They say when you are stressed, eat desserts because it’s “stressed” spelt backwards. Polishing off that tub of Ben & Jerry’s will probably make you sugar high and feel oh-so-comfy and all problems solved for about… 30 minutes tops. Then you’re back to stress-land once again. Rinse and repeat.
2 TYPES OF STRESS
Stress can be divided into 2 types, acute and chronic. Acute stress is short term stress and usually goes away after that particular event. Whereas chronic stress is long term and can affect you mentally, physically and socially in relationships. This is when you need to focus on self care and give a little more TLC or consult a doctor if it starts affecting your daily activities often.
WHAT IS STRESS IN TCM?
Stress is nothing new to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which has understood the connection between stress and wellness for thousands of years.The body is closely linked to the mind and it’s also known as a concept called “Psychosomatic illness”.
In TCM, out of the 5 organs (Heart, Liver, Lung, Spleen, Kidney), the Liver is the No. 1 organ that is most affected by stress.
Liver is the commander for making sure the Qi or energy in your body is moving smoothly. When faced with stress, Liver Qi becomes stagnant and blood circulation becomes sluggish, which will show up as many different types of symptoms.
Throwing things, yelling, lashing out, getting irritable are some of the major signs of stress that is compromising your Liver function. Anger is the main emotion associated with the Liver. We are all humans, so there’s nothing wrong with being angry. Just feel it, express it in a healthy manner, but don’t hold it in!
In school, one of my teachers told me about a story where a TCM doctor asked very harsh questions just to get the patient so pissed and throw a huge tantrum. That went on for a while and then the doctor asked “Do you feel better?” And surprisingly enough, the patient felt so much lighter after venting all that built up pressure. This is what I call good therapy.
Other than anger, other symptoms can happen along the Liver meridian.
- The RED line: Is the “outside” meridian where the acupounts lie, and we can press those area.
- The dotted BLUE line: Is the “inside” meridian where are are NO acupoints, but pressing the points on RED line will also affect this.
Issues with the head area
Red eyes, dry eyes, twitching eyes, bitter taste in the mouth, sighing very often, feel like a lump in the throat, headache or migraine, especially at the top of your head because that’s where the Liver meridian ends.
According to the 5 element theory, when the Liver is not well, it will not be able to support the Spleen which is in control of all digestive functions. Stress may cause diarrhea, constipation, bloatedness, nausea, vomiting, acid reflux,etc.
Women’s health (and men too)
See how the Liver meridian runs along and around the genital and urinary area? When stress strikes, the Qi & Blood get stuck and it’s not good news. Stress can cause early or late or no menses, PMS, breast tenderness, excess vaginal discharge, thrush, infertility, UTI,etc.
Body aches & pain
Liver is associate with the sinews. So when it’s not working well, sinews are not nourished and cause inflexibility thus causing the ache and soreness in the muscles. Pain around the big toe or along the inner side of the leg may feel sore, pain or heavy at times.
HOW ACUPUNCTURE CAN HELP STRESS
Don’t let the needles scare you. They are as thin as hair and you’ll only feel a prick at first then a slight full sensation around the poked area. Think of acupuncture points as power points with specific functions. There are about 365 points all lined up on a highway called meridians. By stimulation specific points, it can produce therapeutic effects all along the highway, making you feel relaxed during the ride. Most of my clients fall asleep.
For homecare, you can press these acupuncture points. Find point location here.
- LR 3 (Liver 3) – Located on the toe, in the depression between the webbing of our 1st and 2nd toe.
- LI 4 (Large Intestine 4) – Located on the back of hands, in the depression between the thumb and index fingers.
Massage these points with your finger for 2-3 minutes everyday to improve the Qi circulation and reduce your stress level.
FREE & EASY HERBS FOR STRESS
The most commonly prescribed TCM herbal formulas for stress are Xiao Yao San (also known as “Free and Easy Wanderer”), Chai Hu Shu Gan San (Chai Hu herb clearing the Liver), Yue Ju Wan, and Gui Pi Tang (for Spleen and Blood deficiency).
Please consult your TCM doctor, who will take a full medical history and do pulse and tongue diagnosis to determine the best acupuncture and herbal prescription. Uniqlo alters your clothes to your height, Skin Inc customises skincare solutions according to your skin type, and TCM is customised to your body type.
Unlike Western medicine, TCM sees 5 different types of stress and treats it with 5 different methods. It’s not like you have a Prozac and boom! all types of stress are gone. Minor adjustments to herb dosage and type is made so that it is tailor made for you and only you.
EAT & DRINK YOUR STRESS AWAY
Chrysanthemum Tea (Ju Hua)
Maybe you’ve drank them in Chinese restaurants. Chrysanthemum is a light yellowish flower that is sipped like herbal infusions. You can drink 2-3 cups on daily basis to relax and maintain a healthy liver. You can also try adding some dried roses for a change.
Note: Chrysanthemum is cooling. Limit consumption if you are always cold, having your menses, always have pale complexion, pale tongue body. These are usually a sign of Yang and Qi deficiency, so you can try eating Jujube fruit instead.
Jujube fruit (Da Zao)
Sweet chinese dates that you can get fresh or dried. My favourite is the walnut stuffed ones. Good fats, phytonutrients, fibre and blood-booster all in one! Eat 3-5 grape sized dried dates everyday.
Note: Jujube is warming. Limit consumption if you are always very hot, have flushed complexion, constipated, have bad breath (usually associated with heat in the Stomach). These are all signs of excess heat in the body so eating too much heaty Jujube may aggravate the symptoms.
Lily bulbs (Bai He)
Usually they are used to nourish the lungs for dry coughs. But it’s also great for combating fatigue, irritability and sleeplessness which is often caused by stress. Boil them with lotus seeds and rock sugar for a healthy dessert. Lotus seeds have a calming effect and is very beneficial for sleeping troubles.
Note: Don’t eat if you have cough with thick phlegm, this may produce more phlegm.
LET IT GO
Elsa is really good at it and you should learn from her too. I know I am. My ex-colleague nurses used to cue this song at work when I was so stressed, frowning at the computer all day. #truestory
Recently I was reading Mark Manson’s blog and he talks about not sugar coating things and accept the fact that some things in life are a little messed up. And there is nothing wrong with that. The fact that perfection and expectations are set so high, you feel so weighed down all the time, making you more stressed than ever. Sometimes you just need to accept, accept the fact that you FEEL angry (not you ARE angry) about something and let it go.
IT’S OKAY TO GET HELP
Emotions are part of being human and words are powerful when it comes to stress. So next time, don’t say that you ARE angry, instead try saying you FEEL angry. It’s ok to feel a certain way but don’t let that define you because you’re much more capable than that.
Most importantly, don’t put things off until stress take a toll on you. If you know someone who needs help, you can try finding professional therapists such as on BetterHelp here. They are the largest online e-counselling platform and they match your with a therapist that can help you online, anywhere, anytime. It’s crucial to find a therapist near you so that you can make appointments according to your schedule and find someone you can connect with and will be happy talking to.
Thank you for reading!