Cats TCM Notes - graduation new graduates restEuphoria, relief, terror, urgency. These were the four emotions that cycled through, overlapped, and generally disturbed my shen once I finally graduated from TCM school.

I was so relieved to be done with school and yet the realization that there would be no more student loan money was a powerful force. I started working on building a new business within 24 hours of graduation. I studied for the herbal board. I pumped out flyers. I registered a business name. I built a bad website. I created a bad logo. I designed bad business cards. I got a business bank account.

I was a flurry of frenetic activity. I am a product of the culture of extremes. The Puritan work ethic, Cross-fit, Power Yoga, and multi-tasking-loving-corporate America are all examples of the push in our society to be better, faster, stronger, and do more.

Not only did this frenzy do me no good at all, it actually exhausted me more thoroughly than school did. My spleen tanked and began to talk of divorcing me. I got a first-hand lesson in adrenal fatigue and focal distention (which is how my spleen expressed it’s displeasure over anything that was harder to digest than kanji).


I encouraged someone on Facebook to rest after graduation today, preferably for a month. Another recent grad piped in with advice to “rest, but work on your business while you’re doing it!” I could not disagree more thoroughly.

Rest is rest, not just moving from one overwhelming tasCat's TCM Notes - new graduates graduation restk to another. We all know we need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. This is when your Liver has a nice long interaction with your blood, when your body rests, when your brain takes out the trash, when your adrenals put their feet up, etc.

Expanded to a larger scale, being in school is much like a long day at work. Once you graduate your brain is pudding. Your spleen is exhausted. Your shen just wants you to stare at a wall for a good long time. And your kidneys are curled up in a corner crying and rocking. You need as long of a rest as you can afford to take. Actually you probably need a longer rest than you can afford to take.

What to do

Go outside

Finish reading this then get the hell off of the internet. Close your computer, put your phone on ‘do not disturb,’ and Go. Out. Side. Walk, sit, or sleep in nature.

You can’t fool me. I know you’ve been on the computer for about 4 years now studying, reading, researching, and distracting yourself with Facebook. I didn’t understand how bad this was for my liver blood until I took a week off from the flickering blue screens (TV, computer screens, phones, tablets, games, etc.). At the end of the week I had no floaters, no dry eyes, the ridges in my nails started to smooth out, and I had more flexibility. No kidding.

You infrequent computer users think you just dodged that bullet? You might have, but I bet you didn’t. Your spleens are still exhausted. All that sitting and studying does a number on your spleen too. And your spleen is crucial in the blood building process so you’re still screwed.

Your mother was right: You should go play outside.


If I could dictate your every-day-schedule for you for a month after graduation it would include 8-10 hours per day of sleep. I cannot emphasize how incredibly restorative this activity is.

Do your kidneys and your brain a favor and make that happen, will ya? Even if you follow this advice, you’ve taken time off, and you are back to studying for boards, you need copious amounts of sleep. This will improve your memory and recall far more than cramming for that board exam.


Cat's TCM Notes - new graduates, graduation, play, practitioner, Chinese medicineYour family and friends might not understand, but play is especially crucial for you now. Do art, do crafts, goof off, play games, play outside with your kids or other knee high relatives and friends, go swimming, go for a bike ride, go to the park, go to the beach, fly a kite.

You have spent 4+ years making your brain function at high capacity. Dr. Stuart Brown says it is deeply involved in human development and intelligence. If you are like most acupuncture grads you are going to start building a practice soon and you’re going to need to be more highly functioning than you are when you finish school.


I recently shared an article on the Cat’s TCM Notes Facebook page about creating art and how critical that is to your success as a human and as a healer. That doesn’t mean you have to be a world class artist, it just means you need to let yourself be creative. It doesn’t matter whether you play an instrument, sing, finger paint, make stick figures out of popsicle sticks, take a painting class, sew, photograph, or build sandcastles at the beach. Just be creative in ways that have no purpose other than to let the right side of your brain have a good time.

Final words

Take a minimum of a week off. A month is better. Tell your family and friends I said you have to. Tell them why and how long it will last. Remember they haven’t been through the grinder of school like you and I have, so don’t expect them to fully understand.

You don’t have to own their reactions, nor do you have to let their reaction make you compromise your dedication to this rest, but you do have to own your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Now that you’re on the other side, you’re going to be a health care provider and you must lead by example. If you can’t comply, how can you expect your patients to?

Look for the next new-graduate installment soon: How to start a practice without losing what’s left of your sanity.

Comments are closed.