Stress hurts our bodies. It increases our blood pressure and our cortisol levels, lowers our immune function, and contributes to a wide range of symptoms such as headaches, digestive disturbances, muscle pain, palpitations, insomnia, weight gain, substance abuse, and hormonal imbalances. A lifetime of stress can contribute to a heart attack, cancer, thyroid problems, and diabetes.
In Chinese medicine, stress and anxiety lead to stagnation. In effect, the more stressed you become, the more your body behaves like a pressure cooker getting tighter and tighter until qi and blood are unable to flow freely. It is this “pent-upness” that leads to many of the diseases that stress causes. Many of you tell me how great you feel after having acupuncture, how your muscles relax and your mind slows down. In effect, the acupuncture is letting the pressure out of the pressure cooker. It’s a great way to offset the effects of a stressful life.
Chinese herbal formulas can also be very helpful. We have herbs to calm your mind, relieve tension headaches, help you sleep, boost immunity, and soothe tight muscles. Please talk to us about how you feel and we will design an herbal formula that suits your own particular symptoms.
If life is getting you down what steps can you take to make sure that your stress does not make you sick?
- Regular acupuncture can relieve the pressure in your body and help prevent the kinds of illness stress causes.
- Chinese herbs can be a good way of relieving anxiety for people who need some help but are not so anxious that they need medication.
- Massage can soothe tight muscles
- Meditation can give your mind a chance to stop. Regular meditation practice teaches your body and mind to let go.
- Exercise can be a great way of relieving pressure. In Chinese medicine, exercise moves stagnation and so relieves pressure. Find out what works for you. Some people prefer intense exercise whilst others find meditational exercises such as qi gong and yoga to be helpful. One of our patients swears by long-distance swimming in the Hudson river! When she describes how her mind turns off and focuses on the rhythm of each stroke, I’m almost tempted to give it a try.
- Eating a healthy diet helps your body to handle stress more effectively. This means limiting refined carbohydrates that cause blood sugar fluctuations which can affect your mood. Foods high in calcium and magnesium can be calming because these minerals help relax your muscles. Dark-green, leafy vegetables are great for this. So although it is tempting to reach for a chocolate bar when you are stressed, why not try a soothing bowl of miso soup with some greens chopped in it?
- Try swapping coffee, which is very activating, for a calming cup of chamomile tea
- Find activities that allow you to switch off. For some people, volunteer work gives them the opportunity to look outwards. One of our patients began volunteering at the dog pound when his life became overwhelming and I have been so happy to see how much peace of mind this has given him. Others find that walking in nature, spending time with animals, or listening to music helps them to unwind.
- Get social support from family, friends, a therapeutic group, a therapist, or even The Yinova Center waiting room.
- I have found that keeping a daily gratitude journal has helped me to have a clearer perspective. When my daughter was small we kept a journal together, each writing down one thing every day that we were grateful for.
- Get enough sleep. If you find that you have trouble sleeping let us know and we will suggest herbs that may be able to help you.
- Be careful that you are not self-medicating with alcohol, recreational drugs, or food. You can temporarily relieve anxiety with a stiff drink or some cookies but the imbalance this causes makes you more susceptible to stress in the long term.
- Schedule some downtime. In my own life, I find that if I don’t write free time into my diary, my time gets taken up with other commitments. I make a point of creating space in my schedule to knit or go for a walk with my husband.
- And in what seems to be such troubled times we could probably all benefit from repeating the serenity prayer.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.