Learning to manage our stress

                Learn­ing to man­age our stress by Olivi­er Lejus

 Most people would agree that tech­no­lo­gic­al pro­gress has made our lives more enjoy­able in many dif­fer­ent ways. The down­turn has unfor­tu­nately been an increase in the pace of liv­ing.. Our brains are con­stantly being asked to pro­cess more inform­a­tion that they can handle, we struggle to make sev­er­al decisions at once, and stress becomes a major part of our lives.

When the body feels under phys­ic­al or emo­tion­al duress, it imme­di­ately responds by switch­ing into emer­gency mode. This trig­ger a response from the adren­al medulla gland which is one of two little organs loc­ated on top of the kid­neys.

In what is often described as “the flight-or-fight syn­drome”, the adren­al gland activ­ates its hor­mone to divert blood from the tem­por­ary less import­ant organs to the brain, heart and skelet­al muscles as the body get into high alert and ready for action. Soon the heart rate increases, and the blood pres­sure rises due to the vaso­con­stric­tion of the blood ves­sels to lim­it poten­tial bleed­ing.  This is how our nervous sys­tem has developed to respond to poten­tial threats since the time we were cave dwell­ers who had to fight for sur­viv­al on a daily basis. Unfor­tu­nately, our brain doesn’t dis­crim­in­ate wheth­er we are being attacked by a bear, a mug­ger weld­ing a butcher knife, or we are just pan­ick­ing about run­ning late to a work appoint­ment. The physiolo­gic­al response is more or less the same. When less blood is being pumped into our digest­ive organs on a reg­u­lar basis, our diges­tion soon gets affected. Since our brain is in con­stant alert, we have dif­fi­culties relax­ing and can’t get to sleep. We start pro­du­cing more red blood cells to com­pensate for poten­tial blood loss, but few­er white blood cells for build­ing up our immunity. So we get sick more often. Soon irrit­ab­il­ity and anger become con­stant com­pan­ions.

Anger stim­u­lates more sym­path­et­ic nervous sys­tem activ­ity than oth­er emo­tions.  It increases the heart rate and tem­per­at­ure which leads to rise in blood pres­sure. Numer­ous med­ic­al stud­ies have shown that men with high levels of anger were three times more likely to die from coron­ary heart dis­ease (CHD), than the rest of the pop­u­la­tion.

In most Asi­an cul­tures los­ing con­trol of our tem­per is seen as a sign of men­tal weak­ness. Chinese medi­cine presents anger as a destruct­ive emo­tion that can impact many organs and sys­tems in the body. Accord­ing to Chinese medicine’s the­ory, the liv­er, from the wood ele­ment, is respons­ible for the smooth flow of Qi (energy) through­out the body and the reg­u­la­tions of our emo­tions. The abil­ity to make decision wisely is also asso­ci­ated with the liv­er energy. That organ is often com­pared to a prime min­is­ter in a gov­ern­ment. When the wood ele­ment loses its flex­ib­il­ity, it becomes rigid. So, we become set in our ways, and we con­stantly struggle to accom­mod­ate to changes in cir­cum­stances. Emo­tions such as anger, irrit­ab­il­ity, and frus­tra­tion are all signs that our liv­er Qi is not flow­ing smoothly. Since the liv­er is said to store the blood, liv­er dys­func­tion brings up symp­toms such as: head­aches, dizzi­ness, eye prob­lems, and men­stru­al pain.  The con­nec­tion with stress and digest­ive prob­lems is also present in Ori­ent­al medi­cine thru the con­nec­tion between the liv­er and the spleen. When the liv­er (wood) energy gets out of con­trol, it over­powers the earth ele­ment rep­res­en­ted by the spleen and stom­ach, and the digest­ive prob­lems become chron­ic.

So what can we do to avoid this destruct­ive pat­tern?

Both the Inter­net and mobile phone can eas­ily creep up into our lives to become an addic­tion and a source of per­man­ent stress. Since the pace of tech­no­lo­gic­al pro­gress is not about to slow down any time soon, we have to learn to accom­mod­ate our life­style accord­ingly.

Next month, we will be look­ing at dif­fer­ent ways to har­mon­ize our lives while still mak­ing the most of what mod­ern tech­no­logy has to offer.


Olivi­er Lejus MHSc.BHSc. is a registered acu­punc­tur­ist prac­tising in Sydney.


About Olivier Lejus

I was born in France and I emigrated to Australia in 1980. I worked as a circus performer, puppeteer and actor before I began studying Traditional Chinese Medicine a the University of Technology of Sydney in 1997. I graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of of science degree in Traditional Chinese medicine. I am now specializing in Japanese style acupuncture for the treatment of female and male infertility, pain, and anxiety.

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