Blog : Lifestyle
When we learn about disturbing events and news that makes us cringe such as we have heard in the last few weeks, it can be extremely hard for us to process it. We may think that it’s something that just should not have happened, it goes against our sense of right and wrong, and we just can’t get our minds around why and how it happened. We may become obsessed with watching the same news reports over and over trying to grasp what happened. However, this just brings more sorrow and distress for the victims, and makes us feel like we are helpless to do anything. We may even fear for ourselves and our families. The more we watch, the more we feel despair, fear, anger, grief and discouragement. And when other traumatic life events such as the death of a loved one, or a car accident happen in the midst of this chaos, we can reach the tipping point and experience these emotions in a big way. If we have experienced trauma in the past, then current shocking events may trigger a resurgence of negative emotions and anxiety. One of the down-sides of our current media saturated culture is that it is easy to become “caught” in a negative media feedback loop. To help break this cycle, you can simply give yourself a “News Fast,” by turning off the TV and not checking Facebook, etc. for a period of time. Regarding stress, trauma and negative thoughts, we have seen many people helped through using acupuncture.
When emotions overwhelm us, there is a ripple effect to the physical body which may manifest as back pain, headaches, digestive issues, insomnia, high blood pressure or a number of other symptoms. Rawls tells of a recent case she experienced. “I had a patient who I’ll call Cindy (not her real name) who came in with upper back pain. When I had her point to the area of pain, it was in the area of the acupuncture point associated with the emotion of grief. I asked her if she had experienced an emotional upset and she related that her grandmother, to whom she was very close, had passed away the week before. Her emotion of grief and sorrow manifested as back pain.”
We’ve discussed the emotions before in our blog posts in February about the Heart, and last year in December with our 5 Tips for Relieving Stress and Anxiety. However we find that most folks don’t think about Acupuncture for help with grief, anxiety and despair associated with traumatic events.
Acupuncture supports the body’s ability to heal naturally by addressing the areas of the body where emotions have created physical symptoms, and also by regulating the nervous system which stimulates our “fight or flight” response when we are stressed, and our “rest and digest” response when we are not. It also regulates the hormones that are produced by the body in response to the nervous system such as endorphins, cortisol, thyroid hormones and others. Acupuncture restores balance by stimulating the body’s built-in healing mechanisms.
One of our recommendations for calming the emotions is to meditate, however we realize that some people are intimidated by the word 'meditate', don't know how to do it, or feel that they aren’t good at it. Sitting with the thoughts that arise during meditation can be very difficult for those who are dealing with traumatic experiences. In these cases, guided imagery is very helpful to calm the mind and can be a great way to learn to meditate..
Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. She has partnered with Kaiser Permanente to offer these guided imagery meditations for free. There are several that you can download that address anxiety, grief, stress relief and many others. Bookmark this website so that you can come back to it when you want to listen. Have a listen here to one of her guided meditations that helps with anxiety and panic attacks.
BTW - Sitting crosslegged in front of a beautiful waterfall for meditation is the bomb, but it is definitely not required. The main thing is to find a comfortable seated position and sit with the spine tall, whether that's sitting on a chair, your living room couch, on the floor or in a flower-filled meadow. To start you'll want to find a quiet spot, but as you become more focused, you will find it easy to meditate most anywhere.
We frequently suggest getting outside to reconnect with nature as a way to become more grounded and ease emotional upsets. This poem sums it up beautifully.
Summer, the Fire Season, is the most yang of the seasons. It is a time of lush growth, brightness, activity and heat, particularly in the South. In Chinese Medicine, fire is related to the heart, blood vessels, Small Intestine and the emotions (see the February post to learn more about the heart). The heart is in charge of memory, emotions, consciousness, thinking, sleep and speech.
When Fire is imbalanced, we see symptoms such as anxiety, despair, poor circulation, hypertension, heart palpitations, and insomnia. In nature, extreme heat withers and dries crops, creates drought and blazing forest fires, and we too can easily become overheated during the summer months. Here are our top 10 tips to keep your fire in check during the summer.
1. Water balances Fire – be sure to drink plenty of fluids during the summer, especially if you sweat a lot. With profuse sweating, you may also need to replace electrolytes. Good sources are coconut water (the unsweetened kind), and water with cucumbers or fresh watermelon juice.
2. Eat lightly and simply – Prepare recipes using few ingredients rather than heavy meals. Limit meat, eggs, excess nuts and proteins that deplete cooling yin and limit calcium absorption which is needed for proper heart function.
3. Align with nature – Visit your local farmers market to see what is in season and focus on including those ingredients in your meals. We have a great farmers market in Peachtree City, so be sure to check it out.
4. Include many brightly colored vegetables and fruits. Steam or lightly simmer vegetables and go easy on the salt. Some raw vegetables are okay, but don't overdo it with cold and raw foods because they weaken the digestive system.
“You snooze, you lose!” Sound familiar? For many, being able to function on little sleep has been something of a badge of honor, a sign of persistence and strength. Where sleep is concerned, this couldn't be further from the truth! Poor sleep quality can contribute to many health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, depression and anxiety. It can lead not only to irritability and exhaustion, but also to muscle stiffness, impaired cognitive function, and an impaired immune system. Drowsy driving accounts for more traffic accidents and deaths than drunk driving! It's time to change the phrase. You snooze, you win with better immunity, cognitive function and physical energy.
Eight hours of good sleep is recommended each night for adults. During this time the body goes through five stages of sleep: drowsy, light, deep, intense deep and REM (rapid eye movement). While the body is going through the cycles of sleep, it is also repairing itself. Activity in the part of the brain that controls emotions and decision-making reduce and rest, muscles relax, and necessary hormones are released.
Insomnia is defined as a difficulty or inability to fall asleep, waking during the night, restless sleep, or waking and not being able to fall back asleep. Sometimes this may be temporary, caused by short-term changes in your lifestyle or environment such as outside noise, weather changes, coffee and other stimulants, eating too late at night, or a recent emotional upset. Insomnia becomes chronic when it continues for more than a couple of months and is usually due to prolonged stress and emotional upset, poor diet, or an extended illness. Sleep disturbance cause by pain, breathing difficulties or itching is not considered insomnia and the underlying cause will need to be addressed.
Chinese Medicine categorizes sleep issues into a few different patterns that can be addressed with acupuncture and herbs.
- Difficulty getting to sleep - This is usually caused by prolonged emotions such as anger, suppressed depression, shock, or worry. There is an inability to fall asleep until later and may be followed by vivid or manic dreams.
- Difficulty staying asleep - This may be due to over-eating or over-drinking. Symptoms may include: insomnia with bloating, epigastric distension and fullness and possibly acid reflux, fitful sleep and profuse dreaming or waking in the early hours with difficulty falling back to sleep. Many times, we see that patients wake at the same time each night (usually between 2 am and 4 am). In a future post, we'll explain the relation between the time one wakes and what it means.
- Light sleep or dream-disturbed sleep - Patients with this pattern are typically nervous, have anxiety and worry issues, and wake to process and problem-solve. This may also be common in older people who are recovering from surgery or long illness.
- Awake all night - This is the most serious type of sleep disorder, and is typically the result of having been frightened or excessive worry. Those who tend to be pessimistic also fall into this category and these people awaken and then stay awake. They typically show signs of emotional fatigue and low spirits.
As you may be aware, February is National Heart Month. What you might not be aware of is that Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can play a huge role in improving your heart health. In this article, we explain the Oriental Medicine perspective of the heart and share tips on incorporating time tested therapies into your health improvement plan.
The Heart from an Oriental Medicine Perspective
In both Oriental Medicine and Western Medicine, the heart is known to have the function of pumping blood throughout the body to maintain life. However, in Oriental Medicine it is thought of as the ruler, or Emperor, of the other organs, and involved with mental and emotional processes.
There are 3 key characteristics of the heart system in Oriental Medicine:
The heart houses the mind and spirit.
The heart is considered the residence of the mind and spirit (the shen), and is often involved in psychological imbalances. The realm of the heart includes the full range of human mental activity or consciousness, including the thought process, emotional health, mental function, focus, memory, and spirituality. The process of thinking is accomplished by the heart and blood is the main foundation for mental activities. When properly nourished and balanced, the heart maintains our innate wisdom, contentment, and emotional balance. Some symptoms of heart imbalance include palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating easily, mental restlessness, insomnia, forgetfulness, chest pain, tongue pain, and burning urine.
For many the holidays are a happy time where they look forward to reuniting with family and friends, but for some, it brings on a sense of anxiety and depression. Presents to wrap, meals to prepare, trying to keep crazy Aunt JoJo from stirring up too much trouble, and the list goes on. For some it’s just too much and they can easily become overwhelmed.
Acupuncture has been proven to help relieve stress. We see it in the clinic frequently, and you may have experienced this yourself. On the simplest level, acupuncture works to affect the hormones to lessen those “fight or flight” hormones and to release the “feel good” hormones. At the root level, anxiety and depression are typically caused by an imbalance in your body. And while we can’t keep crazy Aunt JoJo in line, we are happy to help you resolve the underlying health conditions that so commonly crop up during this time of year and lead to that out-of-control feeling. As our gift to you these holiday, here are a few tips to help you manage the stress of the Holidays.
5 Ways to Manage the Stress of the Holidays
Here are 5 ways you can manage stress during the holidays when you can’t get into the clinic.
Simplify and Prioritize – Do you really need to send 250 Christmas cards, or even 50? We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to pull off the perfect holiday, with just the right gifts, food, decorations and so on. But setting unrealistic expectations only leads to disappointment and distress and leaves you missing out. You’ll easily cut your holiday to-do list in half by simplifying your holiday plans and limiting gifts to close family and friends instead of gifting to everyone in the neighborhood. And you’ll thank yourself when the holiday bills come rolling in too!
Your breath can be the key to relieving the stress and anxiety of the holiday season. Deep slow breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system - that "rest and relax" response. Acupuncturist Rawls Whittlesey, who also teaches yoga, shares some breathing exercises you can do almost anywhere and will help bring about a sense of calm amongst the chaos of the holidays.