Rituals For Stress Relief11/04/2022, Katie Brindle, Preventative Health Expert, Women’s Wellness Commentator & Founder of Hayo’u
Stress is how the body reacts when it feels threatened or under pressure. Although usually unwelcome, it is a normal, and indeed necessary function. In Western medicine we know it as the fight or flight response. Chinese Medicine understands that stress, although a natural and inevitable part of life for almost everyone, is something that can easily be controlled so that any of the low-level niggles that we experience each day as we go about our busy lives can be cleared, preventing them from gaining a foothold in the body, and potentially causing illness.
In times gone by, as part of the fight or flight response, the body would have naturally regulated itself because after a stressful or threatening situation we would have retreated or slept, and this period of rest would have healed and rebalanced the body. Chinese Medicine understands this as the Yin/Yang axis.
Yin and Yang are opposite, yet complementary, forces that work together to create a balanced whole – Yin representing the passive, and Yang the active; Yin nourishes and supports Yang and Yang supports and nourishes Yin. During the fight or flight response Yang energy is what will enable the body to act, by either fighting or fleeing, and Yin is the nourishing force that will come into play afterwards, enabling the body to recover and heal. As a general rule, when Yin and Yang are balanced, the 5 key organs of the body – the Heart, Liver, Lungs, Kidney and Spleen - will be in harmony.
However, due to the nature of modern-day stress and the fact that we are far too sedentary, we find that the Yang nature of the fight or flight response is just so acutely Yang that we actually remain in this sedentary state, rather than being primed for action. And because being sedentary is Yin in nature, the situation becomes chronic, so disharmonies arise in the organs of the body, resulting in our stress-related symptoms. It is because the Yin/Yang axis, the counterbalance of stress relaxation – stress – relaxation, isn’t being effectively maintained.
The problem today is that we are far more inactive than we have ever been before; our circulation is constantly compromised, we are continually stressed, therefore our bodies are always out of balance. All of which disrupts the 3 key principles of good health:
- The smooth flow of circulation
- The consistent purging and nourishing of all cells
- Strengthening the 5 key organs; Heart, Lungs, Liver, Kidneys and Spleen
It is this imbalance that causes us to have the symptoms of stress, such as poor skin, sluggish digestion, disturbed sleep and low mood or depression. Thankfully, it is surprisingly easy to resolve; to keep the body in balance and clear of deep-rooted accumulated stress if we understand what we need to do and why we need to do it.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to begin your self-care practice is to breathe. Simply close your eyes and take mindful, deep, abdominal breaths, in through the nose for the count of five and then out through the nose for the count of five. As you do this, visualise and focus on a gentle smile extending across the lower abdomen. Repeat at least five times.
By moving your awareness out of your head and into your breath, your heart rate slows, your mind is calmed, and your blood oxygenated. Proper breathing is one of the best ways to stimulate the vagus nerve, which triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, your body’s rest mode.
Tapping the skin every day, even for as little as one minute, improves circulation and enables the free flow of blood and qi around the body, helping to support lymphatic drainage, clear stagnation and balance the five key organs, essential in dealing with accumulated heat and inflammation. It is one of the easiest ways to support overall health and wellbeing, keeping stress under control before it can become chronic.
Body Gua Sha
For thousands of years, Gua Sha has been used as a technique to treat a whole range of conditions including fever, muscle pain, tension, coughs and, of course, stress. As it relaxes the body, stimulating the circulatory system, microcirculation is increased by up to 400%, offering a host of benefits including supporting the lymphatic and immune systems, maintaining skin elasticity, boosting collagen and elastin, and - vital for treating stress – resetting the parasympathetic nervous system.
Qigong will boost your oxygen uptake and circulation, while – importantly – you are in a relaxed state, rather than the usual strenuous workouts that can put additional stress on the body, often depleting energy further. It is a practice that provides immediate results and long-term benefits – the ultimate self-healing technique and perfect for ensuring natural low-level stresses are dealt with efficiently, and indeed enjoyably, before they are able to get a foothold in the body and cause longer-term problems.
Despite the fact that stress affects all of us so profoundly and is the root issue of so many of our modern day ailments, once you understand why it is happening, it is actually very simple to resolve. You just need to adopt these very simple one minute practices and use a gong app to be reminded to apply them throughout your day. This will immediately nip the problem in the bud and keep your body balanced. Deeper practices such as a qigong classes or a cold water immersion then build on these simple one minute techniques to really ensure your body stays healthy and strong.
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|About The Author|
Katie Brindle is a Preventative Health Expert, Women’s Wellness Commentator, Founder of the multi award-winning 360° lifestyle brand Hayo’u and best-selling author of Yang Sheng: The Art of Chinese Self-Healing.