How Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you manage stress at Christmas time

How Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you manage stress at Christmas time

With Christmas just around the corner, December can be one of the busiest times of the year. Finalising projects at work whilst simultaneously organising gifts and annual holiday plans can cause an accumulation of stress that sits heavy on the body and mind. Navigating this stress can be difficult, but Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you unwind, relax and find inner balance and harmony.

Acupuncture and cupping

Stress tightens your muscles and leaves you feeling wound up and stiff. Whilst a massage is a good way to relieve stress, acupuncture and cupping methods apply much more pressure to knots and overworked muscles.

Traditional Chinese Medicine targets and stimulates areas of tension, oxygenating body tissue and increasing blood circulation. This helps to release endorphins, keep cortisol (the stress hormone) at bay, and loosen taut muscles – all of which aids in relieving stress.

Chinese herbal medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine treats the body as a single organism which can occasionally fall out of balance. That’s why herbal therapy is used to support and supplement inner remedial processes and restore equilibrium by removing stress, or ‘calming the spirit’. They can also stabilise your mood and help with weight loss.

Custom herb blends are accessible as capsules, granules, liquid extracts, powders, and teas. Chinese herbal medicine offers a wide spectrum of herbal formulas that treat specific symptoms of stress, such as the ‘Relaxed Wanderer’, which treats irritability, agitation, and body tension. A qualified herbal medicine practitioner can help you take the right herbal formula that’s tailored to your specific lifestyle and needs.

Be mindful of your diet

A good diet is central to good health and a strong energy flow. In periods of festival celebration such as Christmas, it’s common to indulge in unhealthy foods, which increases physical stress. You can prevent this by following Traditional Chinese Medicine’s dietary principles, which encourages maintaining a healthy, balanced diet in conjunction with herbal formulas, exercise, and acupuncture therapy.

A balanced meal is inextricably tied to inner balance. It’s recommended to consume fruits and vegetables that are rich in colour, and low-oil meals that contain a small portion of meat. Vitamin rich foods can also help reduce stress.

Mindfulness and acupuncture

Mindfulness and acupuncture

Mindfulness and acupuncture are two practices that go hand in hand, and when used in partnership can really accentuate one another’s benefits. Together, mindfulness and acupuncture can help to manage pain, restore balance naturally and support you on your journey to better health and happiness.

Mindfulness and acupuncture are two ancient eastern healing practices which have a widely recognised history of bringing monumental healing results.

Mindfulness is defined as the internal practice of paying attention to the present moment, and can help to manage difficult and painful thoughts, feelings and sensations.

Acupuncture takes a more physical approach, and is described as the careful practice of inserting thin needles into specific, strategic points on the body in order to treat pain and manage a whole host of physical and neurological symptoms.

Due to their similar outcomes, when used in conjunction the results of mindfulness and acupuncture are magnified, and often leads to a dramatic change in the client.

By employing techniques of mindfulness when undergoing acupuncture treatment, the client is able to fully tune in to the present moment and experience the complete benefit.

Conversely, acupuncture treatment can often leave clients in a more calm and relaxed frame of mind, and reduce their levels of pain. This can put them in the ideal state to practice being mindful. Overall, relaxing the mind helps to dissolve tension, which then allows energy to flow more freely through the body and reduce pain or discomfort.

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness practice to compliment your next acupuncture session, visit the Mindful website.

6 ways to use your mind to control pain

6 ways to use your mind to control pain

Relaxation, meditation, positive thinking, and other mind-body techniques can help reduce your need for pain medication.

Drugs are very good at getting rid of pain, but they often have unpleasant, and even serious, side effects when used for a long time. If you have backache, fibromyalgia, arthritis, or other chronic pain that interferes with your daily life, you may be looking for a way to relieve discomfort that doesn’t involve drugs. Some age-old techniques—including meditation and yoga—as well as newer variations may help reduce your need for pain medication.

Research suggests that because pain involves both the mind and the body, mind-body therapies may have the capacity to alleviate pain by changing the way you perceive it. How you feel pain is influenced by your genetic makeup, emotions, personality, and lifestyle. It’s also influenced by past experience. If you’ve been in pain for a while, your brain may have rewired itself to perceive pain signals even after the signals aren’t being sent anymore.

The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital specializes in helping people learn techniques to alleviate stress, anxiety, and pain. Dr. Ellen Slawsby, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who works with patients at the Benson-Henry Institute, suggests learning several techniques so that you can settle on the ones that work best for you. “I tend to think of these techniques as similar to flavors in an ice cream store. Depending on your mood,you might want a different flavor of ice cream—or a different technique,” Dr. Slawsby says. “Practicing a combination of mind-body skills increases the effectiveness of pain relief.”

The following techniques can help you take your mind off the pain and may help to override established pain signals.

  1. Deep breathing. It’s central to all the techniques, so deep breathing is the one to learn first. Inhale deeply, hold for a few seconds, and exhale. To help you focus, you can use a word or phrase to guide you. For example, you may want to breathe in “peace” and breathe out “tension.” There are also several apps for smartphones and tablets that use sound and images to help you maintain breathing rhythms.
  2. Eliciting the relaxation response. An antidote to the stress response, which pumps up heart rate and puts the body’s systems on high alert, the relaxation response turns down your body’s reactions. After closing your eyes and relaxing all your muscles, concentrate on deep breathing. When thoughts break through, say “refresh,” and return to the breathing repetition. Continue doing this for 10 to 20 minutes. Afterward, sit quietly for a minute or two while your thoughts return. Then open your eyes and sit quietly for another minute.
  3. Meditation with guided imagery. Begin deep breathing, paying attention to each breath. Then listen to calming music or imagine being in a restful environment. If you find your mind wandering, say “refresh,” and call the image back into focus.
  4. Mindfulness. Pick any activity you enjoy—reading poetry, walking in nature, gardening, or cooking—and become fully immersed in it. Notice every detail of what you are doing and how your senses and emotions are responding. Practice bringing mindfulness to all aspects of your life.
  5. Yoga and Tai-Chi. These mind-body exercises incorporate breath control, meditation, and movements to stretch and strengthen muscles. Videos and apps can help you get started. If you enroll in a yoga or Tai-Chi class at a gym or health club, your health insurance may subsidize the cost.
  6. Positive thinking. “When we’re ill, we often tend to become fixated on what we aren’t able to do. Retraining your focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t will give you a more accurate view of yourself and the world at large,” says Dr. Slawsby. She advises keeping a journal in which you list all the things you are thankful for each day. “We may have limitations, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still whole human beings.”

Image: Thinkstock

Source: Harvard Medical School April 2015