“Let go of what is beyond your control and do what is within your power.”
Life contains stressful periods. Adapting ourselves to the new situation, lowering stress and increasing your resistance are priorities. In prehistoric times, the degree of your adaptability was even a matter of life or death. Keeping calm and taking the right approach to get through this situation takes good leadership. Openness and clarity give confidence and security.
What about your adaptability? What does this situation do to you? Will you continue to do what you always did? Do feelings of insecurity and/or fear surface? Uncertainty about the course of life and not knowing what is to come affects everyone.
Structure and clarity provide security and support. Take care of your structure first and then focus on the group of people around you. Ask yourself the following questions: What is this doing to me? And what can I do?
“Your strength develops the strength of the other”
What does stress do to your body?
From the Western vision and Chinese medicine I give a short explanation of what stress does to your body and what we can do to increase our resistance.
Stress and emotions
If you produce too many stress substances for too long, your body will eventually be unable to relax enough. Your body’s physiology is out of balance. You are constantly alert, which exhausts your energy. The balance between the interconnected systems in your body is disrupted. Experiencing too much stress for a long time causes physical wear and tear that can ultimately be harmful. Fortunately, this process is reversible for a very long time and you can ensure that your body comes back into balance.
Daily Stress vs Chronic Stress
Daily stress activates your sympathetic nervous system. Your body is alert. Which is no problem at all, as long as you take the time to relax.
In chronic stress, your sympathetic nervous system is continuously on. This keeps your cortisol level* elevated. This affects your physical fitness, you feel tense, restless and tired. Ultimately, the flexibility of the immune system decreases and you may have to deal with infectious diseases and sleeping problems. This reaction should be reversed as soon as possible.
* Cortisol Level: Cortisol is a hormone that is made in the adrenal cortex. It is sometimes referred to as the stress hormone because it is released with any kind of stress both physical and psychological. The release of cortisol triggers a process that releases energy. This energy is used to bring the body back into homeostasis (optimal stability)
You understand that, if the body is not brought back into optimal stability, it will continue to rage with all the consequences that entails. Characteristic emotions are: fear, concern, anger, hostility and depressed feelings. The possible consequence is chronic fatigue, burnout and/or depression.
Also read: How Long-Term Stress Damages Your Energetic Body (and What You Can Do About It!)
Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System
The sympathetic nervous system gets your body into action. The parasympathetic nervous system ensures that the body returns to rest and can recover. You can compare that with an accelerator pedal and a brake pedal in the car.
These two systems balance each other, like yin and yang. Balance in these processes ensures that you are and remain healthy. Too much yang will eventually wear you out and too much yin will keep you from acting. Yang is turned outward, action-oriented, yin is turned inward and provides tranquility. The alternation in these two factors is the balance that Chinese medicine speaks of. Essentially you can find the same thing in the western view, it just takes a little longer to find. Within Chinese medicine, this vision has been integrated into one whole, a holistic vision.
Stress and breathing are inextricably linked. For years I have been studying the influence of breathing on stress and various processes in your body. The importance of good breathing is endorsed from a scientific and spiritual point of view. The method of Wim Hof (Iceman) , the HearthMath Institute or the method of Stans van der Poel, they all agree that correct breathing is important for health.
Although breathing is autonomous, it can also be controlled. Through our breathing we can influence our stress level and therefore our health.
Exercise: Breathing and relaxation
- Sit quietly in a chair. Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and turn your attention to your feet. Wiggle your toes and slowly move your attention upwards. Through your legs to your buttocks on the chair. Be aware of your body. Are you relaxed?
- Bring your attention to your stomach. Is your stomach relaxed? Let go of your muscles. Now go up to your chest and shoulders. Shrug your shoulders and let them go. Bring your attention to your head and jaw muscles. Let go of everything.
- Now turn your attention to your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly. Two counts in, two counts out and a moment of rest. Without power and everything relaxed. The moment of rest ensures the exchange of O2 and CO2 and is therefore a very important moment. In times of stress, your muscles tighten more. This increased muscle tension often causes incorrect breathing.
By tightening your pelvic and abdominal muscles, chest breathing is created. You will breathe higher and faster. If this continues for a long time, you can get the feeling that you are short of air. Regular sighing is one way to cope with this.
Another breathing pattern that can develop during times of stress is breathing too deeply. This also creates an imbalance in your body and disrupts the physiology and the O2-CO2 balance.
When your breathing pattern is wrong for a long time, it has become a pattern. Often even without you realizing it. Paying attention to yourself and learning to breathe again is the only thing that helps.
Good breathing is also very important from Chinese medicine. Food and breathing are sources of energy supply (Qi) for your body. The difference in Chinese thinking is that physical, mental and emotional aspects are included in the view of health. Everything is one whole.
From the Western view, feelings influence certain areas in the brain. From there nerve impulses go to organs. However, the feelings themselves are disregarded and have a subordinate role in the Western view.
Chinese medicine sees this differently . There emotions are the causative agents of diseases. Feelings cannot be separated from organs, but together they form a whole. The goal is to learn to balance these feelings: all extremes cause problems. That is why the balance of yin and yang is so important in Chinese medicine: everything revolves around the right balance and conservation of energy.
From Chinese medicine you can distinguish two types of fears. There is a fear of looking ahead, which is the yang aspect of fear (future-oriented/action). And there is a fear of looking back into the past. That is the yin aspect (processing emotions/turning inward). Panic attacks are seen as a yin aspect and have to do with the past. By pricking certain acupuncture points on the kidney meridian, there can be a rapid decrease. The kidney organs are linked to the emotion of fear and belong to the water element.
Defense Chi – Wei chi
Within Chinese medicine, Wei-chi is an important layer that we need to pay attention to. The Wei-chi is responsible for regulating pores, sweat and body temperature. Wei-chi is controlled by the lungs (breath). Keeping the lung chi up is therefore very important.
How do you stay in balance?
Keep rhythm in your day. Provide a good variety in action and relaxation and think about your day and night rhythm. The morning and day is yang and from the afternoon and evening this changes into yin. Adjust your behavior and food/drink accordingly. This way you go along with the natural rhythm of day and night.
Emotions and thoughts
Listen to yourself. What touches you and what do you feel? If it is not clear to you, talk to someone about it or write it down. This way you gain insight into yourself and you get rid of tension because you can share it. Try to recognize and acknowledge emotions and also keep your thoughts as positive as possible. Without compromising on reality. Let go of what you can’t influence and do what you can influence.
Take time for yourself and pay attention to your breathing. Take a break from your activities at least three times a day and sit quietly. It only needs to be three minutes, even that has an influence. Small changes have a big impact on the whole.
Food and herbs
Food and herbs influence your resistance, but if you do not take time for yourself, if you ignore your emotions and thoughts, this will not make much difference. A body that is in balance absorbs nutrients much better. A stressed body is busy with completely different things. It provides the state of readiness to fight or flee. That state of being takes a lot of energy. Your digestive processes are then of secondary importance. The use of herbs can help increase your resistance and decrease stress in your body.
There are various teas that help lower your stress level and support increasing your resistance. Of course it is never just the tea, but your entire lifestyle is decisive. Below are a few herbs that I regularly use myself.
Soothing tea: chamomile, lemon balm , lavender, passion flower.
Resistance-enhancing tea : ginger (possibly with cinnamon and lemon), dandelion , milk thistle, elderflower
Antimicrobial tea : dill, marigold, sage and thyme.
Two special South American herbs : Pau d’Arco and Yerba mate
Furthermore, the use of Echinacea is recommended as a tincture. Possibly supplemented with extra supplements such as vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin D or a good multivitamin.
Tinctures : Echinacea
A stress-free day
Start of the day
Start the day with Oil pulling
Substances are quickly absorbed into the blood via the oral mucosa, including harmful substances. Oil pulling causes harmful substances and bacteria to attach to the fat. What you do is this: rinse your mouth with an oil (good quality coconut oil is best). Take a small amount and let it pass through your mouth. After some time, between two and ten minutes, you spit it out.
Drink a glass of water, not too cold (cooled boiled water) with Echinacea and take extra vitamin C.
Have a tasty and healthy breakfast, for example a breakfast with oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, or a green juice. A hot breakfast such as a soup is also very healthy, do what suits you.
Then do some exercises like yoga or tai chi. I myself do a mixture of some yoga and sports exercises: stretches, push-ups, squats and abdominal exercises. Of course you can also do this for your breakfast.
Get to work, but before you begin, do a breathing exercise (as described above) for three minutes. Pay attention to your posture when you are in front of the computer and continue to breathe relaxed during the day. Sit upright to allow your breathing to flow naturally. Sitting up straight provides a light training of the postural muscles in your body.
For lunch you take a soup, omelette or something else that suits you. Then take a break and go for a walk or take a rest.
Do a breathing exercise for three minutes before you start your work. Go back to work until about five o’clock. Eat an apple or nuts in between and drink tea or water. Do an exercise every hour, go for a walk, do push-ups, or do something else that keeps you active. Keep the energy flowing to your brain.
Stop on time, clean up, cook and wash the dishes. Eat tasty and healthy . Not too heavy, especially if you eat after eight. Between 6 and 8 dinner is the most optimal.
In the evening you go back to rest mode, yin. Drink soothing teas such as chamomile, verbena, or lemon balm . Mint tea is of course also very suitable. Avoid heavy food, coffee and other drinks. This gives action and is yang.
Do not go to work after dinner but relax, prepare for the night. Slowly return to rest mode, make sure your body is back in balance. Do another breathing exercise for three minutes before going to sleep .
Are you a worrier? Then write or talk to others. Sharing your emotions helps to organize them and gain insight into yourself. Have faith and let go of what is outside of you. Only do what is within your sphere of influence.
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Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Michael Grandjean-Dr. Klaus Birker, 2004
Herbal Medicine Handbook, Anne McIntyre, 2010
Totalhealth Academy, herbal medicine training, Chinherbs