It’s interesting that in summertime it’s not just the temperature which hots up. Very often at this time of year, things are over-heating in our lives as well. Certain Issues may be coming to a head; particular tasks might need to be completed or many things – good and bad – may be coming together at the same time and needing your attention. You may be experiencing a sense of having too much to do, or of being under pressure. Let’s face it – getting stressed isn’t that difficult in this day and age. Even getting ready to go away on holiday can be stressful!
The energy associated with summer is that of Fire and there are some paradoxical aspects to this element. On the one hand we have the symbolism of it purifying, cleansing, revitalising and energising. But on the other hand, it has destructive qualities too like the the fierce heat that causes rivers to dry, the earth to become parched and barren and the brittle grasses to become vulnerable to bush and forest fires. And let’s not forget how the sun’s rays can be dangerous to our skin causing burning which can endanger our health if we’re not careful.
In the Chinese system of medicine, the element of fire equates with and characterises summer. Fire is associated with certain “fiery” qualities like creativity, intuition and enthusiasm as well as the emotions of joy and sadness. Fire also governs the heart and small intestine as well as the Circulation-Sex Meridian (which protects the heart) and the Triple Warmer Meridian which governs our flight or fight responses.
We can therefore see that this element powerfully affects not only your life support system (the heart), but also your digestion. And from an energetic point of view, we can interpret the word “digestion” to mean how we deal with our feelings and emotions, how we cope with the words, actions and deeds of others, and how we manage our successes and setbacks. Any degree of discomfort around these areas can be seen as an energetic form of indigestion which will affect us whether we’re conscious of it or not! “Energy indigestion” is likely to manifest in emotions like anger, hurt, resentment and frustration, etc. Add to this the widespread 21st century malaise of stress, and we can see that the fire element literally sparks off all manner of responses, from encouraging healthy vitality, intellect and creativity to causing us to overwork, become performance-driven and deeply stressed. For this reason, we need to be aware of how to lessen the negative aspects of fire.
Bearing all this in mind, summer is a good time to check out your stress levels and take steps to alleviate any symptoms of it. Why? Well, just look at what happens to your body when you experience stress:
When you’re in a stressful situation, an area in your middle brain called the amygdala senses danger and activates your body’s Flight or Flight syndrome. When this happens, the stress hormones of adrenalin and cortisol are released which causes blood to drain from your frontal brain, and blood to be diverted from your digestive system. This causes an inability to digest food and absorb nutrients normally and can also make you more prone to putting on weight. A knock on effect of this is that your immune system is less able to fight infection so you may end up getting stomach upsets or chronic illness. Furthermore, your ability to solve problems is diminished, your creativity is hard to access and your intuition gets fogged up. Not exactly a bundle of laughs, eh?
If this deep level of stress goes unabated, other areas of your life can become affected, too. Sleep patterns go awry, blood pressure goes up, your metabolism slows and you may find yourself becoming increasingly short-tempered – which means that your relationships are likely to suffer. If this continues even further, your body goes into what’s known as adrenal fatigue where exhaustion and depression take over making it even more difficult to function beyond being on “automatic”.
I’ve described the worst case scenario, but if you notice things like feeling you never have enough time to do everything, or you’re suffering from allergies, colds and flu, or you’re eating and drinking too much, getting forgetful, suffering from aches and pains or notice you’re losing your sense of humour, these are all signs of stress. So the last thing you want to do is to let it build up!
The good news is that there are things that you can do to ease yourself out of it and get back into a more balanced daily existence. The most important thing to remember when dealing with stress is to TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME. You don’t want to put even more pressure on yourself! You can’t change things all at once! But a little bit of self-help administered on a daily basis chips away at the problem and little by little, you will begin to see a difference.
Introducing some regular exercise can be enormously helpful. Start off by trying to walk at least 30 minutes each day, Think of it as 15 minutes TO somewhere and 15 minutes BACK from wherever you’ve been. You can build up to longer walks in time. You could also jog or take up swimming and start taking a dip on a regular basis, but make these changes ONE STEP AT A TIME!. All physical activity promotes those feel-good hormones called endorphins which make you feel more awake and alert because it increases the blood flow and oxygen to your brain. If it appeals, you could also add yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong or meditation into your daily activities and these techniques will also help you sleep better.
Try to avoid the easy quick fix stress relievers of food, television, shopping and/or alcohol! All that does is block things out and push everything under the carpet! Instead, listen to relaxation tapes/CDs or have massages or Reiki. And PLEEEASE give Reiki to yourself if you’ve learnt it!!!
EFT (a tapping technique that combines talk therapy with using acupressure points) has also been found to be very effective in helping people to deal with stress. In a recent research trial, participants who received an hour of EFT showed an immediate 24% decrease in cortisol levels whilst those receiving traditional psychotherapy (i.e. talk therapy) showed no change at all in such levels. Results showed that: ”Tapping balances activity between the sympathetic and parasympathetic regions of your brain producing a neutral emotional state which is seen to be the gold standard of health and wellness.” (From a study performed by Dr Dawson Church PhD & Dr David Feinstein PhD)
If you recognise any of the above symptoms in yourself, why not try some EFT or one of the suggestions I’ve made and start the process of monitoring your stress and taking action NOW!. However, if it all feels too difficult, do seek out the help of an experienced practitioner or your GP.
Finally, here’s a simple 5-minute meditation exercise which is extremely helpful for stress and which soothes the mind and brings about a peaceful heart. Experiencing peace calms the mind and body and is very healing. Try it several times a day. You don’t have to do it at times when you feel particularly stressed. Any time will do!
• Focus on your heart as you breath in (it might help to place both your hands in this area)
• As you do this, concentrate on a positive feeling or attitude (e.g. peace) as you breathe out
• Lock in this new positive feeling and keep breathing it in and out of your heart for about 5 minutes
• As you become adept at using this technique, use different positive feelings to help you de-stress