Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

Is Your Work Affecting Your Health?

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Work Stress 300x199 Is Your Work Affecting Your Health?

As summer holidays come to an end, most people probably aren’t looking forward to returning back to office drudgery and their regular work routine. Besides the typical mental and emotional stresses that our work environments can create, Traditional Oriental Medicine has recognized for thousands of years that our day to day work activities can also have an effect on our physical health as well.

For example, a sedentary office job that involves sitting at a desk for prolonged amounts of time can cause problems with the tendons and muscles, resulting in stiffness in the shoulders, neck tension, back pain, and headaches. When the body doesn’t get enough physical movement and activity throughout the day, even the digestive system can become weak and sluggish.

For those who spend most of their day stuck behind a desk, taking a few minutes every hour to get up and walk around can be a simple habit to add to your workday. Standing desks are also becoming a popular option, allowing users to easily shift positions throughout the day.

Just as prolonged sitting and a sedentary lifestyle can negatively affect the Liver system, the opposite extreme of too much physical activity can also create an unhealthy imbalance. Repetitive strain injuries, tendonitis, carpel tunnel syndrome, and shoulder pain are some of the symptoms that can result from repetition and overuse.

Becoming more conscious of tension in our bodies can help us learn how to relax and move more efficiently. Proper stretching exercises to relax the tendons can also play an important role in reducing strains and injuries.

Finally, Traditional Oriental Medicine recognizes that overuse of our eyes can also have a negative impact on our health. Because of the connection seen in Chinese medicine between eyesight and blood flow, this overuse can contribute to a condition known as Blood Deficiency, leading to a variety of symptoms including headaches, fatigue, and insomnia.

Staring all day at computers, smart phones, tablets, tv, video games – our eyes are working overtime more than ever. Taking time to disconnect from our electronics and spending time out in nature is important for relieving eye strain. A relaxation technique known as eye palming, which involves rubbing the hands together until they’re warm and then gently cupping them over closed eyes for several minutes, can also be used to relax and refresh the eyes.

The more that we can create healthier habits and become aware of our bodies throughout the day, the more we’re able to experience better health even when at work.

Stepping Into Spring

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Spring Crocus 300x212 Stepping Into Spring

As the trees begin to blossom and spring is just around the corner, it’s a good opportunity to take some time to look after our health for the year ahead.

In one of the oldest writings of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the acupuncture textbook Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) states that:

“The three months of the spring season bring about the revitalization of all things in nature. It is the time of birth. This is when heaven and earth are reborn.”

The Yellow Emperor then goes on to make some practical suggestions for achieving a healthier lifestyle during this time of year:

  1. Get fresh air – If going for nature walks in the invigorating outdoors was suggested 2,000 years ago, how much more are we in need of it nowadays with long hours being spent indoors at the office and workplace? Spring is in the air – literally – so be sure to breathe some in!
  2. Exercise & Stretch – Just as Nature wakes up and becomes more active during the springtime, it’s good for us to take a similar cue in our own lives. Increasing our physical activity levels, including gentle stretching to loosen up those winter couch potato tendons and muscles, is an important aspect of improving our circulation and overall health. Maybe now is a good time to dust off those old New Year’s resolutions of getting more exercise and into better shape.
  3. Regulate the emotions – Perhaps the most important but easily overlooked advice is to regulate and care for our emotional health. Any extreme emotions and stress, but in particular anger and frustration, can be damaging to our health. The two previous points of advice of breathing and exercise can be helpful in this regard due to their calming effect on the body and nervous system. In addition, the lifelong process of learning to let go and forgive can be especially valuable to our own state of health and wellbeing.

Breathing, exercising, maintaining calmness – the Yellow Emperor’s advice from over 2,000 years ago still sounds like a good way to step into spring!

Back To The Grind

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Body Mind Soul Spirit 300x199 Back To The Grind

With the relaxing days of summer drawing to a close, most of us probably find our lives busier than ever. Back to school. Back to work. Back to our everyday routines.

It can be easy to get caught up in the stress and busyness of life and forget about looking after our own health. However, in the 2,000 year old acupuncture textbook the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine), the Emperor’s court doctor gave some simple and practical advice in maintaining a healthy lifestyle:

“In the past, people practiced the Tao, the Way of Life. They understood the principle of balance, of Yin and Yang, as represented by the transformation of the energies of the universe. Thus, they formulated practices such as Dao-in, an exercise combining stretching, massaging, and breathing to promote energy flow, and meditation to help maintain and harmonize themselves with the universe. They ate a balanced diet at regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, avoided over stressing their bodies and minds, and refrained from overindulgence of all kinds. They maintained well-being of body and mind; thus, it is not surprising that they lived over one hundred years.”

Healthy habits for the body, regulating the emotions for the mind, nourishing the spirit – it was good advice back in ancient times and it’s probably needed now more than ever.

Causes of Disease – Part 2: Emotions and the Body

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

As was previously seen in Part 1, Eastern medicine has long observed that our emotional states can have a significant impact on our health.

However, which comes first? Is it an imbalance in the body that produces negative emotions, or is it the emotions having an effect on the body?

Traditional Oriental Medicine doesn’t draw artificial boundaries between the body, mind, and spirit, but instead sees a close connection between them. Specific emotional states correspond to particular physical organs in the body; an imbalance in one area can affect all other aspects of our health and often cannot be described in a simple cause-and-effect manner.

5PhasesEmotionalStates 257x300 Causes of Disease   Part 2: Emotions and the Body

For example, the Liver system, which in Eastern medicine regulates the blood and energy circulation throughout the body, is linked to anger, frustration, irritability, and other similar feelings.

In certain situations such as the mood swings and irritability often associated with PMS, the physiological changes occurring within the body are disrupting the Liver system and its ability to properly regulate the emotions.

For other situations, emotional stressors appear to be a primary cause or trigger for the physical symptoms as is frequently seen in gastrointestinal disorders including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and colitis.

Diagnosis and treatment can vary depending on each individual case. For example, some patients have a more nervous temperament with a tendency towards over-thinking, worry, and anxiety, which according to Eastern medicine often indicates a weakness in the Spleen-Pancreas system that needs to be strengthened and supported.

For other people, stress, frustration, unresolved anger, or other similar emotions are the more dominant ones and can exert a negative influence on the digestive system according to the Restraining Cycle of the Five Phases and so it’s the Liver system that needs to be calmed and more properly regulated.

These types of emotional imbalances are also commonly seen when dealing with children’s health issues with a specialized form of pediatric acupuncture known as Shonishin. For example, there are some cases of infant colic that don’t receive much noticeable improvement with the typical dietary recommendations usually indicated, but the symptoms are resolved when the emotional components are addressed using appropriate treatment.

In yet other complicated cases such as anxiety and depression, Eastern medicine recognizes both a physical and a mental component to the conditions, with imbalances in the body affecting the emotions and the out-of-balance emotions likewise having a direct effect on the body, sometimes leading to a mutually-reinforcing downward spiral.

Because of Traditional Oriental Medicine’s wholistic approach to health, treatment modalities including acupuncture and moxibustion can be an integral part of therapy due to their balancing and regulating influence on the entire person, not just on the physical body.

Causes of Disease – Part 1: Emotions and Environment

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

“So what caused the health problem?” This is a common question asked by patients in my acupuncture clinic.

For Western minds, we’re used to explaining and understanding things in a direct linear cause-and-effect manner. However, Eastern medicine has observed that natural phenomena in the real world, including our own health, is not always simple or black and white; many factors can contribute and interact with each other to create imbalance and disease pathology in our lives.

Because of this, Traditional Chinese Medicine groups the etiology, or causes of disease, into several main categories.

1) Internal causes – Eastern medicine recognizes that emotions, especially when they are prolonged, have a significant impact on our health, with each emotional state corresponding to a particular internal organ:

  • anger
  • excessive joy
  • pensiveness
  • grief
  • sorrow
  • fear
  • fright

It is interesting to note that even Western medicine is discovering and acknowledging the role of emotions on our health through certain modern fields of medical research such as psychoneuroimmunology.

2) External causes – Traditional Chinese Medicine also recognizes that our environment, including changes in temperature, air pressure, and humidity (classically described as Wind, Cold, Heat, Dampness, and Dryness), can have an impact on our health.

For example, many people who live here in the cold and damp temperate rain forest climate of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada notice that their rheumatic joint pain improves when they travel down south to a warm and dry climate and returns when they come back home. For others, a fluctuation of symptoms that they experience may also be related to certain times of the year or changes in the seasons.

3) Other causes – the third and final category is wide ranging and includes many other factors such as:

  • diet
  • overwork
  • fatigue
  • trauma
  • pathogen infections

All of these causes can create specific patterns of signs and symptoms in a person’s health. By recognizing and addressing the causes and patterns of imbalance, the healing ability of the body can be nurtured to help regain a healthier state of balance.