Anxiety & Stress Busting

Life Can Be Better

bg9Stress creeps up on us all. We don’t actively choose to be stressed. Most of us don’t even realise how much of it has become part of our lives.  Stress  is a perception  of a real or imagined threat, and we are kicked  into the fight-or-flight response. This is a normal  response to stressful situations , requiring us to adjust and change. So stress isn’t all bad.  But when the balance tilts the wrong way, then suddenly it can become hard to function, at home, at work, or in social situations. And it can be brought upon by different kinds of trauma at any stage in life.

Anxiety, which, according to the Harvard Medical School, is one of the spin offs of stress,   and affects more than 40 million people . It is very real to those of us affected by it. People often describe it as feeling completely stuck in a situation. Whether it’s a problem with work and meeting deadlines, a relationship that seems to be getting nowhere, no matter how hard we try; or trying to juggle a career, mortgage payments and starting a family. Even the smallest problems then can become overwhelming

When it becomes part of our way of being in the everyday  sense,  we begin to see the signs. Our hearts start pounding faster, we get palpitations, headaches and sweaty palms. We become upset easily, suffer from low self esteem and even the smallest problem becomes insurmountable.  We feel tired all the time and sleep badly.We find it very hard to get up in the morning, hate Mondays with a vengeance and spend a lot of time sitting around. Bills and letters remain unopened and the house is in a continual state of clutter, and we are unable to work productively. We dread making phone calls and feel worried most of the time. This can be accompanied by a continual knot in our stomachs and panic attacks. Depression, headaches, phobias and stomach problems can also come into play. One or all of these symptoms can affect our daily lives. There is no shame in being like this. But we have to ask ourselves, are we living or just existing?

Even some celebrities have been open about their stress and anxiety problems .  Johnny Depp’s struggle with panic disorders are well known and his old girlfriend Kate Moss, revealed in an interview that she has been dealing with the same problem for years. Who would thought that Adele, not only suffered from panic attacks but social phobia.  Oprah Winfrey spoke about what happened to her on the set of the film The Butler. ” In the beginning it was just sort of speedy and a kind of numbness and going from one thing to the next thing. I will tell you when I realised that I thought ‘All right, if I don’t calm down I’m going to be in serious trouble. I was in the middle of doing voiceovers you know. And I remember closing my eyes  in between each page because looking at the page and the words at the same time was too much stimulation for my brain.”

Life doesn’t have to be like this, it is possible to turn things around and make change happen. Good news! According to Harvard Medical Faculty “…each of us has a resiliency tool box into which we can  add various tools and techniques for handling stressful events. ” They assure us that we have tremendous power to sharpen our resiliency tools .. “and expand your coping repertoire.”  Here are some simple tips I have for you  to help to bring about that change: I will have more in my next blog and go into more detail.

Five tips for November

  1. Sit quietly in a chair and concentrate on your in and out breath for about five minutes to start with and build up to 15.
  2. Take regular exercise.
  3. Eat healthy foods and avoid caffeine.
  4. Don’t skip meals and eat slowly.
  5. Make time to connect with others. Join a group.

Change is easier than you think. I’m always happy to talk:


By phone: 087 2419530


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Smell The Roses

DSCF0259It is so true when they say ‘wake up and smell the roses’. We often meet people who are unobservant and unable to see beauty. Even when it’s right in front of them. People who will join friends for a walk and spend the entire time talking, oblivious to their surroundings.  People incapeable of observing a bird on the wing or the ripple of a wave. We all know at least someone like that.  Someone  bored with the world, who feels despondant, and worries  obsessively about everything that life throws at them.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, we always talk about the Five Spirits associated with the human body. The Yi spirit is the one attached to the Spleen organ. This particular spirit  gives us the capacity to sympathise, critisise, reflect and be creative. Also, the ability to think clearly, to concentrate and  to memorise. All experiences are digested and processed when the Yi is balanced, and we  can make sense of the world.  The Yi helps us to become inspired and develop ideas . Information is processed and acted upon . We can empathise when the Yi is functioning properly.

Worry and anxiety impedes this process, and,  as a consequence, can have a negative impact on the Yi. Thoughts become muddled, the house becomes untidy and there are bits of paper everywhere. Concentration becomes difficult and memory is affected. Constant worry and anxiety  can be related to a constitutional weakness , or can be directly related to continual stress and lack of support. When the positive energies of the Yi are blocked, a person can remain stuck in  repetitive thought patterns. Brooding over every problem that presents itself.

This is where Mindfulness is a useful tool. It shouldn’t be regarded as chore, but more of an aid to help us out of the quagmire.  Meditation is one option, but it’s not for everyone. However, it is possible to mediate simply by just being quiet.  By  holding and looking at a small stone, or maybe  a flower and focusing on its petals. Really focusing. Or, sitting quietly in a chair,  slowly breathing in and out, aware of the breath , for about five – 10 minutes . It doesn’t have to be complicated. A walk on the beach or in a park, any walk will do. The principle is to focus on something else, whether in stillness or slow motion. There are meditation methods which can be learned  of course,   t’ai chi, qi gong, t’ai chi walking , yoga, mindfulness . Through calmness and stillness, we can let go of  the harmful  thought processes and feelings that hold us down.

The same principle applies to food. Eating mindfully helps to keep the Yi balanced and nourished. By chewing slowly. Resisting the temptation to gulp food down, in turn  prevents the digestive system from being challenged and having a knock on affect on the Yi. Eating and reading, eating and watching television at the same time, breakfast on the run, are all  contrary to the principles of Chinese Medicine. It’s important to break this habit. Yi holds the middle ground. It holds our centre, it keeps us grounded; helps us to digest the experiences of life in a balanced way;  helps us march to the beat of our own drum , sing our own song and be our best creative selves.








bg9According to the Taoists, a time of crisis is also a time of possible opportunity. They call it the Weiji. When yin becomes yang and yang and yang becomes yin. The Weiji is a process of alchemical reversal,  when one thing changes into its opposite.  When there is pain, suffering and uncertainty, a job change , a bereavement, or a broken relationship.  When we do not know if the healing process will be successful, or if the time of crisis will pass. It is the time when the fight or flight process kicks in,  but we seem to be getting absolutely nowhere.  This is a time to do nothing, to wait, to be quiet,  to resist the urge to act; and give in to the chaos. Despite a great desire to act and fix things,  we should surrender our ego , wait,  and allow change to happen.   According to traditional Taoist thinking, we must allow the powerful tides of change to bring us through to the next stage of our lives. To surrender our ideas of ourselves and the world, to wait  in the darkness, in faith and let  the transformation  begin .

Tiny Wild Birds

Sky Flying Representing Flock Of Birds And Flock Of Birds

The Taoists place special emphasis on The Heart, which they call Xin the ‘Soverign Ruler’ of life. The fire that resides in this space is called the Shen. The Shen lights up our consciousness and self awareness; our connection with the world and our sense of identity. It is one of the most important aspects of The Heart. It allows us to form and maintain good close relationships, to be joyful and happy; to relate well to others, be in good form. Totally switched on.

When someone is feeling sorrowful, scattered, depressed. Has panic attacks or postpartum depression;  has violent mood swings and laughs at all the wrong things. It’s an indication that not all is well with the Shen.  Restlessness, hyperactivity, problems with sleeping are other indications.  There might be a sense of unravelling, an inability to think clearly or hold on to that thought. An unconnectedness to everything. And life can seem bleak.

These symptoms can often come about as the result of a sudden shock, a separation, an accident, a miscarriage, death of a loved one, or even prolonged emotional strain. No one wants to feel like this. The Taoists, view this type of negative energy as the scattering of tiny wild birds that have become frightened.  Chinese Medicine found a way, through acupuncture, to bring the Shen home.   From acupuncturist, to needle, to patient, energies mingle,  transformation takes place. Healing begins and the tiny wild birds fly home.


Accentuating The Positive

Regarding the Positive to Negative Ratio  on how best to flourish according to the piece I read in Dr Maureen Gaffney’s book ‘Flourishing’, I mentioned in my last post a Ratio of 10:1. Well, I was completely wrong! It’s 5:1 positive thoughts to combat negative thoughts. A much easier task for us all I should think. But like everything, it’s best to read up on this within the context that it was written.