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.

Seasonal Affect Disorder

An article on Seasonal Affect Disorder might seem a little late, since the days are getting longer and we are all looking forward to Spring and, soon after, Summer. Truth is that the lack of sun can get us down, especially in Portland and Seattle where we get plenty of overcast sky for nine months of the year.

Chinese Medicine places us in the context of nature where the cycle of the seasons means everything. We’re supposed to bundle up in the Fall because our immune system isn’t ready for the cold weather – this is why flu season starts in the Fall. It’s also important to keep warm in the Winter because our bodies expend a lot of energy keeping us warm when it’s cold out. When it’s cold, our immune system doesn’t have as much energy to defend the body as it does in the Summer. It’s even worse in modern times because we don’t sleep that extra time in the Winter anymore. Do you know anyone who sleeps at sunset and wakes at dawn? Me neither.

Chinese Medicine supports seasonal eating as well. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables in the Summer is great, but if you eat the same thing in Winter (shipped from California or Chile) that’s going to be a whole lot of cold to dampen your digestive fire, which may be in short supply because of the cold weather outside. Better to eat colder food in the Summer and warmer food in the Winter like soups and broths. Eat your vegetables and fruits cooked in the Winter – the nutrients are more bio-available this way anyway!

If you’re not feeling well this time of year (and especially in the darkest of December) spend more time outside and get a happy light (full spectrum light). Since we don’t get enough sun in the Winter, you still might want to take some Vitamin D until the sun visits us again on a regular basis. Yes, we are a thoroughly modern society, but nature and the seasons still effect us; let’s stay healthy!