Managing Our Emotions

Managing Our Emotions

Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems. – Epictetus

Consciousness is an unending tide of emotions. Every moment that we are awake (and often asleep) we are inundated with both remarkable and unremarkable emotions. All emotions are a natural part of our reaction to stimulus. Positive feelings such as joy and accomplishment can enhance and enrich our life experience, while emotions of fear and caution can help us navigate danger. The broad spectrum of emotions can be an intoxicating experience and allow us to fully engage and connect with the gift of life.

As emotions increase in intensity, we become more conscious of them and they can quickly become pathological. In Chinese Medicine, too many heightened emotions can become pathological and hurtful to the health of the body and mind in the same way a poor diet can make us sick. Too much joy can become manic and make us anxious. Too much bliss can make us gluttonous and greedy. Too much worry can become an obsession. Too much anger can turn into rage.

While it’s important to engage in each emotion so that we have a full life experience, it’s equally as important to learn to process and release them so that they don’t create illness. For example, in my acupuncture practice, I have found that people with chronic tension headaches or teeth grinding often have stored up anger and resentment. This is because energy flows throughout the body and negative emotions disrupt the smooth flow of our energy. Intense emotions act like a traffic jam in the body. Learning techniques to help us process our emotions is an important tool to avoid making ourselves sick.

One of the most important tools to help us move through our emotions is breathwork. There is nothing more powerful than this. Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing technique is very helpful for reducing anxiety and controlling or reducing anger responses.

To use the 4-7-8 technique, focus on the following breathing pattern:

empty the lungs of air

breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds

hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds

exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds

repeat the cycle up to 4 times

Movement is our best friend when it comes to getting our emotions “unstuck. If I find myself having trouble releasing nagging feelings, I will often do a quick cardio routine that allows me to move the energy through my body both fast and efficiently. The quick routine includes these exercises and can be done as often as needed:

30 seconds of jumping jacks

30 seconds of jogging in place

30 seconds of holding a plank

30 seconds bicycle crunches

Other important tactics to help us process our emotions include the following:

mental health counseling

journaling

yoga and Qi Gong

creative expression through things like art and dance

bodywork such as acupuncture and massage

Natasha Kubis is a licensed acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher. For more information, visit acuwellhealth.com

Feel Good in Your Body Right Now

Feel Good in Your Body Right Now

Anyone who’s worked towards a weight loss or fitness goal knows it can be quite a journey. While it’s important to stay focused, that can easily turn into the unhealthy habit of waiting for that desired dress size to be happy. Here are some tips to help you avoid that trap and feel good in your own skin right now:

Focus on functionality

Your body may not be perfect but it does a lot for you. Whenever you perform a physical activity like walking around the block with ease, appreciate your body for it. Its main purpose, after all, is to keep you moving through life and if it’s doing that, you have something to feel good about.

Change what you can
right now

When it comes to how you look and feel the little things matter. Wear what you feel good in, change your hair, get your nails done, or choose a new signature scent. It’s hard not to feel good in your skin when you’re pampered and smelling delicious.

Believe in the inevitability
of your ideal body

If you’re dieting and working on fitness, you need to do so with absolute conviction that it’s just a matter of time until you reach your goals. Believing that the things you don’t love to see when you look in the mirror are temporary prevents your insecurities from having power over you.

Watch your thoughts

If your inner voice is in the habit of loudly and confidently criticizing your body, train it to compliment you with equal authority instead. Frequently point out the things you like about your body and use affirmations to keep those positive thoughts at the forefront of your mind.

Be selective about the
company you keep

Seek out people who speak kindly about others, bring out the best in you, are comfortable with their own imperfect bodies, and make you feel good about yours. If the people in your social circles are fueling your insecurities, it’s time to reevaluate your relationships and make some necessary changes. 

Detox your social media

In addition to people who surround you in real life, those who appear on your feed can also impact your body image. Never compare your whole reality with the snippets others choose to show. Take breaks when you need to and only follow accounts that help you feel good and inspire you.

Love yourself

Loving yourself will help you strike a balance between accepting yourself for your inherent worth and improving yourself because you are worthy of your own potential and being the best version of yourself. If you can only take away one point, this should be it – love yourself.

Like anything worthwhile, reaching your fitness goals will take time, but life is happening right now. Make it one of your goals to feel good about your body even as you work on getting it fitter.

How to Beat the Blues During the Long, Cold, Dreary Winter Months

How to Beat the Blues During the Long, Cold, Dreary Winter Months

Sometimes people begin to feel a little down after the holidays and before the warm spring and summer months. There are, however, things everyone can do to stay positive, focused, and happy during this time of year.

Take a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is the natural mood elevator that is one of the secret reasons we humans crave warm weather and sunshiny days. Your body naturally produces it when exposed to the sun, but it may be lacking during the cold days of winter. Supplements can be bought over-the-counter, but ask your prescribing doctor if it will interact negatively with any current prescriptions you have. Vitamin D usually has no drug interactions and no side effects, so most doctors will give you the green light.

Stay connected with loved ones. This includes family and friends. Most of us reconnect with those we love during the holidays, and this can create a natural feeling of well-being and good cheer. This then fades and leaves us feeling depressed, lonely, and isolated unless we continue to maintain these connections throughout the rest of the year. Take this chance to reconnect again now that the holiday rush is over. Go to lunch with a friend or take an exercise class together. Call or email or even visit your relatives. A few hours spent with a chosen companion or two can do wonders for your mental health.

Write a list of gratitude. This is a simple and profound tool for mood elevation. Simply list out things, people, or events you are grateful for, then place the list where you will see it regularly. Change the list every few days so you realize just how much you have to be thankful for.

Pick up an old hobby or learn a new one. Humans crave meaningful and pleasurable activities. It can be very satisfying to learn how to paint with watercolors, crochet an afghan, or to build a birdhouse. Find a craft that interests you, take a class, or go online to improve your skill.

With these tips you can have a happy, fulfilled New Year!

Remedies for SADness

Remedies for SADness

By Natasha Kubis

In the Northern Hemisphere, we experience the winter solstice at the end of December, marking the shortest day and longest night of the year. The origin of the word “solstice” is derived from the Latin word sõlstitium, which translates to “the standing still of the sun”.  Cultures around the world have long held feasts and celebrated holidays around the winter solstice as the beginning of the return of the sun, and darkness turning into light.

Most people do not realize that natural light is essential to our well-being just like water, air, and food. Our bodies use bright, full spectrum light to regulate our mood, sleep, and energy levels. When the temperature starts to cool and the sun’s path drops lower in the sky, our bodies take notice.

It is natural for our state of mind to wax and wane at the beginning or end of a season. This is especially true during the winter when the days get shorter and our exposure to natural light is limited.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) symptoms typically appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Some symptoms of SAD may include feeling depressed on a daily basis, losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, low energy, sleep problems (typically oversleeping), changes in appetite or weight (usually overeating and weight gain), difficulty concentrating, and feeling hopeless.

Some factors that may contribute to SAD include:

1.  Your biological clock (circadian rhythm)

The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to changes in sleep patterns.

2.  Serotonin levels

A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.

3.  Melatonin levels

The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

4.  Family history

People with SAD may be more likely to have blood relatives with SAD or another form of depression.

5.  Having major depression or bipolar disorder

Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.

6.  Living far from the equator

SAD appears to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter.

It is normal to have some days when you feel down but if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to substances like alcohol for comfort, or you find yourself withdrawing from friends, loved ones, and social situations.

Some ways to combat SAD:

1.  Get moving

Regular exercise can boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals as a way to combat depression. Try and get 30-60 minutes of exercise three to five times a week. It is best if you are able to exercise outside in natural daylight. If not, choose a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical at home or at a gym. Consider yoga classes and other group classes or develop a daily routine on your own.

2.  Let the sunshine in

Get outside as much as you can during the day to take advantage of the sunlight. If you live where it’s cold, be sure to bundle up, but take a stroll around the block at noon or soon after — that’s when the sun is brightest. Sunlight, even in the small doses that winter allows, can help boost serotonin levels and improve your mood. When you are indoors keep your blinds open to let as much natural light in as you can. Try to sit near windows when eating meals or doing your daily tasks. Some people find that painting walls in lighter colors or using daylight simulation bulbs helps to combat winter SAD.

3.  Stick to your schedule

Keeping a regular schedule will also expose you to light at consistent and predictable times. Eating at regular intervals can help you watch your diet and not overeat. Maintain a regular sleep cycle by going to bed and waking up at the same time.

4. Take a vacation

Taking a winter vacation to warmer climates can help people who have seasonal affective disorder. Even a few days in a sunny place can be helpful with winter depression.

5.  Reach out to friends and family

Close relationships are vital in reducing isolation and helping you manage SAD. It may feel more comfortable to retreat into solitude, but being around other people will boost your mood. Make the effort to reconnect with family and friends.

6.  Connect with a counselor or join a support group

Sometimes just talking about what you are going through can help you feel better. A support group allows you to connect with others who are facing the same problems. This can help reduce your sense of isolation and provide inspiration to make positive changes. Counseling, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can be highly beneficial for people with seasonal depression. The right therapist can help you curb negative thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and help you manage symptoms.

7.  Find your purpose by helping others

Volunteering your time to help others can help shift your mindset and perspective to a more positive place.

8.  Eat the right diet

Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, will help you keep your energy up and minimize mood swings. While the symptoms of SAD can make you crave sugary foods and simple carbohydrates, such as pasta and white bread, complex carbohydrates are a better choice. Foods such as oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, and bananas can boost your feel-good serotonin levels without the subsequent sugar crash.

9.  Take steps to deal with stress

Stress can exacerbate or even trigger depression. This becomes obvious during the holiday season when there is heightened stress from family and an increase in financial pressures.

Practicing daily relaxation techniques can help you manage stress, reduce negative emotions such as anger and fear, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.

10.  Find your bliss

Do something you enjoy every single day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be painting, playing the piano, working on your car, having coffee with a friend, taking a class, joining a club, or enrolling in a special interest group that meets on a regular basis. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that’s fun
for you.

Natasha Kubis is a licensed acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher. For more information, visit essential-well.com

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