We caught up with the wonderful Maeve O’Sullivan of Escapada Health and had a chat about the benefits of Chinese Medicine, the pressures we all face during the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic and how we can be better at proactively managing our stress on a day to day basis.
Moving into a ‘New Normal’ for Managing Stress
“The past few months have been unprecedented and for most it has been an emotional rollercoaster ranging from stress & fear to complete relaxation. Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the world and made everything slow down, but that does not mean our minds have stopped; or indeed the very aspects of our lives that can cause stress. When we think of the world beginning to re-open, what parts of the old way of living do you want to start again? Let’s explore stress and the impacts of it and it might just help guide you in to what you invite or don’t invite back into your life.
Modern day living had become a juggling act. We could have very often mistaken the feeling of being under stress for having energy, that buzz that kept us going. We looked up to the people who made every gym class, the people with a career orientated mindset, hitting every target and never missing a soccer game. Very often this person is so ‘pumped’ they don’t even have time for breakfast but grab a coffee instead or even a healthy juice thinking “that’s my bit done” and keeps on going. They run around from dawn to dusk and then low and behold, they are unable to sleep at night because their mind is racing through the list of jobs that needs doing the next day.
When we were in the habit of living such a fast-paced lifestyle, our bodies would sometimes go into a state of stress. We may not have necessarily felt stressed but our bodies recognised it as a state of stress because there was no down time or relaxation and we had forgotten to simply, breathe. When our bodies are like this, we release stress hormones so after some time our bodies start to feel minor events as critical events and a vicious cycle commences. This hormonal state makes the body hyper vigilant and stokes up our nervous system until it is hypersensitive. Our bodies start to live chronically in fight or flight mode. This comes from our ancestral times where we would find ourselves in a situation such as being chased by a bear – this reaction is essentially what gets us out of danger. We were only ever meant to live in this state short term not for months on end. So when our bodies are in this state, protecting us from “the bear” it isn’t concerned with helping us fight our regular day to day battles that should be a priority on our list.
It is normal that we go through times of stress, for a day, a week or even a few months and our bodies have time to recover. When we go through stressful times, we get through them by using our “overdraft” from the bank and once the stressful time passes, we pay our bodies back and build back up the reserve. What tends to happen, is our bodies can go into longer periods of stress and it becomes prolonged. Further going into overdraft, with no periods of time to pay back, nourish and rebuild.”
10 Top Tips for Managing Stress
1. Knowledge is Power:
Understand what is going on with you and your body is key. Understand the impact of stress and how that relates to symptoms that are happening in your body. We are all different and stress manifests differently in everyone. How can you manage your stress if you do not understand the main stressors in your life and its impact on your body?
2. Find what ritual resonates with you:
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the vast amount of information, techniques, rituals that are out there. It can be paralyzing and leave you with a sense of not knowing where to start. I would suggest trying out different rituals and feel what resonates with you. What makes you feel calmer, gives you more energy, makes you feel happier? For some that might be a fast run, but for others that will only increase cortisol and make you feel worse. Tune into your body and feel what is happening.
3. Step by Step:
Take small steps and only make small changes – they will lead to big changes over time. Life is busy but take some time this week and write down three positive healthy things that you will do consistently for the next four weeks, then repeat. Start crowding out the negative aspects with healthy and positive changes.
It can take over two months for changes to become habit. So, imagine for the next two months you choose the top 3 changes you feel you need to make and then they become your norm in the next 8 weeks! This is better than trying to do everything at once and dealing with failure stress on top of everything else.
4. Examine Your Belief Systems:
Are you doing things just because you always have even if they are causing you stress? Do you stay late at work because it the office culture? Do you fall into making yourself busy because society equates business to importance and productivity?
5. Reduce Stimulants:
Reduce stimulants, they will make you feel better in the short term but in the long term they only stagnate the liver more. Try herbal tea instead. Chrysanthemum tea clears heat (excessive yang energy) in the liver and calms the nerves. Add goji berries to balance the chrysanthemum’s inherent yin properties and to help nourish the liver – essential if you need to unwind and calm the system.
6. Sleep is not important, it is essential:
Sleep and health are strongly related – poor sleep can increase the risk of having poor health, and poor health can make it harder to sleep. Sleep disturbances can be one of the first signs of distress and that the body is out of balance. An old Chinese quote says “replenishing health with medicine is not as good as replenishing health with diet, but replenishing health with sleep is the best treatment of all”.
7. Manage your Diet:
Bitter and sour foods reduce excess of the liver caused by stress: Choose unrefined apple cider, brown rice, rice wine, or other quality vinegars. The flavour of vinegar is both bitter and sour. And has a detoxifying and highly activating properties. Its effect is improved by mixing it with honey – one teaspoon of each in a cup. Vinegar should not be relied on indefinitely; the basic diet must be improved instead. Since vinegar is warming, it can worsen the condition of those with heat signs; instead, substitute lemon, lime, or grapefruit which are also bitter/sour but cooling and more gradually acting.
Other bitter foods are rye, romaine lettuce, asparagus, amaranth, quinoa, alfalfa, radish leaves, and citrus peel. The many bitter herbs, particularly dandelion root, bupleurum, milk thistle seeds, Oregon grape root, chamomile flowers offer excellent liver-cleansing effects. Liquorice root can be used with bitter herbs to mask and mollify their harsh flavour
8. Give yourself an acupressure massage:
– Relaxation: Yin tang, an acupuncture point located between the eyebrows, correlates to the 6th chakra and is also known as the “third eye.” Yin tang is widely used for sleep disorders and stress management in Traditional Chinese Medicine and may stimulate what would be considered pineal gland function (producing melatonin) in Western medicine. After circling 100 times, you should feel more relaxed and ready to unwind.
– Sleep: Located behind the ear is an acupressure point called Anmian, which translates to “peaceful sleep” and is used to treat insomnia. It’s found between the back of the ear and the base of the skull, where there’s a slight depression next to a bone called the mastoid process. Place your finger on this depression and apply pressure in a circling motion to massage it. Use your favourite essential oil to help relax you.
9 . Movement:
When stressed, choose gentle exercise such as walking, swimming, and yoga instead of extreme gym sessions. Excessive workouts stress the body and overwork your tendons, so they may eventually lose their flexibility, impacting the Livers function of being “flexible” and quick healing. The important thing is, the liver needs to move so if it’s a 15 minute gentle walk, it’s a great start
10. Talk to People:
An often forgotten & very powerful stress reliever is talking. Talking to people and discussing your worries, problems and anxieties can really help alleviate what we call the ‘weight of stress’. Everything from having that chat with your neighbour, talking with family and friends or even striking up conversation with a stranger, can help boost serotonin levels in your body and provide a very positive boost to your wellbeing.
The truth is that we all need a stress management toolbox. So, take some time, examine areas that cause you the most stress and put a plan in place to create an empowered toolbox.”
If you would like to find out more about how Neon can provide online classes for your teams, create a Wellness Wednesday calendar for your employees, or develop a fully Branded Wellness Programme for your business, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Neon Team