Chinese Medicine for Stress and Anxiety.


Anxiety is a common yet complex mental health condition that can significantly impact a person's daily life. From persistent worry to physical symptoms like rapid heart rate and shallow breathing, anxiety manifests in various ways. In this blog post, we'll delve into the intricacies of anxiety, explore its root causes, and provide practical tips for managing and finding relief, including Chinese Medicine as an adjunct therapy. 


Understanding Anxiety: What Is It?

Anxiety is a natural response to stress or perceived threats. It triggers the body's "fight or flight" response, preparing it to react to a potentially dangerous situation. However, when anxiety becomes chronic or disproportionate to the situation, it can hinder daily functioning and overall well-being.


Types of Anxiety Disorders

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

Characterized by excessive, uncontrollable worry about everyday things, GAD can lead to physical symptoms like restlessness and muscle tension.

2. Panic Disorder:

This involves sudden, intense episodes of fear, often accompanied by physical symptoms like chest pain, sweating, and dizziness.

3. Social Anxiety Disorder:

Individuals with this disorder experience overwhelming fear of social situations and interactions, leading to avoidance behaviour.

4. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):

OCD involves persistent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) aimed at reducing anxiety.

5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

PTSD can develop after exposure to a traumatic event and is characterised by flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety. It isn't limited to people serving in the military or emergency services. 



Root Causes and Triggers

  • Genetic Predisposition: Some individuals may be more genetically susceptible to anxiety disorders. Does any anxiety disorder run in your family?
  • Brain Chemistry: Imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine can contribute to anxiety.
  • Environmental Factors: Stressful life events, trauma, and chronic stress can trigger or exacerbate anxiety particularly in the case of PTSD. Often military personnel or emergency services workers are more likely to experience PTSD as a result of their job. But it can also happen to any individual in a traumatic situation for example, experiencing a stillbirth, domestic violence, motor vehicle accidents or natural disasters.
  • Personality Traits: Perfectionism, excessive worrying, and a tendency to be highly self-critical can be underlying factors.

 


Coping Strategies for Managing Anxiety

Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help calm the mind, reduce racing thoughts, and promote a sense of grounding. Meditation also includes breathwork.

Breathing Exercises: Deep, diaphragmatic breathing techniques can activate the body's relaxation response, alleviating anxiety symptoms.

Regular Exercise: Physical activity releases endorphins, which improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Prioritize balanced nutrition, adequate sleep, and limit caffeine and alcohol intake.



Seeking Professional Support


For severe or persistent anxiety, seeking professional help is crucial. Firstly your doctor or GP. Secondly, Psychologists, counsellors, and psychiatrists can offer various forms of therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication when necessary.
In our fast-paced world, stress and anxiety have become common companions for many. Thirdly Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a n adjunct therapy to the others mentioned above. It offers a holistic approach to managing these challenges, addressing symptomatic relief and helping support the management process. 


Understanding Stress and Anxiety in Traditional Chinese Medicine


In TCM, stress and anxiety are often attributed to imbalances in the body's Liver and Kidney Qi (energy) and Heart Shen (spirit). These imbalances can lead to stagnation, disrupting the natural flow and causing emotional distress. It doesn’t mean there’s anything physically wrong with these organs when we mention Liver or Heart – it is how we categorise symptom patterns in Chinese Medicine and make a correct diagnosis.

Liver tends to relate to Stress and how it is experienced in the body; frustration, anger and rage or depression.

Heart relates to joy that is out of balance or lack therof, resulting in sadness, panic or anxious feelings.

Kidneys relate to fear, feeling on edge, paralysed will.



Chinese Herbs for Stress and Anxiety


Reishi Mushroom (Lingzhi):

Reishi is known as the "Mushroom of Immortality" in TCM. It helps calm the mind, soothe the spirit, and tonify the Qi, making it a valuable herb for reducing anxiety.

Schisandra Berry (Wu Wei Zi):

This adaptogenic herb helps the body adapt to stress and supports the adrenals. It's known for its ability to calm the mind and enhance mental clarity.

Ginseng (Ren Shen):

Ginseng is a powerful adaptogen that helps the body adapt to stressors. It nourishes Qi and strengthens the Spleen, offering support for those dealing with chronic stress.

Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu):

This herb is commonly used in formulas for emotional well-being. It helps regulate the Liver Qi, which, when stagnant, can contribute to feelings of frustration and irritability.


Acupuncture for Stress and Anxiety


Acupuncture is a cornerstone of TCM, involving the insertion of thin needles at specific points to stimulate the flow of Qi. Based on general clinical trials, it has been shown to:
1. Regulate the Nervous System: Acupuncture helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a state of relaxation and may assist reduction in stress levels.
2. Balance Hormones: Acupuncture may help regulate hormone levels, including those related to stress and anxiety.
3. In it's own paradigm, it also can Clear Stagnation: By promoting the flow of Qi and blood, acupuncture can alleviate the physical manifestations of stress, such as tension headaches and muscle stiffness.

In conclusion, Anxiety is a complex condition that can manifest in various forms. Understanding its root causes and implementing effective coping strategies is essential for managing anxiety and improving overall well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, don't hesitate to seek professional support. Remember, you're not alone, and there are resources available to help you navigate through this journey toward greater mental health and wellness.

If you're dealing with persistent stress or anxiety, consider consulting a Registered (Aus) TCM practitioner who can create a personalised treatment plan tailored to your unique needs. Embrace the wisdom of TCM and embark on a journey towards greater well-being and emotional harmony. To make an appointment on Sydney's Northern Beaches, you can book online here: https://www.ezybook.net/pages/familywellnesscentre/

Further reading:

Tips on managing Christmas time Stress

TMJ and teeth grinding

Jaw Pain and stress

Insomnia and Acupuncture

 

References:
1. Tierra, M. (1998). The Way of Chinese Herbs. Pocket Books.
2. Maciocia, G. (2013). The Practice of Chinese Medicine: The Treatment of Diseases with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs. Churchill Livingstone.
3. Aung, S. K. H., & Chen, W. P. (2007). Clinical Introduction to Medical Acupuncture. Thieme.

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