Four Ways to Manage Stress
We wrote a blog post a couple months back that laid out the impact of stress on the body. Now, let’s talk about a few ways that you can manage that stress – to help avoid the impacts of stress on your body, and to just give yourself a break from it all!
1. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is about connecting with the present moment as a way to relieve yourself from ruminating on stressors. Any number of activities can be conducted mindfully – from eating to walking to listening to meditating. One of our favorite mindfulness activities is to take a moment to engage all of your senses:
- Take a few deep breaths
- Look around and find five things that you can see. Focus on unusual colors, shapes, objects, etc.
- Use your ears to identify four noises that you can hear. The buzzing of the fridge, the cawing of a crow, the rumbling of a motorcycle driving by, etc.
- Reach out and touch three things with your hands. Maybe it’s the feeling of the fabric of your clothes, or a rough patch in the concrete, etc.
- Take a deep breath in, and try to identify two different smells. Our lives are often absent of smell as a mark of hygiene – so try to break through that numbing effect and find something with a natural scent! The smell of freshly cut grass, the smell of food cooking, etc.
- What one thing can you taste? You don’t need to lick the table or anything… If there’s nothing around that’s good to eat / drink, you can just pay attention to the taste of your mouth as it is! Can you taste the tea you just drank? Or maybe the flavor of your toothpaste.
In Chinese medicine, using your senses helps to open up your Heart, which can help facilitate a sense of calm.
2. Exercise: It can seem counterintuitive, because exercise is itself a form of stress on the body! But we know that exercise can help lift the spirits, release endorphins, and generally lead to a sense of overall wellbeing. From a Chinese medicine perspective, exercise can help to smooth Liver Qi, which is particularly susceptible to the effects of stress.
But exercise doesn’t have to mean CrossFit everyday! Exercise can be going for a walk around the block or doing a few minutes of stretching at the end of your day. Fit in what you can, when you can. Every little bit counts.
3. Breath: When you’re stressed for an extended period of time, your body basically thinks that you’re constantly in danger – so it prioritizes resources accordingly (i.e., the heart gets more resources than it should, the reproductive system doesn’t get enough). Slow and steady breathing can help signal to your body that you aren’t actually in danger, that it can lower the defense systems, and that it can start to function in a more balanced fashion.
Again, this doesn’t mean that ALL of your breathing has to be slow and steady. But take moments in your day, when you’re feeling stressed, to focus on your breathing. Two minutes of deep breathing can make all the difference in the world.
4. Relaxing your body: We hold our stress in our body in so many different ways without even realizing it. We tense our shoulders, clench our jaw, hold our breath, tighten our glutes, etc. These habits can lead to pain and injury over time, and we don’t even realize it as it’s happening.
When you realize that you’re feeling stressed, check in on your body and see where you’re feeling tense. If you have trouble releasing that tension, try actively tightening and holding the muscles of the affected area for a few seconds, and then releasing that tension.
We also love the body scan meditation: When you’re lying down, with a slow steady breath, start to pay attention to your toes. Relax your toes as fully as you can. Then bring your attention to the arches of your feet, and relax those muscles as fully as possible. Move through all of the muscles in your body, including your neck, jaw, tongue, face, and head!
By relaxing your muscles, you are providing your body with another feedback loop that you’re not in danger, and it’s OK to relax. From a Chinese medicine perspective, relaxing areas of tension allows the Qi and Blood to flow more smoothly, which prevents the stagnation that comes with stress.
Of course, acupuncture and Chinese herbs provide another effective path towards finding some peace in the midst of a turbulent time. Click here if you would like to schedule an appointment to come in to the Flourish clinic for treatment, or if you’d like to schedule a virtual consult for Chinese herbs.
Tips for Remaining Healthy This Fall
Autumn is associated with the Lung organ, in Chinese medicine theory – a poignant note for our community, which still feels the impact of the fires with every inhale. This association means that our lungs are vulnerable this time of year, but it also means that it’s an important time to focus on the other energetic associations of the Lung organ, in order to maintain optimal health and balance.
Below, we share information about the energetic associations of the autumn, and some tips for how you can live in balance with the increasingly Yin nature of the season:
Time to get organized
Autumn is the season of the Metal element, which controls organization and boundaries. The leaves are falling from the trees – likewise, it’s the season to organize your life and let go of that which no longer serves you. Clean out your clutter, and donate the items that are collecting dust. And it’s not just about stuff! It’s also a good time to release feelings of resentment or ill will that may have been building up over the past months or years. We’re settling in to the inward stillness of the Yin time of year; it’s important to have a clean physical and emotional space to facilitate peace in that stillness.
Focus on the breath
What a complicated time to talk about the importance of breath. Watching the air quality index (AQI) has been like riding a roller coaster the past few weeks! Autumn is an important time to take care of the Lungs, by both connecting with our breath, but also making sure we avoid respiratory irritants.
So… on high AQI days, keep your windows and doors shut, and blast your air filters. If you must spend time outdoors, wear an N95 or a mask with a filter. Our simple two-layered cloth COVID masks won’t protect your lungs from smoke, unfortunately.
When the AQI is in the green, spend some time outside breathing in the fresh air. Savor the scents of nature, and spend some time everyday taking slow, full breaths.
Protect yourself from the wind
The times of year when the weather is shifting from hot to cold (or vice versa) are times when we see the wind pick up. According to Chinese medicine theory, wind can carry pathogens into our bodies – the kinds of pathogens that are comparable to infectious illness in Western medicine – most frequently starting in our lungs. The back of your neck is particularly vulnerable to these wind-borne / infectious pathogens, so we encourage patients to start wearing scarves, turtle necks, or hooded outerwear at this time of year.
Start choosing warm foods
It’s time to say goodbye to the salads, ice cream and chilled watermelon that help to balance out the heat of summertime – and break out your crockpot! Cold food and drinks can create dampness and phlegm in the body, which clog up the lungs. Instead, start shifting towards stews, soups, and other warm foods. The warming spices are especially beneficial for the Lung organ, spices like cinnamon, ginger, anise and clove…. so don’t judge the pumpkin spice lovers, they’re just taking care of their lungs! **Note: avoid excessive intake of warming spices if you run hot, or if you are pregnant!
You can never go wrong with eating seasonal produce. Squash, pumpkin, broccoli, kale, and walnuts all help to keep the tissue of your respiratory tract nice and moist, to help trap any pathogens that find their way in. Pears are especially nourishing and beneficial to the Lung organ, so eat them to your heart’s content – YUM!
Face your grief
So many people are facing varied, unrelenting sources of grief this year. Chinese medicine theory teaches that each organ is responsible for processing a different emotion – and the Lung organ processes grief and sadness. That means that when someone is experiencing grief, the energy of their Lung helps them manage the emotion; if the emotion is too overwhelming, or becomes repressed, it has the potential to clog up the function of the Lung.
The goal isn’t to avoid feelings of grief or sadness. Instead, the goal should be to lean into facing those emotions as they arise. There’s no right or wrong way to face one’s grief, but the important first step is to recognize it when it’s coming up. Grief isn’t just about loss of a loved one or a possession. Especially this year, grief is about losing time, losing touch with the things that make us feel alive, losing the opportunity to hug our loved ones. Let yourself cry, let yourself scream, let yourself mourn those losses. And you can always come back to your breath – focusing, especially, on the exhale – to help you process that grief.
Keep your immune system strong!
Especially this year, keeping your immune system strong as we enter autumn is of the utmost importance. Schedule a time to come in for care with one of our acupuncturists (or make a virtual appointment!) to keep your Metal element and Lung organ in balance, and your immune system strong. We hope to see you in the clinic or on Zoom soon.
Happy autumn, everyone!
Keeping Your Lungs Healthy throughout Fire Season
Our hearts are heavy with the challenge that once again faces our community. Wildfires are already burning strong, and it’s only August. We may be facing an extended period of exposure to wildfire smoke, as well as an extended period of feeling unsettled and alert, here in Sonoma County. Sigh.
In an effort to serve our community as best we can, we wanted to share some wisdom and resources to help you keep your lungs healthy and protected from the smoke. We recognize that, for many of you, life does not currently afford the ability to engage in all of these self-care recommendations. So… pick one thing that you can do right now! Or, just come back to your breath, which is always there to help you ground.
Our main goals for maintaining lung health while the fires are burning are two-fold: primarily, of course, to prevent as much smoke inhalation as possible; secondarily, we want to keep the respiratory tract moist, so that your body can appropriately trap and excrete smoke particles that do make their way in. Here are some things you can do to help keep your lungs healthy…
- Mask for smoke (vs. mask for COVID): We’re all used to wearing face masks at this point, but it may be time to consider changing your day-to-day mask. While double layer cotton masks are effective for COVID protection, they aren’t effective at keeping the particulate matter from smoke out of your lungs.
- N95 or P100 masks are recommended if you’ll be spending significant time outside on smoky days. BUT… because of COVID, these masks are in short supply and should still be saved for our healthcare workers and other essential workers that need respiratory protection on the job. So, please try to use any that you already have on hand, rather than going out and buying a huge supply of new ones!
- Vogmasks or similar masks that include filtration are a great reusable option to protect yourself while avoiding the consumption of valuable supplies needed by essential workers.
- If you are using an N95 or Vogmask that has an exhalation valve, it is not COVID safe. Make sure you cover the valve with tape, or you wear a second-layer COVID-safe mask over it.
- Masking properly is especially important for those of you with preexistent lung issues, for pregnant women, and for anyone working towards fertility (regardless of gender)!
- Run air filters in your house on smoky days: Any HEPA filter will do, it doesn’t have to be fancy! If you don’t already own a HEPA filter, this video tells you how you can make one yourself, on the cheap.
- Do daily steam baths: Get a bowl of steamy water, stick your face over the bowl (make sure you don’t burn yourself, obviously!), and toss a towel over your head to form a tent that traps the steam inside. Breathe deeply, and hang out there for 10 mins or so. This will help keep your respiratory passages nice and moist, and soothe that dry scratchy feeling that comes with continued smoke exposure.
- Get lots of antioxidants: Wildfire smoke inhalation results in oxidative stress on the body. Antioxidants help to undo that damage. Eat more berries, dark leafy greens, nuts, dark chocolate and green tea! Oh, and red wine… that should help.
- You can also consider supplementing antioxidants, including vitamin C, N-acetyl cysteine (supports glutathione production), and selenium.
- Stay hydrated: Simple, but crucial.
- Drink tea: Some great options for supporting lung health are peppermint, green, ginger, licorice and / or turmeric tea. Add some honey to moisten the respiratory tract.
- Eat pears: Pear season is just getting started – and the timing is a gift from nature. From a Chinese medicine perspective, pears are the perfect food to nourish and moisten the lungs. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you could cut a pear in half, drizzle some honey and cinnamon on it, and bake it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350. Delicious and nutritious.
- Process your grief: According to Chinese medicine theory, the lungs are the organ that help us process grief. So, when we have unresolved grief, it has the potential to muck up the function of the lungs. We realize it’s not particularly helpful to just say “deal with it!”, especially during a year filled with so much widespread grief. But consider setting some time aside in your day to think / talk / cry / yell / journal / sing about any grief you’re feeling in this moment, or any grief you may have stored up inside. And come back to your breath (slow, deep and steady) as a tool to help you process.
- Likewise, putting effort into preserving the health of your lungs will help ensure you have the strength that you need to process the grief that comes with this painful moment in time.
- Come in for acupuncture and herbs: Calm your spirit, protect your lungs, and get on the right herbal formula for this point in time. We’re still working at the clinic – book your appointment online, or be in touch with any questions.
- If you can’t make it in person, because you have evacuated out of the area, please remember that virtual appointments are also available!
- Take care of your spiritual health: Dr Jen’s organization, Integrative Healers Action Network, has been sharing some great resources for this time. On Thursday at noon, they will be offering a live event on Facebook entitled Getting Your Spiritual Health Prepared for Fire Season.
We are with you in spirit through these challenging times. Once again, we’re all in this together – Sonoma strong!
COVID Practices throughout Our Community
As we all know, COVID-19 is again on the rise in Sonoma County. We want to take this opportunity to reach out to our community, and remind us how we can support each other to ensure that Flourish remains a clean and safe space.
Please be thoughtful about how your exposure outside of the clinic brings risk to our practitioners and other patients. Keeping our community safe is the responsibility of every person in our community. We work hard to minimize any risk of spread in the clinic. However, every person who enters the clinic can bring risk to others, so we want to reinforce what’s needed to keep everyone safe and healthy, and find the best care options for you based on your exposure level (see below).
If you are not strictly following social distancing guidelines (including being 6 feet apart from others, wearing masks as recommended, and not attending indoor functions) in your personal life, please move your care with Flourish to virtual instead of in-person. We feel confident in our ability to support you virtually, and look forward to seeing you online as is needed.
As a reminder… you may not feel vulnerable to this illness – however, we do have patients (and family members) that are pregnant, elderly, or otherwise immunocompromised, and at heightened risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. Any inadvertent transmission may be devastating or fatal to others.
Please consider if your care can be provided through virtual sessions, or a hybrid of virtual & in-person care, until the rate of infection has decreased. Our practitioners have become experienced at providing virtual care, and we’ve seen excellent results with fertility, pain management, stress relief, and a variety of other complaints! We have numerous modalities aside from acupuncture: Chinese Medicine is a complete medical system, and we can support and improve your health with or without needles.
If you’re interested, you can ask your practitioner about putting together a schedule of hybrid care: for example, a fertility patient might opt for weekly virtual care, with monthly in-person visits prior to ovulation. Or, if you don’t yet have a Flourish provider, email us, and we would be happy to talk through options and find the best wellness plan for you at this time.
What does a virtual session look like? Virtual care with your practitioner takes place on Zoom or a phone call, to (1) do a check-in on your current health and your wellness goals, and (2) provide guidance and tools that you can implement to address your issues from home, including acupressure/self-massage, herbs/ supplements, dietary changes, breathing/meditation techniques and lifestyle modifications.
For most patients, virtual care is actually cheaper than in-person visits! Fees: $25/15 mins, $50/30 mins, $90/60 mins (note: the two shorter options will usually do the trick). You can book virtual care online using the Jane system, or reach out to your provider to help you book.
We remain strongly committed to the cleaning and safety protocols that we have been implementing since reopening in June. We have also added the use of a UVC lamp after treatments to further sterilize the clinic for everyone’s safety. All the practitioners are thoughtful in both our personal and professional lives, practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and disinfecting everything, checking our own temperatures, monitoring ourselves for symptoms, and getting regular COVID testing as appropriate.
It is our priority to ensure that our patients are safe when working with us, and that we, the practitioners, are safe when we return home to our families at the end of our shifts. Thank you for your continued support, and your commitment to preserving community safety so that we can continue to keep our doors open and provide care to those in need. We are truly all in this together.
Addressing Stress with Acupuncture
A common thread amongst many of the patients that we’ve seen recently is STRESS! At this moment in time, we are, as a community, facing a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, political turmoil, and the return of fire season. Sigh.
How Stress Impacts the Body
These stressors throw our nervous system into fight flight or freeze response, which can lead to a variety of physical and emotional imbalances that affect everyone in unique ways. For some patients, stress can lead to insomnia and restlessness; for others, anxiety might flare up or their digestion might be on the fritz.
These imbalances are frustrating in the moment. Over time, they can turn into more serious issues – such as high blood pressure, oxidative stress, decreased immune response, and general inflammation – and can wreak havoc on all of the body’s systems.
How Acupuncture Can Help with Stress
One of the things that we love about acupuncture is the significant impact that it can have on a patient’s stress levels.
You may have already experienced the deep sense of relaxation that can come with a few needles, but did you know that research has measured the physiological effects of acupuncture on stress markers? It has been shown to increase heart rate variability, inhibit inflammation, and reduce the hormonal stress response of the HPA axis, to name a few. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) recommends acupuncture as a complementary treatment for anxiety and depression, citing growing evidence of its efficacy.
From a more holistic perspective, acupuncture gives our patients an opportunity to rest and relax, helps to pull the body back into balance, and allows our patients to be present with their body and their emotions. And Chinese medicine treatment doesn’t end when we remove your needles! We ensure that our patients have tools that they can use to address stress in their everyday lives – including qigong exercises, mindfulness-meditation, breathing exercises, acupressure points, and herbal or supplemental remedies.
Feeling Stressed? Come See Us!
Click here to contact us with any questions you might have about how Chinese medicine can help you address stress, or to schedule an appointment for acupuncture today.
Clinic Safety Protocols for Coronavirus
Here at Flourish Integrative Health, your safety and the safety of our practitioners is always at top of mind. As we start to get back to in-person acupuncture treatments, we are working hard to ensure that the protocols we have in place will keep any potential for exposure to the coronavirus to a minimum. We wanted to share our new protocols with you – both what we are doing, and what we are asking patients to do – so that you can have peace of mind that you will be as safe as possible in the clinic.
Here’s what we’re doing to keep the clinic clean and safe:
- Our practitioners wear masks at all times when working with patients.
- Our treatment tables have been stripped of linens – we now use table paper and disposable plastic-lined pillow cases instead. Of course, the table is sprayed and wiped down between patients.
- Anywhere that a patient is likely to have touched will be wiped down after their departure.
- Our practitioners wash their hands with soap and water before and after treatment with each patient, and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer as necessary when in the room with the patient.
- Each treatment room is left empty for at least 30 minutes before the next patient enters that room.
- Air filters are used in every room.
- Any frequently touched surface will be wiped down at the beginning and end of the practitioner’s shift.
Here’s what we’re asking patients to do while in the clinic, to ensure that they are safe, to minimize their time spent in the clinic, and to avoid any potential exposures:
- Each patient is screened by phone for potential COVID-19 symptoms or exposure prior to entering the clinic for their treatment.
- The majority of the intake (talking portion of the treatment) is conducted by phone or Zoom, either right before their treatment or earlier in the day.
- Patients are expected to wear a mask the entire time that they are in the clinic.
- The waiting room is no longer used. Patients wait in their car until contacted by their provider to enter the clinic. The practitioner opens the door to the clinic and the door to the treatment room for them, so they don’t need to touch any handles.
- Patients’ temperature will be taken, using a contactless thermometer, prior to entering the clinic.
- Patients are asked to prepare by bringing in / wearing appropriate items for minimal undressing.
- Patients are given hand sanitizer when they enter the clinic, and then again when they are leaving the treatment room.
- Payment is made via online invoicing, to avoid the need for exchange of credit cards or money in the clinic.
If you have any questions or concerns about our safety practices, please feel free to contact us anytime. We hope to see you in the clinic soon!