Tackling fatigue, stress and anxiety – a holistic approach for everyday care.
I see a lot of people suffering from stress related illness, or symptoms at least aggravated by stress. Research suggests that about two thirds of the working age population experience moderate to high levels of stress.
What actually is this ominous stress? It is the body’s response to a challenging situation; increasing alertness and energy, and in small amounts at the right time, this can be useful in providing drive and a sense of achievement.
However, it puts the body into what we call “fight or flight” response; releasing hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol and increasing our heart rate. A body that is put into this mode constantly will eventually start to break down. Disease such as adrenal fatigue, a host of metabolic disorders or mental health issues may arise. With prolonged stress comes sleeping disorders, anxiety or even an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
How does all this translate into Chinese medicine? To better understand, we have to learn a tiny bit of Chinese medicine basics. We talk about 5 elements in Chinese medicine: earth, metal, water, wood and fire. The liver is the organ associated with wood and it is the one most assaulted by stress. Just like a tree, wood as an element likes to grow in fresh air and open spaces. The liver needs movement like a fish needs water.
With the constant onslaught of stress and with our lifestyle of prolonged sitting indoors, this organ, that thrives on movement, stagnates. Because the liver is responsible for spreading the Qi, the life force, all our bodily energy throughout our body and organs, everything comes to a standstill. We cannot cope any more, we cannot function. That is why sometimes you may get that urge to go for a run. I urge you, please go. Please take a break. Go for a run, go for walk on the beach or through the trees in the forest. Incidentally, the colour of the liver and the wood element is green and so are the trees. In this way, going into the forest has a particularly calming effect on you. The liver connects to the outside world through the eyes and looking at trees can undo a lot of the stagnation and depletion that comes from staring at screens all day long.
Stress makes the Qi stagnate. Unfortunately, once that Qi is not moving smoothly anymore it can start to become reckless and attack other organs, causing havoc with our digestive system; diarrhoea and constipation, bloating and indigestion. The Qi that does not move any more cannot move our periods properly any longer and pain ensues; sometimes appearing out of the blue when we have never had any problems before. Many women tell me how their periods are not as painful on holidays. When the Qi goes up uncontrollably, high blood pressure, headaches or neck pain can follow.
Of course, we want to do something before pain gets chronic or our digestive system out of control. However, many of us are resistant to making necessary lifestyle changes, or cannot see how we possibly could with mortgage stress and work pressures forever increasing. That is when people come to me. I can help them. I use herbal medicine and acupuncture that can help regulate the nervous system and circulate that stagnant Qi. More often than not, my treatments create the space that people need to see where they can make changes.
During our consultation I can teach you how to combat anxiety and fatigue by providing easy to use guidelines for exercise approaches as well as dietary recommendations suitable for where you are at today.
By Dr Jacqueline Barnett (BTCM)
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioner
Health CMI. (2019). Acupuncture Regulates the Nervous System Research. Retrieved from https://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/770-nervousst36p5p6
Maciocia, G. (2005). The foundations of Chinese medicine. Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
Pitchford, P. (2009). Healing with whole foods. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books.
Victoria State Government. (2019). Stress. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/stress
Wiegner, L., Hange, D., Björkelund, C., & Ahlborg, G. (2015). Prevalence of perceived stress and associations to symptoms of exhaustion, depression and anxiety in a working age population seeking primary care – an observational study. BMC Family Practice, 16(1). doi: 10.1186/s12875-015-0252-7