I feel moderately obligated to skip ahead and talk about fear with all this snow buzz, but as I’ve spent all week treating spiked levels of stress I must stay true to course.
The most dangerous aspect of stress is thinking that it is inevitable. Don’t get me wrong there are going to be times in our lives when we experience trauma, loss of a loved one, birth of a baby, or a serious illness when stress is the only certainty. There is an expected chaos in the first month after bringing a baby into a house. That is stress even in all its glory. The first six months of a job are stressful. Moving is stressful. Losing a job is stressful. However, it is important to gage if your response to the stress level is appropriate.
Quantity of Stress
The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory is a great place to begin. I first learned about this way of scaling stress when I took a Psychology class in preparation for going to grad school. At the time I was feeling like my life was just starting to settle down after a raucous few years. I took the test and scored off the charts. I think I got double the danger score. It helped me put into perspective how long the body takes to recover from stress. Even “Major Holidays” is on the list. It isn’t just me who can’t handle the amount of necessary socializing around Christmas, the holidays are tough on all of us.
So for fun take the test and write down your score. If your score is crazy high, start contemplating how you can begin to nurture yourself. Strong health and good self-care habits can help the body digest stress faster. If your score is really low and you’re running around with your head cut off, maybe it is time to think about prioritizing responsibilities and how much “doing” is going on in your life.
It has been my experience that the people I treat for stress are not living insane lifestyles. Whenever I think about the jetsetting lifestyle, like Hillary Clinton being in ten counties in one day, I am reminded that stress is all about quantity of qi and blood in the body.
Stress and Qi
Let’s get very basic here. Let’s pretend qi is money. Each day your budget needs to include enough money to digest three meals ($50), walk you around ($3), power your brain ($10), move the blood ($1), move the qi ($1), breathe ($3), beat your heart ($3), lift things ($10). If the digestive system is malfunctioning then it is important to remember you have less than $50 in the bank. Since all of those other things are non-negotiable, the digestion takes a hit.
Think about all the things not on the list. Be nice to your significant other, play with your kids, call up friends, exercise, cook meals, have sex, grocery shop, maneuver traffic, make decisions, balance your checkbook, worry. If the body isn’t capable of functioning on the most basic level how in the world can it do anything else? There is only so much qi. If your digestive system is fine, but the extracurricular activities (you know the necessary life things) are doing you in, you are still qi deficient.
Life doesn’t cause stress, our bodies get weak and we can’t handle what life throws at us.
The stress response is very easy to understand if you think of it like not having enough money or enough food. Resources are scarce, you are in survival mode!
Frustration is the biggest martyr of all emotions. The people who experience frustration are being cleaned out by the tasks, responsibilities or people that steal their qi. They barely have any left and they just keep giving it away. Their bodies intuitively know they’ve got nothing left to give, but they don’t know how to make a change or build themselves up.
At the point frustration starts to creep in the weak, lethargic qi has started to slow down and stick in certain points. At this point the frustration is usually a irritability, anger and frustration cocktail, but it is no longer as easy to treat as anger or irritability. Now the qi is depleted and needs building.
Build Qi To Control Stress
- Spend less than you make (ie. rest more, do less)
- Eat food with qi still in it (oranges from South Africa have less qi than an apple from Hatfield)
- Eat your foods pre-digested (steam, simmer, stew, bake, soak, sauté, grill—let the body do less)
- Exercise Responsibly (you should feel better after exercise, not worse)
- Stay warm
- Get 8 hours of sleep at night (or more)
If you are doing all of that and it isn’t working then we need to talk. Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture can boost the digestive system enough to help you get the qi from the good diet you are already eating.
Is Stress A Problem?
- Sleep is affected
- Digestion is affected
- There is no end in sight
- Your symptoms are getting worse
- You use food (sweets, salt, fat, carbs) to soothe stress
- You can no longer rest in your downtime
- You feel frustrated with everyone in your life
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