by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

How To Manage Stress the TCM Way with Ivy Lee

Stress is part and parcel of life. And while triggers of stress can sometimes seem trivial, the effects it has on our bodies are not. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, stress affects the free flow of qi within the body, which results in stagnation, excessive internal heat and poor blood circulation.

If you walk into your office every morning feeling totally exhausted, or you’re up at night overthinking, it’s time for a wake-up call: stress is taking a toll on your health. Don’t let your demanding boss or a frustrating project get the best of you; it’s essential to manage stress for a healthy lifestyle.

We turn to Ivy Lee, licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and the founder of Luminae Wellness, for ways to manage stress the TCM way.

How does stress impact our body and health? What are some long-term health problems associated with stress?

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a framework that sees the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual as interconnected.

Chronic stress and strong emotions can impact the physical health of the body. Stress disrupts the smooth flow of qi in the body and causes blockages or stagnation. Often stress is associated with a pattern known as Liver Qi Stagnation, which can show up as a wide range of symptoms like irritability, mood swings, pre-menstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps, irregular periods, muscle tension, pain, constipation, and indigestion. My practice is focused on women’s health and I see that stress can be a major factor in reproductive health issues and fertility challenges.

Chinese Medicine treats stress by addressing the symptoms as well as the root cause. The approach is to identify what is out of balance in the body and in the organ meridian systems, and then restore balance and natural functioning so that symptoms improve and resolve.

There are several modalities within Chinese Medicine that are helpful for stress and emotions such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, lifestyle guidance, and qi gong. Treatment is customized to the individual by taking a holistic view of the person’s health history, constitution, and current symptoms. It’s beneficial to consult with a Chinese Medicine practitioner to receive personalised guidance for your health.

How long will it take generally to feel the results?

Every person has a unique healing process and the length of time can vary. Acupuncture helps to reset the nervous system so people immediately feel more relaxed after treatments. Generally, for sustained results, 1-4 acupuncture treatments are recommended for acute conditions and 10-12 for chronic conditions.

When I work with people in virtual coaching sessions, I find that 3 months is a preferred minimum time frame to shift habitual patterns and experience a transformation in health and in all areas of life. Chinese Medicine works to treat symptoms and conditions, but it’s also about preventative wellness and optimizing your potential this lifetime. Many of the people that I work with continue with regular sessions to stay healthy, balanced, and aligned.

What are some things that people can actively do to mediate the effects of stress?

There are practices that you can incorporate into your daily lifestyle to manage and alleviate stress. Moderate exercise and deep breathing help to move and circulate qi throughout the body so that you feel better. Meditation can relax the mind and bring awareness to thought patterns that are constrictive and disempowering.

Dedicating time and space to process emotions is also important so that emotions are not repressed and instead can be alchemised and integrated.

As for diet, avoid foods that contribute to more congestion, such as sugar, dairy, processed foods, greasy and fried foods. Focus on eating mindfully, having consistent meals, and including lots of green vegetables. Mint tea is also a refreshing way to help smooth Liver Qi, improve digestion and relieve tension.

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