Stress and modern day living go hand in hand – commuting, relationships, workplace stresses, financial issues, and even reading the daily news cause stress. But stress has been around ever since the humanity came into existence. Everyone experiences stress. It is a part of life. The ancient Chinese of course, had their fair share of problems. They had endured as with the rest of the world, sickness, marital problems, work problems, money, and food shortages.

Worry, uncertainty, and anxiety are just a few among a million other problems that stress causes. Gynecological problems, headaches, digestive issues, overeating, appetite loss, and insomnia can come about if the stress is severe enough. Too much stress in relationships may generate more quarrels amongst family members and may result in irritability towards other people, drug abuse, alcoholism, and too much smoking. It can also bring depression.

The emotions from the viewpoint of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), are viewed as major causes of stress and disease. Stress leads to too much expression of the emotions and this affects the human body in such a negative way.

Fear, anger, and worry or pensiveness as well as sadness, and joy are the five key emotions of human beings. Expressing these emotions can be beneficial and are a part of a healthy human life. We should be sad if someone close to us passes away. We should be a bit angry or a little upset if we lose our job. When used, prudently, this anger can help us reassess our life and give us the fire to move forward once more. When I say prudently, I mean to use emotions such as anger in moderation; when they’re expressed too much, it can result in disease. Chronic or excessive sadness can hinder us from moving on. Longstanding anger causes us to assail others or even turn the anger inward to self-loathing or even depression.

According to Chinese medicine, the different organs of the body are associated with the different types of emotions. The spleen, for example, is associated with worry or pensiveness, the liver is affiliated with anger, the kidney associates with fear, the lung corresponds to grief or sadness, while the heart associates with joy. An emotion that is extremely expressed affects the body causing an overstimulation of the affiliated organ which leads to a weakness that can affect the organs and the rest of the body since in the human body everything is connected to each other.

In Chinese medicine, stress is usually associated with the emotions irritation and anger, which corresponds to depression (Spleen and Liver), worry (Spleen), irritation and anger (Liver), and to a lesser extent, sadness (Lung) and fear (Kidney). In this regard, we can see that stress can potentially impact the entire system of the human body and to treat it accordingly, it is up to a qualified acupuncturist in Bellingham to know what system is in most need of treatment and what specific emotion has caused the problem. Oftentimes, it is the Liver that is most affected by stress.

To describe how the body works, the ancient Chinese liked to use analogies. One way was to imagine the organs as members of the government. The leader or the emperor was the Heart since it was considered the most important of the organs. The Liver Is the general or military chief since it traditionally was viewed as the organ system’s General. Being the military head, the General is a powerful official whose job was to keep the Empire stable and safe. But if a foreign army invades, the General comes under pressure and may well become short tempered and thrash out at his subordinates. He may well instruct the farmers to stop producing crops and might even use force to follow through with his commands. He may bully all his advisors and ministers bending their will to his own and command that they cease their duties. Even worse, the General may organize a coup against the Leader and gain control of the empire. Metaphorically, this is what happens inside the human body.

Stress causes the Liver to become over active. This is a powerful organ in the body and has the means to affect everything else. The Liver may overexert itself on the digestive system (stomach and spleen) when it is stressed, leading to IBS, gas, constipation, diarrhea and other digestive conditions. It can also affect the lungs resulting in respiratory conditions such as asthma or hyperventilation. A woman’s gynecological system is also controlled by the liver as well as by the kidney and may cause infertility, or irregular or painful menses. An overactive Liver can disrupt the heart (which controls sleep) resulting in insomnia and bad dreams. Migraine and headache can be felt if the Liver causes energy to rush upwards the body.

Why drinking alcohol is common among overly stressed individuals is because it helps depress the Liver which in the short term calms it down although at the same stimulating it in the long term. Therefore, even if in the short term, alcohol can be helpful, it likely can make things worse and may cause addiction over the long term.

The good news though, is that there are ways you can do to help soothe the overactive Liver and regain some sort of balance in your life enabling you to manage the stresses in your life with a clearer mind.

Consulting with an acupuncturist is one such way. When you talk and eventually get treated by a licensed and accredited acupuncturist it can lead to a relaxed body, a calm mind, and the removal of physical and emotional stress. Through the sticking of needles into specific acupoints in your body, your acupuncturist can restore balance to the organ systems in your body. The treatment puts your body in a relaxed state allowing you to think more prudently about the stressful situation and handling it on a more constructive manner. Individuals who regularly go for acupuncture treatment have discovered that they can better control their emotions which make it much easier to deal with stress.

There are several other ways to calm down your mind and relax your body besides acupuncture. One means to quiet or calm the General is to make the Emperor much stronger – when the Emperor is very strong, the General has to obey. How can you make the Heart stronger? One great way is by meditating. The Heart becomes healthier with Meditation. This activity can be a potent way of tonifying the Emperor especially if the heart chakra energy field is the focus of your meditation. This chakra is located between the breast regions.

One other way is by “green” therapy. The Liver is related to the color green. This color has the ability to calm the Liver. Putting green plants in your home can help calm your mind. Eating leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, or cabbage or even walking in the park can benefit your mind and body in so many ways.

Our eyes also have an association with our Liver. Present-day society has a tendency to over utilize the eyes and thus overwork and over stimulate the Liver. This may mean doing too much computer work, smart phones, internet, and TV. During meditation, our eyes are closed allowing us to turn to our inner vision which can be beneficial.

All those are just few of the things you can do to help overcome stress. But even tiny changes can bring about huge improvements over time since we’re here for a long period of time. We will be beset by life stresses in their various manifestations as long as we’re living here on earth. Maintaining some sort of level headedness is what we can do to deal with the worst that life usually hurdles towards us.