All That Jitters

Fear Emotion5 clipart MS Office

In this current, and hopefully soon-to-be post-COVID atmosphere, anxiety and fear have ruled many lives around the globe. With good reason. Anxiety and fear about people’s health, futures, finances, etc. are keeping many people up at night and jittery during the day. While anxiety is a normal human emotion, it becomes pathological when it interferes with our daily lives in such a way that is considered beyond the norm. Which begs the question: how does one cope?

With Chinese medicine.

You Have Options

Acupuncture has repeatedly proven its ability to mitigate and dissipate the emotional and spiritual (seen as inseparable in CM) imbalances brought on by just this type of global disaster. In CM, these imbalances are understood to affect one’s shen, or consciousness/spirit. Emotional imbalances affect organ function as well. Chinese herbs, as posted in a previous blog, are a time-tested option for reducing anxiety and associated symptoms like insomnia, rumination and nervousness, without the side effects that often accompany pharmaceuticals.

In his article Anxiety: The Unsettled Shen, Mark W. Frost, L.Ac., writes:

According to TCM theory, the emotions of fear, pensiveness, grief and anger cause the Qi to sink, stagnate, dissipate, and rise respectively.

The Seven Emotions

In CM, the Seven Emotions are: joy (Heart), anger (Liver), pensiveness/over-thinking (Spleen), grief (Lung), fear/shock (Kidney). The emotions that combine to create anxiety are fear (of the unknown, loss, for one’s security/safety), pensiveness (rumination), grief (sadness, loss), and anger/resentment (loss of control over one’s situation).

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail:

Anger is the emotion controlled by Liver in CM. Liver controls the flow of Qi throughout the body. Anger constricts that movement as does rage, resentment, frustration and bitterness. Chronic constraint (stagnation) of Qi creates Heat internally, which agitates shen/Heart (Liver nourishes Heart in the Five Element system) and fails to anchor shen within the Heart. This can result in disorders of psyche and soma.

The opposite of joy (Heart) is sadness. Sadness, while a normal emotional response to loss can, when extreme or protracted (over longer periods of time), stagnate Heart and Lung Qi, which leads to a Fire deficiency (this can affect overall or various components of bodily functions).

Pensiveness (aka over-thinking/rumination) leads to both stagnation and deficiency, setting up a chronic imbalance in digestive functions (in CM, Spleen controls digestion). This stagnation (excess) and deficiency (reduction in function) bring about the formation of Dampness (wet mucus) and Phlegm (dry mucus), and combine with Heat. Combined with constraint and anxiety, it can manifest as “knots in the stomach” or “butterflies in the stomach.” Depending on the individual, digestion and elimination can be seriously increased (seen with anxiety) or decreased (seen with depression as it causes constraint).

Grief is the emotion associated with Lung in CM. It is similar to sadness in that a prolonged state of grief will cause constraint in the Lung/Heart relationship and likely lead to a deficiency.

Fear is the emotion associated with Kidney in CM. While fear is healthy and keeps us from doing foolish things, it, too, can become protracted as a result of fright/shock (think PTSD and other anxiety disorders). 

When there is an imbalance, fear can foster a general insecurity about life. A deficiency of the Yin aspect of the Water element, the calming, receptive and grounding portion, can manifest as agitation, insecurity, and anxiety (combination of nervousness and fear). (The 5-Element Guide to Healing with Whole Foods, D. Thunderhawk, L.Ac., 2016.)

In Conclusion…

This has been a nerve-wracking experience for many around the globe. Meditation, solitude (easy with the shelter-in-place orders), compassion, in conjunction with holistic healing methods (acupuncture, herbs, Reiki, medical Qi Gong, healing hands, etc.), can ground us and reduce, even heal, our anxiety, our jitters. We must continue to move forward no matter what tomorrow may bring. Remember that adversity makes us stronger.

May you find peace and strength to ease your minds and nourish your spirit. Namaste.

 

 

 

The Story of Three Needles

This is a true story – because it’s my story, told in my first book, A Bump in the Road (Chapter 5, now retired). I just wanted to share something uplifting today, considering the election results.

Dr. Aaron Chen was a small-built man in his forties with boyish features, short jet black hair, and wore eyeglasses reminiscent of John Lennon. His smile was genuine and wide as he extended his hand to me. I liked him immediately. I felt renewed just being in his presence. A positive connection like that is vital to the patient’s healing process, I quickly realized.

He led me from the reception area to a room decorated with antique Asian décor; the scent of sandalwood swirled about the room. In the far right corner sat two camelback chairs upholstered in a bold, China red silk fabric embossed with gold Chinese characters. A simple wooden table placed between them held little clutter: a metallic miniature desk lamp, a small red statue of Buddha, and a jade green Chinese tea cup containing several pens. On the opposite wall stood a handsomely carved mahogany bookcase crammed with textbooks and other academic works. Some of the books were at least three inches thick and I wondered if he’d read their contents. Most likely. Okay, I’m impressed, I thought. The area rug covering the polished wood floor was noticeably Persian; its earthy tones complemented the bolder colors of the furniture. Placed on top of that striking rug, in the center, was the treatment table. Light in the room glowed softly from a torchier lamp in the corner behind one of the chairs.

Dr. Chen invited me to sit in one of the gorgeous silk chairs, he sat in the other. In his hands was a file folder, presumably mine, and he pulled out a form on which he began writing my personal information – name, age, main complaint, etc. He questioned me for almost forty-five minutes. Some of the questions seemed a bit odd to me: describe the color, consistency, and frequency of my urine and stools, for example. I’d answered his questions as best I could and hoped he would be able to make sense of the information I’d provided. He checked my pulses and asked me to stick out my tongue, then wrote again on the form. He was a kind and caring man; I knew that from the start. Having explained my financial situation on the phone earlier, he had agreed to charge me a reduced fee – he was more concerned with treating my urgent health issues. Then Dr. Chen requested I change into the dressing gown on the table and he departed the room, allowing me privacy.

I suffered from bouts of vertigo, nausea and vomiting in addition to the hand pains and heart palpitations. When Dr. Chen returned, he asked if I was able to lie on my back. I said I was not. We compromised and I slowly reclined on to my left side. He delayed beginning the treatment until the dizzy spell had passed. Once settled, he began the process of inserting the acupuncture needles; he made it clear that I should not move at all once the needles were inserted. I nodded in acknowledgement.

Here’s the really amazing part: because I couldn’t lie on my back for a full treatment, he used only THREE needles to address my symptoms. That’s right, three needles. With the needles in, he began acupressure on other areas of my body to help reduce my overall anxiety – it was calming, to say the least. Twenty-five minutes later the needles were removed and I sat up slowly, fearful the dizziness would rise up, make the room spin and knock me off balance. It didn’t happen. As a matter of fact, the vertigo was gone. So was the nausea (and therefore, the vomiting). I was dumbfounded. Walking into walls and vomiting in the car disappeared like they had never existed. Now I could focus on getting rid of the insomnia, those damned palpitations, and the hand pains. I was thrilled that I’d made the right choice.

I hopped down the stairs of Dr. Chen’s office with a spring in my step I hadn’t had in…well, it had been so long I couldn’t remember when…carrying an appointment card confirming my next visit. I drove home with all the windows down, letting in the fresh breeze of a summer’s day and letting out all my cares, eager for my next visit with Dr. Chen. I wondered what other miracles he might accomplish.

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