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
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