Is stress making me ill?

The short answer is yes – stress can make you ill.

It’s widely accepted that stress is a cause of disease and more than half of GP appointments have are now stress-related.

During stressful times we run on cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that temporarily boosts the immune system so that we can get on with the challenge we’re facing. But over time that starts to take a real toll (we’re not meant to be stressed all the time!) and our immune system is weakened, leading to ill-health.

But stress isn’t the only emotion that affects us.

In Chinese medicine there are loosely seven emotions that cause illness and disease:

Anger, joy, worry, pensiveness, sadness, fear and shock.

Each of these emotions move our energy in different ways and they also affect our body differently:

  • Anger makes our energy rise and affects the liver
  • Joy slows our energy down and affects the heart
  • Worry and pensiveness knot our energy and affect the spleen
  • Sadness dissolves our energy and affects the lungs
  • Fear makes our energy descend and affects the kidneys
  • Shock scatters our energy and affects the kidneys and the heart

You only have to think of the angry cartoon character with a beetroot complexion and steam blowing out of his ears or the sad Droopy Dog with his sagging face and sunken shoulders to get the idea!

Plus, any emotion we experience over a long period of time causes stagnation in our body, which creates imbalance and is a major cause of disease.

So how do you protect yourself from getting ill from an emotional cause?

The goal isn’t to avoid feeling any emotions – that’s just as bad for you as being overwhelmed by them. And you can’t avoid bad stuff happening that’s going to trigger an emotional response.

But you can have more control over how you respond.

The first step is emotional awareness. Really starting to listen in to your body.

We call this Ting Jin or ‘listening energy’. It’s feedback for the mind on what’s happening in your body – what you can feel and sense and it’s a powerful way to connect with yourself.

Here’s a challenge for you.

Why not try sitting with what happens in your body next time you experience an emotion. Start with something easy (you don’t want to become overwhelmed)! Maybe you’re just watching a tense thriller on the TV and feeling a bit scared or you’re listening to your favourite bit of music.

Stop for a minute, draw your attention inward, focus on your breath and then listen in to what’s going on. Where is your energy? Is it in your head, your heart, your hands, your feet? It might feel warm or cold, it may be a tingling sensation. Just be with it wherever it is. Breath into it, see how it dissipates and dissolves if you just let it be.

It can feel a bit awkward or unclear to start with but keep practicing. You’ll start to sense what your body is trying to tell you.

Our goal here is to encourage the smooth flow of our emotions. In that way they don’t get bottled up, they don’t get stored in the body and they become less scary to feel. By avoiding the emotional build-up we can start to enjoy the positive effects on both our mental and physical health and well-being.

And if you need some more help balancing your emotions you can work with me 1-to-1, just contact me here.

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