Stress, stress. stress. We all know about stress. We have all experienced it, we all have it in one way or another. We all react differently to stress, we handle it in various ways, some positive some not so positive. Stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, our mental and emotional state. Stress is an inevitable part of life. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) stress affects the free flow of qi (oxygen) in the body, possibly resulting in poor blood circulation (fatigue, insomnia, muscle cramps, pain, headaches, tingling, numbness) stagnation (pain, mood swings, depression, constriction in the chest and abdominal distension). Excess and prolonged stress may impede the balance in our bodies, leading to excess weight loss, weight gain and/or trigger severe health problems.
Stress is a natural response of the body to the various demands we place on it, although there is a difference between positive and negative stress and how it affects your mind, body and spirit.
Healthy stress is what we use when we are under pressure, it can be what drives us to get a job done, to push harder during an athletic event, or if we need to make a split quick decision when driving, especially on the 401 highway.
Unhealthy stress comes from over thinking and negative emotions (anger, road rage, constant worry, financial worry). It also comes from poor eating habits, overexertion, lack of sleep, environmental pollutants, substance abuse and bad relationships. All these can challenge our health and trigger physical and emotional problems, especially if they are experienced over a long period of time. Over time, these manifestations of chronic stress can progress into more serious health issues like, high blood pressure, depression, ulcers, migraines, breathing difficulties and chest pains which will interfere and affect our quality of life. This usually leads to interventions of pharmaceutical medications that may have possible adverse side effects. We cannot avoid stress in today’s society but how we deal with it will determine our mental, emotional and physical health.
TCM is effective in relieving stress through acupuncture, herbal medicine, movement and/or massage therapy. It is important to understand that there is no one fix for everyone and that just like the reasons you have stress differ from person to person so is the treatment.
In TCM stress and anxiety involves a disharmony in certain organs in the body that throw our mental system out of whack. There is usually not one single organ that is causing distruptions but it can be a complex array of different organ problems that cause pathology resulting in anxiety symptoms. The organs involved with stress and anxiety in TCM are heart, spleen, liver, lungs and kidney.
When someone is feeling anxiety the qi in the body is blocked and does not move freely, therefore affecting your breathing. Common symptoms of extreme anxiety are retention of breath, shallow breathing and irregular breathing.
The mind (shen) resides in the heart, when the shen is unstable a person may feel anxious and unsettled. They may have insomnia, feelings of agitation and palpitations.
The liver ensures a smooth flow of qi in the body. Stress can stagnate the liver qi and frustration and anger can result. Thus creating tension in the body which can result in irritability, dizziness, high blood pressure, headaches and tension in your neck and jaw.
The spleen in TCM is very important in our digestive systems. Overthinking and worry depletes the spleen energy resulting in low energy, fatigue, inability to concentrate and digestive disorders.
Finally the kidneys, they are associated with our fear emotion. Fear is normal but when it is chronic feeling it could result in urination issues.
Ways to Restore your Bodywork
The body works as a whole. With each organ or system depending on another, so if one organ or system is affected more than likely so is another. Thus causing imbalances in one and compensation in another and resulting of depleting the body. Here are some ways to strength your body according to the organs.
Lungs: Deep breathing techniques
Spleen: Eat slowly and take in foods that nourish your spleen, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, parsnips, stews and stir frys are good. Avoid eating raw cold and greasy foods.
Kidneys: Avoid caffeine, drugs and alcohol.
Other modalities that help promote relaxation are: Tai chi, Yoga, Qigong, Massage and Acupuncture. Lastly be patient and loving to your body, set realistic goals. If you need help ask!
This was published in MyKawartha Aug 8, 2018