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Managing Mid-term Election Stress Naturally

The mid-term elections seem to have Americans experiencing a higher level of stress and anxiety than normal. According to a new survey published by the American Psychological Association, approximately 52 percent of Americans have said that the current political scene is a “somewhat or very significant source of stress.” In a society that already is known globally for our stressed out population, what can we to do to manage our stress?

According to traditional Chinese medical theory (TCM), we need to support and smooth our Liver Qi particularly during stressful times or risk dysfunction and additional complications. The Liver corresponds with the Wood element in TCM. Just like a tree needs to have flexibility in the wind, so too, should the Liver have flexibility during periods of increased stress. Some indications that your Liver energy might need some attention is moodiness/irritability/depression, outbursts of anger, pounding headaches, muscle rigidity/tension, & high blood pressure.

How do we soothe the Liver and reduce our stress response? I'm glad you asked!
Here are four natural ways to combat stress during the election season or anytime you're feeling stressed.

1.) Get Balanced with Acupuncture: Imbalances in the Wood element in TCM are treated often with a combination of acupuncture points. Much of the focus of treatment will likely be concentrated on balancing the Liver and Gall Bladder meridians. It's important to find a highly trained and licensed acupuncturist as they will be able to provide you with the best treatment for your specific pattern or disharmony.

2.) Reduce Alcohol Intake: Although it might be tempting to drink your way through election woes, it's a good idea to take it easy on the libations during periods of high stress. The liver is responsible to breakdown most of the alcohol consumed. This process generates toxins as a by-products that are even more harmful than alcohol. They damage liver cells, promote inflammation, and weaken the body’s natural defenses. Eventually, these problems can disrupt the body’s metabolism and impair the function of other organs. If you do over indulge, it's a good idea to drink lemon water to help support the liver's cleansing abilities as you recover. Your liver is the powerhouse keeping your body active and healthy, think before you drink!

3.) Practice Qi Gong Horse Stance: Connecting movement and breath is vital in activating the parasympathetic nervous system and calming our bodies and minds. When we get caught up in arguments, strained relationships, and things outside of our control, (for example in politics), it's easy to over stimulate out sympathetic nervous system and turn on the "fight or flight" response in our bodies. This pumps our bodies full of hormones that snowball this effect and before we know it we're really stressed-out. QiGong can help you bring our body and mind back into harmony and balance. One of my favorite poses for exercising and soothing the liver energy is the Horse-Stance. To do this simple pose follow these simple steps:
-Stand with feet shoulder width apart, with feet parallel.
-Bend your knees slightly to avoid a "locked" knee stance.
-Bend your elbows slightly to round the arms and drop the shoulders down to a relaxed position
(This pose can also be done with the arms rounded and lifted to shoulder height).
-Turn pelvis under by rounding the tailbone and lengthen your spine with your head lifted.
-Focus your breath on the area just below your belly button. In TCM we call this area the "Dantian, the root of the tree of life." Concentrate on filling this space and expanding the ribs.
-Build up to a practice of 20 minutes in Horse Stance.

4.) Take a Walk in the Woods: The practice of "forest bathing" has become common place in Japan, with good reason. As a preventive medicine goes, forest bathing seems to significantly reduce the root cause of a multitude of ailments: STRESS. Excess stress can play a role in imbalances leading to a variety of ailments such as headaches, high blood pressure, and mood disorders. Forest bathing promotes increased parasympathetic activity, reduces cortisol, which helps the body rest, restore, and remain healthy. In addition, plants have been found to emit a chemical called phytoncides. This chemical naturally protects plants from rotting and insect invasion. When people breathe this same chemical in, there is an increase in the number of “natural killer” cells produced in the body, which are part of a natural immune response to cancer. For more on this please reference a scientific review titled, “Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function,” by Qing Li of the Department of Hygiene and Public Health at Japan’s Nippon Medical School. So go ahead, turn off the media machine, unplug from it all and recharge your body and mind on a walk in the woods!

“Walking just for the pleasure of walking, freely and firmly, without hurrying. We are present in every step. When we wish to speak, we stop walking and lend all our attention to the person before us, to speaking and to listening… Stop, look around, and see how wonderful life is: the trees, the white clouds, the infinite sky. Listen to the birds, delight in the light breeze. Let us walk as free people and feel our steps growing lighter as we walk. Let us appreciate every step we take.” — Thich Nhat Hanh