T’is the Season…To become overwhelmed – by Susan Tretakis
Overwhelmed by almost everything: ranging from food decisions, gift decisions, balancing personal and professional responsibilities and trying to be all things to all people because, well, “T’is the Season”.
There’s more traffic on the streets, more people in the stores and there’s more “noise” coming at you from every direction. There’s trying to buy “the perfect gift” for family and friends and trying not to think about how you will feel in January when the postal service delivers the bills. We are determined to spread “Good Cheer” even if we are tired and cranky. Days are packed with responsibilities, and for many of us, our nights are tormented by what we did not accomplish that day we ended hours ago.
How does one cope?
One of my favorite Chinese proverbs sums up my reality this year: “Tension is who you think you should be; Relaxation is who you are.”
I have an intimate relationship with stress. Stress resides in every room in my house, it follows me in the car, accompanies me on every medical and dental appointment. Stress has no problem with showing up whenever and wherever. Some days we manage to dance quietly around each other. Other days are knock-down, bloody boxing matches. Google defines stress “an organism’s total response to environmental demands or presses.” I define it by insomnia, headaches, digestive issues, overthinking, and worrying about everything I truly cannot control. And, yes, by being overwhelmed.
In the AOMA Blog, Chinese Medicine for Stress Relief, Yonxin Fou wrote, “In Chinese medical theory, strong emotions like stress interrupt the body’s energy flowing smoothly. When these strong emotions are present for a long period of time they create a blockage in the body’s “road system” creating an energetic ‘traffic jam’. Acupuncture increases the circulation of blood and oxygenates the tissues throughout the body which in turn releases natural pain-killers called endorphins.”
Dr. Axe, on his website writes that “Traditional Chinese Medicine is a type of holistic, natural health care system that dates back at least 2,000 years to the year 200 B.C. TCM is “holistic” and “natural” because it stimulates the body’s own healing mechanisms and takes into account all aspects of a patient’s life, rather than just several obvious signs or symptoms. TCM practitioners view the body as a complex network of interconnected parts, rather than separate systems or organs.”
Having been a “nail” for too many Western doctors’ “hammer” for far too long, I much prefer to heal myself. To me, it is no coincidence that after an acupuncture treatment I sleep soundly through the entire night. However, I must also admit that one night of uninterrupted sleep within a week is not the answer. Unless my TCM team would allow me to move into my Wellness Center 24/7, it is really up to me to – as my students used to say – “to get a grip” and come up with my own plan to deal with stress.
What better discipline to look toward for a plan for today than one whose practices have been successful for over 2,000 years? Some of you may remember the old Pogo comic strip where the main character states, “We have met the enemy. It is us.” If the enemy is my stress, TCM is my armor and weapons of self-protection.
I am fortunate to have a TCM doctor who is skilled in both the use of Chinese herbs for stress and for dealing with stressed – and most likely very stressful – people like myself. He is also someone who doesn’t just preach a balanced lifestyle, he leads by example. Through him, I have learned that there are many Chinese herbal formulas for stress. The AOMA blog identifies some as “Xiao Yao Wan (also known as “Free and Easy Wanderer”), Gan Mai Da Zao Tang, Chai Hu Shu Gan San, Yi Guan Jian, Yue Ju Wan and Gui Pi Tang.”
Yes, it would be easy for you to go and self-prescribe and order herbs online or in a store. Trust me when I say I have done that – and it’s not very a very smart thing to do. It is essential that you take a combination of herbs that is right for you – not the general public. To find out the right herbs that YOU should take, I urge you to make an appointment with a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist. The TCM practitioner will take a full medical history and will do a pulse and tongue diagnosis to determine the best acupuncture plan and herbal prescription for YOU.
I don’t want to worry about things like shelf-life, proper packaging, correct dosage and product purity. I don’t have to be concerned about any of this because my herbs come from a reputable Chinese herbalist who knows me.
I am determined to lessen what I have to worry about – not add more to my personal “OMG List”.
At my holistic wellness center in Margate Florida, I’ve met staff who can help me fight stress by improving my overall health. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be complemented with suggestions of nutritional advice when I learned that “a diet consisting of healthy whole foods – vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and fish – may help in fighting the depression that accompanies chronic stress compared to diets filled with sugary, processed, or fried foods.” I’ve learned what foods I should increase in my diet – and what foods I should eliminate.
I’ve learned about focused breathing, guided imagery, types of body scans and tests, and the power of repetitive mantras. I’ve learned the importance of taking responsibility of my health care, of setting both personal and professional boundaries, and I was introduced to the world of homeopathy, where natural remedies take the place of prescriptive drugs.
I’ve learned more in one year than I have learned throughout the many years of my graduate and post-graduate studies.
Last month’s Harvard Medical Publishing Company Monthly Newsletter stated, “The ability to bounce back from stress or adversity is important throughout life, especially in our older years.” As much as I hate that damn “older years” comment, I do know – both personally and professionally – it is at my age when people face many transitions, ranging from health problems, job, income, and home changes; the loss of loved ones; and isolation or separation from friends. I know that how I adjust to these changes will help determine much of what my life will look like moving forward.
I am determined to move forward. I am also determined to repay the Karmic debt to the Universe that brought me to my wellness center over a year ago.
Two weeks ago, I hosted a “Meet and Greet” between two TCM Doctors and 18 friends. The group of invitees was diverse; some were former colleagues, some were new acquaintances, some were older, most were younger, some had negative acupuncture experiences, negative nutritional advice and some were skeptical. One was pregnant, three were going through menopause related Hell. All shared one commonality: they wanted to meet the two people who have dramatically changed my life, my mindset, and my appearance within the past year. After almost three hours of actively engaged discussion, ranging from explanations of acupuncture, tongue and pulse diagnoses, food choices and rotations, vaccines, reasons for reactions to certain treatments, lifestyle changes and many, many questions, the two doctors left to resume their other roles as parents and spouses.
My friends stayed late into the night to catch up – and discuss what they had learned and how they felt. One person, someone with whom I worked and supervised for close to 15 years, who had watched me consume up to 2 pots of coffee each workday, balloon up in weight and exist on three Xanax a day, told me how impressed – and how touched – she was by both doctors.
Her exact words, “How incredibly caring and truthful they are.”
Those seven simple words define my Doctors of TCM and my holistic health center. Trust me, when stress grabs me by the throat, it is indeed comforting to know that I have a TCM team who cares.
Stress is going to exist for me; some days – especially in December – it will be a louder, more strident voice than from other months. However, TCM has given me protection. Acupuncture and related holistic treatments have taught me a certain type of resilience. It’s allowed me to take time for me.
Another friend had her first acupuncture diagnosis and session this past Wednesday. She sent me an afternoon text: “OMG- what a blessing! Got my herbs – so totally psyched. I will be a new person one year from today.”
Smiling, and mentally checking off a partial Karmic debt, I texted her back: “Within a month, your head will already be in a new place.”
As you rush to complete you holiday gift list, remember yourself this year. Give yourself the gift of acupuncture. You are so worth it.
- Google/ WebMD
- Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, November, 2017