More Flow and Less Stress When Your Plan Your Week the Five Element Way
This idea to plan my week using the Five Elements came to me during an incredibly busy time in my life. I was writing my book while also working full time treating patients and providing pediatric training for acupuncturists.
I felt like I was meeting my goals, but I wasn’t living in a way that was aligned with how I wanted to feel everyday. I felt overworked and overcommitted with a web of obligation that was difficult to untangle myself from. I wasn’t taking enough time to have fun or connect with friends.
I was all work and no play.
As always, I returned to the Five Element system in Chinese medicine to find the wisdom to shift things back into balance and create harmony in my day, week, and month again.
How to Use Five Element System
The Five Element system of Chinese medicine is based on the relationships of the elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water – that are observed in nature.
The Five Element system is a model of balance. When things go awry, nature knows how to bring itself back into balance and we can use this model to create balance in our lives, too.
No Element is more important than another Element – they’re all equally important and need to be balanced and nurtured to create health and harmony.
As you can see in the image of the Five Element cycle above, each Element nourishes the next Element in a clockwise direction. In addition, the arrows show that each Element also provides counterbalance to the other Elements.
For example, the fun and spontaneity of the Fire Element nourish the Earth Element, which is all about gathering, helping, family, and connection. These Fire characteristics are also counterbalanced by the rest and quiet of the Water Element.
Using the Five Elements to plan your week creates more ease and flow because you:
- Get clear on your intentions and set your priorities to create balance – even if you’re really busy
- Give yourself permission to reschedule or cancel things that are less important
- Avoid overcommitting yourself and giving from a place of depletion
- Allows you to say “yes” to self-care and downtime without feeling guilty
How Each Element Plays into A Balanced Harmonious Week:
Fire represents fun, spontaneity, and play. It encourages us to connect with others from a heart-centered place.
For your health and happiness, it is essential that you make sure to schedule in fun and play in your week! Doodle, draw, call a friend, do something spur-of-the-moment. Don’t forget, some fun has to be planned in advance, too!
Earth represents gathering, home, family, support, giving, and tranquility. If you’re a busy mom, it’s easy to overdo it, say “yes” to too many things, and feel depleted.
To keep your Earth Element balanced, be sure to delegate and call in support. Nothing harmonizes our Earth Element more than connection points with your family throughout the week. Make sure to gather for a meal – even if it’s only on the weekend.
Literally connect with earth by getting outside and getting your feet in the grass or dirt – especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Metal represents rhythms, routines, seasons, and cycles, ensuring that we stay connected to what wants to unfold in different parts of our day, week, month, season, and year.
Metal helps us keep healthy boundaries and allows us to discern which activities are a high priority and which aren’t. It’s absolutely OK to say “no” to an activity or obligation that will add more stress and overwhelm your life! Being thoughtful about what you say “yes” to is an essential part of creating a schedule that works for you.
When we’re stressed and Metal is out of balance, we’ll often feel more rigid and have difficulty going with the flow. Be mindful of staying flexible, physically and mentally, especially when what’s happening isn’t how you imagined it would go.
The Water Element represents downtime, rest, relaxation, and time to recharge. Make sure you are honoring your own self care needs first. Nothing makes your Water Element happier than lying flat on your back and daydreaming!
Many moms feel guilty about taking time to themselves, but doing that allows you to recharge and fully show up for your family. Then you can give from an overflowing cup instead of an empty one.
You can nurture your Water Element by taking a moment to stop and breathe in the middle of your busy day. If you’re overwhelmed, deep breathing can take you out of the body’s stress response, which causes a cascade of physiological effects on the body that can do harm if you stay there too long!
Walking, meditation, gardening, going to the ocean, being near soothing water sounds, or any in nature activity will allow you to connect with the present moment and release stress and anxiety.
The Wood Element is probably the most valued Element in modern culture. It’s all about setting goals, ticking things off the “to do” list, overcoming challenges, and getting things done.
The problem with overvaluing the Wood Element is that busy doesn’t equal success or happiness. Being busy all the time can be an excuse for not connecting with others in a meaningful way or avoiding areas in our life that are difficult.
When you’re feeling you have to or should do something, it’s time to check in and see if this is truly the case. Sometimes the hardest thing is saying “no” to someone or something that is draining your energy. Give yourself permission to readjust and get rid of obligations. Or if it truly is something you have to do, such as paying the bills, find a way to do it with joy.
Planning the Week
I start off by doing a complete “brain dump” and create a master task list. Then I use a little card with the five elements on it. I look at each Element and set my intentions for how I’ll bring balance to each Element.
This helps me prioritize the week, by picking the top 3 things I truly need to accomplish. Then I choose a word for the week that represents the energy I need to bring to the week or how I want to feel. I’ve chosen words like:
- Be Present
- Inspired Action
Then I add a mantra for the week. It’s a positive statement that affirms how I’ll bring that word into being as I move through the week. Now I look back at my master task list and see what I can truly accomplish during the week and honor my intentions and priorities.
It’s a simple process, but it’s been so powerful for me to shift my weeks from busy to full and feeling connected and happy.