By Christina Morris, L.Ac.
Stress can affect virtually all aspects of a woman’s health: emotional, physical, mental, chemical, and even spiritual. Stress breaks down the body’s natural defenses and can cause disharmonies that may affect the body as a whole. These disharmonies can ultimately lead to disease, health disorders or a decline in general well being. It certainly can decrease the quality of life by making life less enjoyable.
Some women’s health conditions are caused or made worse by stress. Women who suffer from PMS, painful periods and cramping may have a tendency to experience greater stress in their lives. In some cases, stress can lead to fertility problems and even miscarriage. This does not mean that all of these problems are a direct result of stress, however, it does have a profound effect on the body. The blockage of energy that stress causes can contribute to many female problems and may aggravate already existing health conditions. Common health issues that arise from stress may include: menstrual irregularities, depression, headaches, change in appetite, irritability, breast distention, allergies, digestive disorders, neck and back tension, reduced sex drive, fatigue, skin disorders, finger or toe nail problems (just to name a few.)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine stress affects the free flow of energy in the body and leads to stagnation and blockages. Each individual has a natural flow of energy that maintains the body’s health and nourishes organs so they function properly. These stagnations and blockages prohibit energy from circulating normally and can affect the overall function of the body’s vital organs. This lack of circulation may eventually lead to disease or other health disorders. If they are not corrected, imbalances in the body create chain reactions. If one area of the body is not functioning properly, it can affect another part of the body, which affects another and so on. Acupuncture, herbology, and different forms of bodywork can be very effective in restoring balance and overall health. These therapies are also used as preventative healthcare to reduce the risk of many health conditions.
Diet, exercise, relaxation techniques, and elimination of stress are essential components in the maintenance of health. Pay attention to your body and what it is telling you. If you feel tired and run down, take some time to relax and make sure you are eating the right foods. Stress affects digestion and inhibits full absorption of nutrients. Prolonged stress will deplete the body of essential nutrients. Try to eliminate junk food and replace it with fresh fruits and vegetables, take a walk, breathe in some fresh air, and remember to breathe deeply down to your “dan tian” (the area just below your belly button.) Shallow breathing is not healthy for your lungs and can create muscular tension. Avoid alcohol, coffee (regular and decaf), greasy, fatty, or oily foods, hot or spicy foods, and red meat in abundance. Make sure you drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. Dietary recommendations vary according to individual needs. Remember to relax and enjoy life. Don’t let stress dictate how you live!