am. 


bowl of fried rice


Eating a light meal in the early evening will help us unwind, and won’t disturb our sleep. However, Chinese doctors do recommend that we meet up around the dinner table, in the evenings, to enjoy contact with family and/or friends (when not in lockdown). 


So do have supper, and catch up on everyone’s day, because it is nourishing for the heart to connect with those we love as the evening arrives. At the same time, although the heart needs warmth and contact late in the day, the stomach needs a rest, so have vegetables with rice, or baked potatoes with fillings, or samosas. 

Eat something light which digests quickly, so that you can wind down slowly and have a restorative night’s rest. 


These books may inspire you to try some new kinds of cooking: 


“Everyday & Sunday Recipes” by Guy Watson & Jane Baxter

Picture 1 of 2


“Abel & Cole Veg Box Companion” by Keith Abel


“Chinese Vegetarian Cookery” by Jack Santa Maria 

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Family connections are the Earth we stand on

Isobel Cosgrove - Wednesday, May 20, 2020

In Chinese Medicine our family and our community is our Earth: the ground we stand on. It is our land, our territory, where our tribe lives and gives us a place called Home. It is where we find nurture, where we can feel loved and accepted. As children we need a safe place in which to grow and flourish. As parents providing this space, we need support from extended family, and/or the wider community. We also need loving times together.

selective focus photo of woman lifting child during daytime

How has the virus disrupted community life?

There has been no school for most children, and so no time to play with friends. There have been no conversations at the school gates, no contact with other children’s families. And no grandparents providing back up. Nor is there very much time in the day or evening when parents can just chill out together, reflect on the day, or quietly be with themselves. Working at home while homeschooling is a big ask.

 

So what have we lost?

The familiar shape and structure of the work/school day. Walking-to-school time with friends, and parents of friends. Checking in with teachers to see what’s working well/not working so well. Hanging out at lunch time, playing football in the playground.

The whole spectrum of after school clubs and sporting activities.


boy in green sweater writing on white paper

 

And what have we gained?

Time to plant seeds, to watch them grow and produce food for meals. Time to paint, draw, learn the guitar, cook, sew, knit, read, sing, watch films together. Time to explore and find a new rhythm and shape to the days. Maybe you have started the novel you have been waiting to write. 

What will we keep from this time?

We will have learnt to value the structure of the school day [instead of complaining about it]. We will have learnt to know ourselves as a family more intimately, and hopefully have more understanding for each person we share our home with. How can we carry these leanings with us as we move out of lockdown? If you'd like to talk further about this, get in touch, I'm really interested to hear your thoughts.

 


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