In a medical context, stress is defined as a “physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.” (Shiel) Everyone experiences stress to some degree, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. The real question though, is how do we handle it? And even if we handle it well, what effect is it having on our bodies?
Even though we all have stressors in life, we don’t all react the same. Some people may carry physical tension in their neck & shoulders, some may have difficulty sleeping, some may feel anxious or depressed, and some may notice issues in their digestion. The American Institute of Stress (AIS) lists 50 common symptoms of stress here.
Stress in Chinese Medicine
In Chinese Medicine (CM), it is understood that stress will ultimately create disease. Fortunately, this is “only when they are either long-lasting, very intense, or both.” (Maciocia) This is because the physical impact can reduce the physiological function of certain organs, and over time, this can cause long-lasting effects.
Because the symptoms are so diverse, there are a few core patterns that relate to stress in CM. Typically, we will see that certain presentations of stress correlate with the function of specific organ systems.
~ Outbursts of Anger often relate to Liver Function
~ Overthinking often relates to Digestion
~ Worry often relates to Respiration
~ Fear often relates to the Kidneys & Adrenal Systems
For example, have you ever noticed when someone drinks a lot, they are more easily angered? Or when you were working on a big project in school or at work, was your digestion slowed down at all, even if you ate a normal schedule? When you were sad or worried about someone, did you ever feel it was more difficult to breathe?
Sometimes, emotions are the results of other dysfunction within the body. For example, a long series of sleepless nights can turn into a habit of poor sleep and mental anxiety. Regardless of which came first, CM CM sees emotional and physical signs of stress as one big part of the whole. With this approach, we can address the symptoms and help to resolve the underlying imbalance that now exists.
Chinese Medicine Can Help
Because CM practitioners view the body as one system, identifying these presentations of stress will help to create a pattern picture. Once the pattern is identified, treatment consists of using acupuncture, herbs, or both.
If you are only undergoing a short period of stress, your treatment will be short. But, as in all chronic cases, long term stress requires a longer solution. Regardless of which category you fall in, Chinese Medicine can help you get to feeling stress-free!
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AIS. (2019, August 26). Stress Effects – How is Stress Effecting You. Retrieved from https://www.stress.org/stress-effects.
Maciocia, G. (2015). The foundations of Chinese medicine: a comprehensive text. Edinburgh: Elsevier.
Shiel, W. C. (2018, December 11). Definition of Stress. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=20104.