How to Outsmart Stress, the Holistic Way
Like taxes and bad hair days, stress is just a part of life. And in our always-on world, the demand of it all can sometimes feel overwhelming. Stress manifests itself not only in our minds, but throughout our bodies, showing up as digestive issues, trouble sleeping, lagging energy, and more. In the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine, stress affects the flow of Qi, or essential energy, throughout the body, leading to systemic symptoms.
The good news: TCM’s holistic philosophy offers us plenty of safe and effective ways to address the root cause of these super common stress-based imbalances.
Try These Acu Pointers
Acupuncture is one of the most fundamental Qi-boosting practices in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the more regularly you receive treatment, the better. (It’s also supported by modern science, with links to improved PTSD and depressive symptoms and more.) Your healer can tailor your session with specific points linked to stress relief. At home, try 15 minutes a day on an easy-to-use acupressure mat, based on the same principles. Another ancient technique: auriculotherapy, practiced by placing tiny ear seeds on points that correspond with whole-body symptoms.
Get Better Rest
Easier said than done, we know. But there are tools that can help. Research shows that sleeping with a weighted blanket, for example, can deliver a calmer night’s sleep, alleviate insomnia, and reduce anxiety. (We love the ones from Bearaby, both functional and stylish.) These blankets work in a way similar to a therapeutic technique called Deep Pressure Therapy, which promotes a sense of calm by increasing the serotonin and melatonin (two key hormones for mood and sleep) in your brain. People who use weighted blankets have also been shown to wake up with lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in their bloodstream. When you sleep better, you feel better, period.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, nutrition is used for balance, and seen as part of a larger puzzle of health rather than strict commandments. Eating regular meals, setting time aside to dine (instead of multitasking), and scaling down large portions are all encouraged for stress management. Foods like grains, veggies, and beans are thought to support your liver as it processes stress-related toxins, while fatty, spicy, or extremely cold foods are better avoided. Ancient practitioners also used some of the same herbs we do today to promote stress relief, like those in our Run the World, Clean Slate, and Dream On blends.
Move & Stretch
Exercise reduces stress symptoms by lowering hormones like cortisol while delivering an endorphin rush. But your routine doesn’t need to be “high-impact” to make a big difference: Gentle, mind-body exercise like tai chi, with origins in China, and yoga, traceable to ancient India, have been shown to ease the toll of stress and even help with cognition and pain.
Extensive research reveals that deep-breathing exercises, also called diaphragmatic breathing, help with stress by soothing and settling your nervous system. When you breathe slowly, deeply, and mindfully, each round slows your heart rate and cues your body to wind down. Here’s a technique to try, called box breathing: Inhale as you count to 4, hold your breath as you count to 4, exhale as you count to 4, then hold again and repeat. Try a few rounds as you lie down for bed, before you start work for the day, or in any little moments when you crave an all-natural dose of calm.