“The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself.”
-Diane Von Furstenberg
Our relationship with ourselves stems from recognizing a connection to our physical, mental and emotional state. Physical ailments can affect our emotional health, just as our emotional state can affect our physical health.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices that we should honor our emotions by allowing, experiencing and feeling our emotions as they happen. This integrated, mind-body approach to health allows us to create a harmonious bond with ourselves, strengthening our inner connection to the mind, body and spirit.
One way to have a harmonious relationship with yourself is to accept and feel all feelings without guilt or repression — the good, the bad and everything in between.
TCM, practiced for over 3,000 years, believes our emotions are narrowed down to five basic feelings. Each of these emotions are associated with a corresponding organ in the body. When you experience an emotion, the corresponding organ will be affected in either a “deficiency” or an “excess” state — meaning your emotions can directly affect your physical health.
The Five Basic Emotions and their corresponding organs:
- Liver: Stress/Anger
- Kidney: Fear
- Heart: Joy
- Lungs: Sadness/Grief
- Spleen: Anxiety/ Worry
Organ systems in TCM include the western medical-physiological functions, but they are also part of the integrated, holistic body system. So, the entire mind and body may be evaluated and treated to improve a specific health concern.
Every organ is assigned a certain amount of Qi (energy) to do its daily tasks. If organs like the liver are feeling strained, it will try to borrow Qi from the other nearby organs — causing a domino effect of energy debt. This can lead to the weakening and malfunction of the organs and can impact you both physically and psychologically.
When a patient comes in with physical ailments, TCM practitioners always look at the emotional health as well — for example, if they are grieving, we look into how it affects their skin. As mentioned above, the lungs are tied to grief and sadness, so issues can manifest on the skin. If a patient is anxious, we will look at how this affects their bowel movements and energy level, as the spleen’s functions include sending energy to the limbs and influences bowel movements. If a patient comes in after experiencing an increase in anger and stress, since these emotions are connected with the liver, then we look at how it could be out of balance. Signs showing a liver imbalance like this includes infertility, headaches, dry, red eyes, dizziness, irritation and even numbness, depression and PTSD.
By addressing the liver on both a physical and energetic level, this is one way you can bring balance back to the mind and body.
I’ve treated patients who come in with fertility issues, even though their tests and hormone levels seem normal. Controlling stress is a huge factor in how the body can respond to becoming pregnant. If a body is in a constant state of cortisol (the stress hormone) arousal, it can not make a healthy home for a baby to grow.
The liver is also paired with the gallbladder. This union affects our ligaments and tendons — tightening or weakening them which causes strain and pain. That’s why, when you are stressed out, your whole body feels tight.
We’re all human, so it is inevitable to feel these emotions at one time or another. Since it can be difficult to control your emotions, here are a few ways to help combat them altering the body:
- Acupuncture: Helps to unblock stagnant Qi, allowing for greater blood flow to organs and manages pain.
- Cupping: The negative suction “pulls and moves” your emotions to the surface and relaxes the fascia and muscle.
- Guasha: Allows for microcirculation of energy and blood vessels to encourage lymphatic drainage.
- Herbal remedies: Utilizes nature to heal ourselves. It’s the safe, effective and most potent way to treat most modern diseases.
- Nose Breathing: Multiple studies show that breathing through your nose in even, tempered breaths can help to circulate your Qi.
- Healthy Eating: It’s important to include nutrient-dense, nourishing, cooked (raw foods such as smoothies and salads can be hard on your digestive system) and in-season foods in your daily meals.
- Resting: Both passive and active rest is vital for restoration. Our bodies are designed to move, rest and recover. Because there is a mind-body connection, resting one part will help reset the other. Emotional drainage happens when we are overloaded with one or more emotions and can not process everything we feel. Our body’s cortisol levels fluctuate according to the emotional and physical demands we place on them. Therefore, resting the mind helps to rest the body.
- Sleep: This is when your body can recharge and rejuvenate. It’s crucial to get enough sleep so your body and mind can function at an optimal level.
- Time in Nature: This activity is scientifically proven to lower your blood pressure and relax the mind.
These TCM modalities can positively affect your emotions, which in turn, affects your body. I consider them a “kind reminder” to return your body to a state of homeostasis, aka balance.
Healing the body is more than just physical. By recognizing and working to improve your relationship with your emotions, you can recover faster and live a more balanced, healthy life.
In addition to emotions, TCM philosophy believes that other elements, such as dietary, environmental, lifestyle and hereditary factors also contribute to the development of imbalances and the body’s ability to heal itself.
Debbie Kung, DAOM, LAc., is a Board-certified NCCAOM licensed Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Kung practices TCM modalities such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, Gua Sha, cupping, auricular acupuncture, specializing in stress management, cosmetic facial rejuvenation, pain management, Lyme disease, fertility treatments/IVF support, Bell’s palsy, esoteric acupuncture, sports medicine acupuncture, and the battlefield/NADA protocol. Kung is currently practicing in both Austin, Texas, and New York City. IG: @kung_acu