When we signal our stress hormones, our fight or flight hormones, we are on the alert and ready for action. This initial response can make you very productive, quick to respond, and able to produce a lot of energy when needed. This response is natural when under pressure, when needing a split second decision or at an athletic event. What makes stress unhealthy is when these hormones are constantly called upon in everyday life. If this continues over a long period of time the body will eventually be drained. All metabolic cycles become unbalanced and your body is exhausted. These can give rise to a variety of negative emotions such as nervousness, anxiety, depression, shock, and worry. Each of these emotions can manifest physically into health conditions such as high blood pressure, digestive disorders, migraines, lower back pain and shortness of breath. Unfortunately, most people in today’s society can say stress interferes in some way in their daily life. While we cannot eliminate stress there are ways we can learn to manage it.
Stress in Chinese medicine is not a diagnosis. Stress is multi-faceted and everyone’s symptoms display in a different way. Depending where and how it manifests will give your practitioner an indication as to how you will need to be treated. Anxiety and nervousness indicates an issue with the liver, sadness and shortness of breath is an indication of lung weakness, lower back pain, and shock are symptoms of the kidney. Your treatment will be tailor-made according to the diagnosis made by your practitioner. Acupuncture provides relief by treating the physical body as well as influencing our mental state of mind.
Sport from a Chinese medicine point of view is a great say to help move liver qi. When you have inner nervousness and anxiety your liver energy is blocked. In order to free the flow of energy some use cigarettes or alcohol to release this energy. A healthier way to unblock qi is to do sport. Any sport is appropriate, as long as you get your pulse raised and you get some clean air to fill your lungs. If you feel fantastic after running then you have freed up this blocked energy, you will feel calmer, and better able to focus. If you are exhausted after sport then your body is deficient in energy and only short walks, focusing on deep breathing exercises is recommended.
Food too is your medicine. Eat fresh organic vegetables. Small amounts of meat and fish, little oil, seeds and nuts and grains. Each food group has its own nourishing qualities. Oil and grains nourish the stomach, bitter greens move the liver, and fish nourishes the kidneys, while walnuts benefit the heart, kidney and brain. Drink sufficient water and fruit teas. Ginger warms and moves the energy of the lungs and stomach, mint is cooling and pungent, moving the liver and lungs. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar, highly processed or spicy foods. These scatter your energy and further deplete the body.
Everything in life has Yin and Yang. While sport is your Yang, Rest is your Yin. In order to keep balance in the body it is important to do enough sport but also get enough rest. Go to sleep before 11am, as this is the time where the gall bladder and liver will start the body cleansing process. Keep your room free of clutter, dust and electronic appliances. Use an air purifier with lavender or bergamot essential oils as these are calming and will assist in a restful sleep. Wake before 7am and start your body with 5 minutes of mindful breathing exercises.
Nourishing the mind
As we know stress takes a strain on the mind. Many forget the intricate connection between the body and the mind and how important it is to also nourish the mind. While all of the above will assist in doing this, there are also ways to just focus on nourishing the mind. Such practices like mindful meditation, being fully present and aware, will help to ease psychological stresses. Read a book not associated with your work. A self-help book or a book you just enjoy reading. Stay away from computer games and mindless TV watching. In general, where possible, in your private time and on breaks, keep away from electro-smog.
These are 5 ways I recommend to my patients when they are feeling a little on the edge. Stress can be a consuming disease. Take control of your life and bring health back to your body and mind.