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.)
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.