Every day when we watch the news we are subjected to high levels of stress. We sit in our living rooms and listen to experts insert fear into our hearts as they tell us times are bad. The market is bad. The housing economy is bad. Unemployment numbers are increasing and so on and so on. We start to internalize this information and we become fearful, depressed and angry. If we subject ourselves to this ritual on a routine basis these emotional changes register in our bodies.
Stress can cause innumerable illnesses. Some stress related illnesses include back pain, neck pain, anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, irritable bowel disease, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia as well as autoimmune conditions and allergies. Your immune system suffers and you are more likely to contract simple colds and flus.
Stress causes us to become tense and when we are tense our qi (pronounced chi) can’t flow properly through our body. Qi is defined as the vital force that supports life in our bodies. Once the qi or energy gets stuck, it builds up and that is when symptoms start to appear. Think of a pot of boiling water. If you put a lid on it the steam builds up and pushes the lid off. The water overflows and you have a mess. The same thing happens in your body. If the pressure builds up in your stomach you can get heartburn or stomach pain. If the pressure builds up in your liver you can get pain in your sides, headaches, heartburn, blurred vision, strokes, tremors or ringing in your ears. If the pressure affects your heart you can suffer from anxiety, insomnia, palpitations, and chest pain.
Since we are responsible for our bodies, what can we do to offset the effects of high levels of stress? There is much we can do. First, we can exercise. Exercise has proven benefits for stress reduction. It helps open the energy flow in the body which has become locked and stagnant. It promotes blood circulation and releases endorphins and neurotransmitters that send positive chemical messages to the brain and body. These messages help relax the nervous system and improve overall mood.
Another area to address is diet. The body uses higher levels of B vitamins and minerals during periods of high stress. It is very helpful to increase your intake of fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables and limit fats, sugar and alcohol. The digestion of sugars, fats and alcohol also increase the use of the B vitamins and minerals. A balanced diet can help the body replenish the fuel tanks that are emptied quickly by stress.
Complimentary medicine can offer alternative methods for stress reduction. Acupuncture is highly effective in reducing stress. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help restore harmony and balance within individuals. An acupuncture physician will spend time to determine where a patient’s main weakness exists. Sometimes the symptom seems completely unrelated to the Chinese diagnosis from a Western perspective. For example, you suffer from lower back pain. Your pain is much worse since you have been under more stress at work. After asking about your energy levels, digestion, sleep, emotions, and other bodily functions your acupuncture physician determines your back pain is actually caused by a kidney qi deficiency. This does not correspond to any Western problems with your kidneys but rather addresses the energy levels flowing through your kidney and the kidney energy pathway. By using acupuncture points in the feet and even on the arms and stomach, you can tonify the energy of the kidneys and get rid of back pain. As the pain dissipates your stress levels reduce, your mood improves, and your ability to deal with stress on a day to day basis increases.
Other methods to help restore balance include yoga, tai chi, qi gong. These are Eastern exercises that help reestablish the proper flow of energy through the body.
Color therapy is experiencing resurgence. Colors have been used for thousands of years to affect people on an emotional level. Various colors have different effects on our systems. For example, red is
Also, we must take responsibility for our thoughts. In these stressful times, positive and negative thinking can have a great impact on our bodies. Trying to eliminate negative thoughts and focus on the positive can help keep the good neurotransmitters and endorphins flowing.