There are so many of us who are well acquainted with stress and the associated signs and symptoms that go along with it. We each experience and deal with stress in different ways and it can take its toll on us both mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Although stress manifests in different ways, we often have a combination of the following symptoms: irritation, anger, frustration, a busy mind, depression, feeling restless, irregular periods, symptoms that come and go such as alternating bowel movements from constipation to diarrhoea, intermittent pain, headaches, feeling teary and sensitive and so on. These symptoms are all traced back to the interrupted flow of Qi around the body.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), we understand stress as an imbalance in the free flow of energy around the body. We call this disharmony Liver Qi Stagnation because the Liver is in charge of the free-flowing of Qi around the body and if the Qi is stagnant, then the Liver is not functioning properly from an energetic perspective.
Now it is important to remember in TCM that ‘cause and effect’ can be more dynamic. What I mean is that the symptoms of Liver Qi stagnation can manifest from Liver Qi Stagnation, but they can also cause the Liver Qi to stagnate. It’s basically a more complicated chicken and egg story and one that is important to trace and understand the origins of because this can help us treat and ease stress. Say for example, you feel irritated and frustrated because of a situation at work. This frustration will interrupt the free-flow of energy and result in Liver Qi Stagnation. But conversely, you can have the presence of Liver Qi Stagnation and then develop a sense of irritation and frustration.
It is important to understand not only what your symptoms are but what caused them because, in order to treat them, we need to look at the bigger picture. TCM is holistic in its approach and therefore understanding what is out of balance and how we can address the imbalance is key to successful treatment. In regard to stress, we all have some degree of it in life. In fact, it is important that we have some stress because it keeps us alive and functioning. However, when we feel something such as stress disproportionately, energetic imbalances occur and can affect our health and wellbeing. Here we can address stress with health, diet, lifestyle and treatment options including Qigong and Acupuncture. Making sure that we get adequate, good quality sleep and a regular sleeping and eating pattern to promote healthy organ function in our bodies is a good way to start. Avoiding quick fixes like lots of sugar, alcohol and caffeine and eating a balanced diet does wonders for helping you to deal with stress. Taking time out for yourself and getting regular exercise help us to process stressful issues and to have the energy to tackle issues from a clearer mind-frame.
For my stressed-out patients, I find a combination of acupuncture and qigong treatments highly beneficial and my patients float out of the door; very different beings than those who began their treatments. It is one of my most satisfying chief complaints to treat because the results are fast, effective and make the world of difference.
I like to give my patients the following exercises from the Shi bah Shi Qigong Exercises:
1) Painting a Rainbow in the Sky
2) Wave Hands in Clouds
3) Dove Spreads its wings
Daily practise with these three exercises, for 3-5 minutes, helps to calm the Liver Qi, encourage the free-coursing of Qi around the body and ease mental stresses and strains. The final exercise mentioned treats Heart and Lung Qi disorders as well which helps to ease associated mental strain, anxiety and panicky feelings in the chest. These can be associated with stress because of the interrelation between the Liver with the Heart and Lung organs and their associated functions of regulating Qi in the Chest (otherwise known as Zhong Qi).
To conclude, there is much that can be done for treating stress. Ultimately it comes down to choices we make around diet, lifestyle and how we learn to cope with stressful situations. Qigong is an excellent stress reliever and one that we can incorporate into our daily lives to not only ease our stresses but help to prevent them from occurring in the long run.
If you are interested in learning more about TCM, why not join us on our thirty day Qigong Teacher Training Course in Bali?