Creative Sacred Living Magazine September 2014 - Page 78

Modern day living is stressful. Financial problems, workplace stresses, relationships, commuting - even reading the daily news brings stress. But stress is not a modern phenomenon. The ancient Chinese no doubt had their fair share of problems. They too would have been affected by food shortages, money, work problems, marital disharmony and sickness.

Stress is a part of life. Stress causes many problems apart from a constant feeling of anxiety, uncertainty and worry. If it is severe, it can lead to insomnia, loss of appetite, overeating, digestive problems, headaches and gynaecological problems. In relationships it can lead to more arguments with family members. It can lead to self-destructive behaviour like over-drinking, smoking too much, drugs or general irritability towards others. Or it can turn inwards leading to depression.

According to the UK Office of National Statistics, a report by the Health and Safety Executive issued in 2013, stress was listed as a prevalent factor in 428,000 cases of work related illnesses causing a loss of 10.4 million days in 2011/12. Cases were particularly high among nursing and teaching professionals. But with the economic problems in recent years, financial stress has become a prevalent problem for everyone.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the emotions are seen as a cause of disease and are a key factor in stress. Stress causes an over-expression of the emotions in the human body which can impact the body negatively.

The five key emotions are joy, sadness, pensiveness or worry, anger and fear. Emotions are a part of healthy human life and the expression of them can be beneficial. If someone close to us dies, we should be sad. If we lose our job we should be a little upset and a little angry. This anger can propel us to re-evaluate our life and give us a kick to move our life forward again. However, everything should be in moderation. It is when an emotion is overly experienced, that it can lead to disease. If we are too sad for a period of years it can actually hinder us and stop us from moving on. If we are too angry for too long, the anger starts to lash out against others or worse turns inwards into depression or self loathing.

In Chinese theory, the various organs of the body correspond to various emotions. For example, the heart relates to joy, the lung relates to sadness or grief, the kidney relates to fear, the liver relates to anger and the spleen relates to pensiveness or worry. If the human body is exposed to a particular emotion excessively it can lead to an overstimulation of the related organ and ultimately lead to a weakness which can affect the rest of the body and the organs because in the human body everything is inter-related.

The emotions related to stress are typically anger and irritation (Liver), worry (spleen), depression (Liver and Spleen) and to a lesser degree - fear (kidney) and sadness (lung). In this way stress has the potential to affect the entire body system in Chinese medicine and it is up to the trained acupuncturist to decide which system is most affected and which emotion is most prominent and treat accordingly. However, by far the most active organ in stress is the Liver.

The ancient Chinese liked to use analogies to describe how the body works and one way was to define the organs as members of the government. The Heart being the most important was called the Emperor. The Liver is traditionally called the General of the organ system. And if you imagine the General of the armed forces, you can imagine a very strong official - one that keeps the Empire (the body) safe and stable.

However, when the General is under pressure (perhaps by an attacking army) the General

Melt Away Stress

Emotions and Stress in Traditional Chinese Acupuncture