We have all experienced stress at one time or another, and sometimes it seems like there is no escape, that it is endless, and we have little power or control over its effects. The effects of stress can be felt in all aspects of a person's life - mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. We all know the signs, which may include insomnia, lowered immune system, frequent colds/flus, fatigue, muscle tension, headache, body aches, anxiety or depression, rapid heartbeat, loss of libido, diarrhea, stomach pains...the list goes on and on.
Stress has been linked as a causative factor in many illnesses and imbalances, including:
- heart disease
- hormone imbalances
- accelerated signs of aging
- weight gain
- digestive problems
- Alzheimer's disease
- premature death
Depending on our life's circumstances, we may or may not be able to overcome the actual cause of this stress, but there is a lot we can do to alleviate it, and to change our response to stressful situations.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are ALL about balance - balancing our bodies, minds, and spirits to align with the natural world. When they are balanced, there is less conflict, and therefore, less stress. Everything in nature is an expression of Qi (pronounced 'chee'), or life force energy. In order to be healthy, a person's Qi must be in balance. What acupuncture does is to smooth the Qi, so that it flows freely. This allows the body, mind, and spirit to relax.
Another great way to combat stress is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness can enable you to take a step back, to look at your stress triggers objectively, without getting too caught up in them. Learning how to meditate is a gradual process, and does take some effort, but the rewards can be great indeed. The 'gist' of mindfulness meditation is to sit quietly and follow each breath with awareness. However, the way our minds function, it is inevitable that they will wander, over and over again, throughout the course of the meditation. It can seem that our mind is doing nothing but wandering, but don't worry about that. That's actually OK, it's how we're built - our minds always active so that we may be able to survive any type of threat that might come our way. The real practice of mindfulness meditation is to become aware each time our mind wanders, and to gently draw it back to noticing the breath. That is the practice. We are building muscle, making our minds stronger and more flexible. In this way, we can be stronger and more flexible in the face of stressful situations, without getting too caught up in them, without getting swept up in emotions. Emotions are an extremely important part of our existence, and they can have a tendency to become overwhelming at times. Mindfulness helps the meditator to have more understanding of how their minds function, and therefore, to have more ease and peace.
Other important factors in managing stress are:
- Getting the right amount of sleep - at least 7 to 8 hours per night for an adult is about right.
- Exercise - whether it's vigorous or mild exercise, you need to move your body in order to move your Qi. Do whatever type of exercise feels right to you. Just move your body.
- Proper diet – In general, eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and avoid processed foods and sugar.
With all of these combined methods, you’ll be well on your way to feeling better.
If you have any questions, plesae let me know. I'm always here to help!