Stress management is a topic of ever increasing importance in our modern world. There are more and more environmental pressures which impact on our health, personal and professional lives. Modern medicine is investing more and more effort and interest in finding answers to the challenges of stress management.
We all experience some amount of stress in our lives and, in fact, we need some stress to achieve new goals, develop new skills and maintain dynamic relationships. The problems start when we experience prolonged periods of stress.
This can lead to negative health impacts such as:
- Digestive system imbalances
- Musculoskeletal tension and pain
- Anxiety and depression
- Lowered immunity
- Irregularities in hormone levels (insulin, cortisol, sex hormones, thyroid function)
- Menstrual irregularities
- Fertility issues
In Oriental Medicine each organ system is linked to specific emotional and physical aspects of the body. Thus body and mind are intimately interconnected. Not only that, even environmental factors such as seasons and food are correlated to a particular organ and its healthy functioning. This concept of interconnectedness proves to be helpful in tackling the multifactorial challenges of chronic stress and its impact on our health.
Let’s take the example of the Liver energy. In Oriental terms Liver energy is linked to the element of Wood and the season of Spring. Wood by its nature wants to grow and expand (think of a tree), which happens mostly in spring time as the period of growth and new beginnings. The image of the Liver energy is that of a young sapling bending and flowing in the Spring breeze. It is flexible and therefore adjustable to deal with the strong influences within our environment.
In order to do its job the Liver needs to be equipped with a free flow of Qi (energy) and Blood that circulates unhindered in the body to nourish our tendons, ligaments, connective tissues, and to regulate our emotions. Healthy, strong liver energy let us deal well with our internal and external environment. When it is in balance we are strong, flexible, confident and ready to take on the world. When Liver energy is hindered in its free flow through chronic stress we experience increasing physical and emotional rigidity and tightness such as:
- Mood swings and irritability
- Anxiety and depression
- Mental exhaustion
- Musculoskeletal pain and tension
- Menstrual issue
In Oriental Medicine we have to take good care of our Liver energy to make our body and mind resilient and adaptable to handle the daily challenges of life. Spring is an excellent time to nourish the Liver energy in its urge to expand and flow freely.
Over the next few weeks we will address different areas of stress and stress management from an Oriental and partly Western perspective. We will describe the emotional and physical aspects of our various organ systems and explain how they are interconnected. We will also make suggestions regarding treatment and lifestyle choices to make our body strong and resilient.
For now consider following tips to balance the Liver energy:
Exercise! The best way to provide free flow of Liver energy is to move your body. It doesn’t need to be strenuous, doesn’t need to be long. Walking regularly (20 to 30 min 3 times a week) is a fantastic method to keep body and mind balanced. What better time is there than Spring to start walking?
Liver energy is said to open into the eyes. With our daily exposure to increased electro smog via computers, mobile phones and TVs our nervous system and eyes become increasingly drained and our Liver energy is getting dangerously zapped. As a result we experience amongst other factors tired and dry eyes. Keeping one room in the house electronic device free is helpful to regenerate energy. The bedroom, the space to sleep and rest, is the best place to remove computer equipment and mobile phones. If you can’t separate from your phone at least switch it onto aeroplane mode at night. Surprise, surprise sleep might improve.
Liver energy is linked to spring, the colour green and to the flavour sour. In spring we naturally eat less, cleanse our body of the fats and heavy foods of winter. This is a good time for a Liver detox. The diet should be the lightest of the year with lots of fresh greens and fresh food.
Moderately pungent foods, spices and herbs stimulate the Liver out of stagnant flow. Eat watercress, turmeric, basil, cardamon, cumin, fennel, ginger, rosemary, various mints and black pepper.
Apple cider vinegar as a sour liquid provides one of the best remedies to quickly remove Liver Qi stagnation and therefore combat indigestion and depression. One tablespoon of vinegar in warm water first thing in the morning is the best start into the day.
In our next article we will expand on the topic of the Liver energy by addressing muscular pain and tension as one of the most prevalent issues of manifesting stress. We are looking forward to your feedback.
Until next time, keep bending in the breeze!