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Chinese Medicine for Stress Management

Stress is nothing new, being part of the human experience since before the dawn of history. However, this name for the physical and emotional signs and symptoms of Stress did not find its way into the American conscience until as late as the 1950s. Perhaps the pressures of modern society surpass those of previous eras of human history. Ironically, despite the absence of earth-shattering wars and widespread disease, regardless of decent labor laws and plentiful necessities, this idea of happiness seems further and further out of reach.

The Yintang point between the eyebrows, and the Baihui point on the vertex both help to calm the mind.
As the pressure of providing for essentials collides with an ever-rising standard of happiness, Stress may set in. It can manifest as anxiety, a feeling of powerlessness, irritability, resentment, and anger; and in severe cases, can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, neck and shoulder tension, ulcers, hypertension, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, with its holistic view of the body, seeks to find a connection between these disparate symptoms. At its root, we generally view Stress as an excess pattern of the Liver. TCM believes that among other things, the Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (life energy) throughout the body and controls our emotions. When we are stressed, the Qi of the Liver stagnates - imagine a tree that can no longer grow upwards due to some sort of obstacle: its branches begin to knot up and reach out into places that it should not. Therefore, in addressing Stress, we must remove that obstacle and groom branches so that they grow in a harmonious manner.

The Hegu point in the webbing between the thumb and the forefinger helps to move Liver Qi; As "The Command Point of the Face," it is also great for headaches and other facial problems.
There are many measures you can do on your own. The first is to go back to the very basics of life. If you are dealing with a bout of Stress, you will typically find that your breathing is very shallow and you have a tendency to sigh. Take time out to concentrate on your breathing. Find a quiet place, assume a comfortable position and close your eyes. Placing the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, inhale deeply through your nose while letting your abdomen to expand; exhale through your mouth, pushing your abdominal muscles in. This motion exercises your diaphragm, which is right above your liver. The smooth motion itself can help break up stagnation.

Besides breathing, diet adjustment can also help your liver. Reduce foods high in saturated fats and processed foods. Use slightly spicy additives like garlic, onions, peppers, and ginger. Slightly sweet foods can help harmonize the Liver in mild cases, but bitter and sour foods such as lemons, limes, grapefruit, and vinegar can be used more severe cases.

Also address some of your habits. If possible, reduce or eliminate the amount of coffee you drink. As a stimulant, coffee makes an excess condition worse. Try tea as a replacement. Mint tea is especially helpful because it helps smooth the flow of Liver Qi. Do your best to remove tobacco and alcohol. Both are toxins that tax the Liver's function (both from a TCM and western view). As always, light exercise such as Taiji, cycling, or swimming are effective in helping Qi to move more freely.

The Taichong point between the first and second toes is the "Source Point" of the Liver. It is great for stress relief as well as other problems.
Finally, perform self-acupressure. A strong calming point is Yintang, located on the midline, between eyebrows. Another point is Du-20 (baihui), located on the midline, above the apex of the ears. To improve the circulation of Qi, select LI-4 (hegu) in the webbing between the thumb and index finger; in combination with LV-3 (taichong) in the webbing between the big and second toes. Rub gently on all of these points in a clockwise motion, and breathe deeply.

All of these methods are minor measures that can help you to deal with stress in your daily life. If you find that they are helping, but not enough, you may consider visiting a Chinese Medicine practitioner who can provide acupuncture treatment and prescribe herbal remedies.