Six Steps for Dealing with Stress

Stress

Stress by Becky Wetherington www.flickr.com/photos/macbeck/

Of all the factors in modern life that degrade our health, stress is probably the greatest one. Whether it’s traffic, money problems, scheduling, family or societal expectations, we constantly need help with stress reduction, even if you’re the calmest person outside of a meditation hall. Rather than yell at someone or eat too much dessert, consider trying some of these offerings:

1. Eat regular meals, preferably three. Three sit-down, hot meals would be perfect, maybe even with your family. I know this can be difficult for many with a busy lifestyle but it’s worth the change. Lack of food can be as much a stressor as too much food while the stress relief of having a healthy ritual that allows you to relax, improve your digestive function and relate to your family or friends is golden.

2. Sleep eight hours a night on the same schedule. Deviating occasionally is not a problem, but erratic sleep schedules and chronic sleep deprivation can be a serious problem.

3. Take time to relax. Having a busy job is one thing, never taking time to relax away from phone, computer and constant work is another. This should be daily and weekly with occasional trips to the beach, mountains, wilderness, etc…

4. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs can reduce stress. Acupuncture is great at relieving those tight muscles at the shoulders and lower back that come from overwork. Internal stress, with symptoms like slightly elevated blood pressure, irritability and difficulty in focusing, can be helped with both herbs and Acupuncture, by supporting the “rest and digest” aspect of the nervous system.

5. Qigong (pronounced chee- gong) is a chinese form of exercise that has been practiced for centuries to reduce stress, among other things. Qigong is a little like Yoga, but it is much easier for the average person to do. The story from China is that qigong was created by Bodhidharma, the same monk who brought buddhism to China from India and is credited as the creator of Zen buddhism.

6. As the Buddha once said: “Focus.”* Be present with your stress, your job, your family, your joys, your frustrations. Allowing yourself to be distracted with another project when you should be finishing a presentation for your boss won’t get either done faster. Thinking about work when you’re spending time with family will just fill your down time with stress. Stay present and take care of what is in front of you; everything will work itself out.

See how these six help you with your stress and let me know what happens!

*The Buddha didn’t actually say that.

The Three Essential Building Blocks for Health

Get at least eight hours of sleep. If one of your complaints is fatigue, exhaustion or something similar your body is telling you that you need sleep. Go to bed early or sleep in if you need more than eight hours.

Eat three meals of healthy food per day, including sitting down for your (preferably hot) meals. If you avoid any foods, make sure you tell your acupuncturist this, because this can indicate a digestive weakness that can be improved upon.

Get some moderate exercise. If you are not feeling well, make the exercise mild or skip it. I recommend Qigong because I teach it. If you can’t find Qigong; yoga, cycling to work or classes at the gym will work. If you walk for exercise but still have significant challenges (such as weight issues, blood pressure or other medical issues) consider seeing an Acupuncturist or other medical professional. If you are constantly wearing yourself out with daily exercise, consider why and how you can change it.

These might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t have good sleep, food or exercise in their regular routine.

Eating a Vegetarian Heart Healthy diet?

Vegetarian and vegan diets are often recommended for “heart health.” These diets contain many important nutrients and help you avoid some of the excesses of the Standard American Diet (SAD). The problem is, you also miss out on some of the important nutrients you need to live.

Chinese Medicine suggests that a healthy diet includes more warming or cooked foods than the typical American vegetarian diet includes. Chinese Medicine sees the Stomach and intestines as a environment that needs heat to properly digest food. Probiotics add to this heat while too many cold or raw foods cool it down.

Rather than eating a lot of uncooked fruits and vegetables, try cooking those veggies, and adding plenty of bean based dishes, tofu and tempeh (both cooked!) and don’t be afraid to add spices. Cultured foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi and nato can be sources of Vitamin B12 when prepared properly, plus they taste great. Another way to make that food more warming and better for your digestion is to add warming herbs like ginger, garlic, onions, rosemary, pepper, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Good luck on your journey to better health!

Food Avoidance

Food avoidance is very popular in natural medicine, especially if you have a naturopath, avoiding common things like dairy products, wheat, soy, citrus, etc…

While I think that someone with celiac’s disease (a serious condition) should definitely avoid wheat, the Chinese Medicine approach would improve digestive function rather than tell our patients to avoid foods. This is something we can do with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs: we can improve your digestion. Symptoms such as gas, bloating, digestive discomfort, borborygmus (rumbling of the stomach and intestines), constipation, diarrhea and dry stools can be reduced or eliminated by a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine.

The moral here is to think positively: avoid foods if you need to, but if you want to get better, come see us at Spring and Autumn Acupuncture for an evaluation and treatment!

Food and Chinese Medicine

I was talking to a patient the other day, trying to explain the chinese medicine view on food and diet when I realized I wasn’t making a lot of sense. However, it can be simple:

The easiest way to look at food from the Chinese Medicine perspective is to categorize food into the Five Elements. What we eat the most of is Earth foods, which are described as sweet, bland, or neutral in flavor. This includes many meats, dairy, all grains and some fruits and vegetables. (Doesn’t seem very balanced does it?) The four other flavors, Wood (sour), Fire (bitter), Metal (acrid, pungent or aromatic) and Water (salty). Foods can be included in more than one category, for example fish can be both salty and neutral (Water and Earth).

A healthy meal would consist of a lot of neutral foods, such as grass fed beef, whole grain rice, plus spices and mixed dishes (either with the meat, grain or vegetable and fruits) that add the other flavors of sour, bitter, aromatic and salty. These spices and mixed dishes could include an aromatic and spicy chili, a salty and tangy pickle dish, a hot and sweet barbecue sauce and a bitter and sweet chocolate dessert.

The last thing to consider is the temperature of a meal. Foods have a temperature, based on how we feel after eating them and how they warm or cool us. Raw vegetables are cooling, cooked foods are warmer, fish is cooler, beef and lamb are warming, fruit is cold. Grains tend to be neutral, while cooking them can warm them up a little. I relate this temperature to the amount of energy the body needs to digest them. The more energy needed, the “colder” they are, as with raw vegetables: the fiber raw vegetables provide can be cleansing but our systems often can’t absorb all of their nutrients because they haven’t been cooked.

I hope this helps you balance your meals in a healthy way. Good luck and happy eating!