Anxiety is something that we all experience to a greater or lesser extent at some point in life. For some, though, it is a constant presence. Anxiety shows up in each person differently, with symptoms that range from heart palpitations to sweating, from shortened breathing to muscle contractions. No matter what the symptoms, Chinese Medicine excels at helping ease anxiety and panic attacks, and at preventing future occurrences from arising.
The Five Elements
In Chinese Medicine, everything within and outside of us is broken up into five elements, or phases: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. Health is understood to be a state in which each individual element is balanced, and there is also a balanced relationship between the five. Anxiety falls in the realm of a Water element imbalance. To begin to understand the Water element, one can think of the metaphor of the ocean. Sitting on a boat floating in the ocean, you experience its vastness. In health, this inspires reflection, peace, and feelings of expansiveness or relaxation. When out of balance, this experience can bring up fear, specifically fear of the unknown. What could be underneath the boat? All of the bad things that could possibly happen begin to play through the mind. This fear is what underlies anxiety. The mind plays out all the negative occurrences possible in life, and fear is a constant presence.
In Chinese Medicine, treatment of anxiety involves acupuncture on the meridians of the Water element, as well as the channels that support the Water element channels. By bringing these meridians into balance, anxiety is relieved and a sense of peace and relaxation is brought about. Along with needle treatment, your acupuncturist will most likely recommend mindfulness exercises to practice if and when anxiety does show up. These exercises help decrease the anxiety in the moment, and over time are beneficial in helping it not to occur again.
Reigning in anxiety with mindfulness
Coming back to the present moment
Since anxiety tends to originate from the mind, the most basic exercise is to bring your awareness back to your body. One way to do this is to bring your awareness to your feet. Feel gravity holding you to the ground, the weight of your body. If you are sitting, you can bring your awareness to feeling gravity holding you to your chair. Take a few slow, deep breaths. This alone can be incredibly powerful. To bring your awareness to your body means that you’re giving your mind a healthier focus than the story that is bringing you the anxiety.
You can also add a breathing meditation to this basic practice. To do this, imagine that with each exhale, the anxiety is leaving your body through your feet, being taken back in by the earth. Then, with each inhale, imagine that you are being filled with relaxation and ease. This deceptively simple exercise is quite effective in battling anxiety in the moment. It can help to practice this when you are not experiencing the anxiety as well.
Another breathing technique that is useful in decreasing anxiety is to breathe out longer than you breathe in. This involved counting along with your exhales and inhales. For example, exhale to the count of eight and then inhale to the count of four. Waiting a few counts between the exhale and inhale is also beneficial. Again, it is amazing how powerful focusing on the breath can be in shifting out of the state of anxiety and into one of greater ease and peace.
Understanding your stories
Other exercises for releasing anxiety in the long term involve reflecting on the stories playing through your mind that are adding to the anxiety. First, it is important to know what these stories are. To learn this, you must be aware of what you are thinking about immediately before the anxiety sets in. This is something that may take time and patience. Once you know what these stories are, it’s time to look at where they come from and whether they serve a purpose for you. You can ask yourself, “What is this story attempting to achieve?” Oftentimes, stories that are behind anxiety are ones that your mind is using to try and keep you safe, that were created from a past experience that you don’t want to repeat. The fact is, though, that though the intention behind the creation of the story is good, the story in itself does not keep you safe. What does keep you safe is being present in the moment with all your awareness and faculties. It is only through being present that you can make the best possible decisions based on the information available to you at the time, and be prepared for whatever shows up in the moment.
To recognize which stories are not serving is a huge step in letting them go, and being freed from deep-seated anxiety. This takes a bit of mind training. When you notice the story come up and recognize or acknowledge that it is not serving, use the rational voice in your mind to say so. Say to yourself, “Thank you for trying to help, but this story is not serving me. What would serve me is to be present and aware in the present moment. I am going to focus on my body and my breath to do this.” Then, focus on your body, and your breathing. Again, this is a method that takes practice. Though simple, it is not easy. Don’t judge yourself for having the same story come up again even though you rooted it out and acknowledged it as not serving. Simply do the practice again. Eventually the story will fade, and with it your anxiety.
Acupuncture can help
There are many stories in the mind that we create out of fear, but that in fact do not serve to make us safer or happier. To recognize these one by one and use the above method to weed them out is to take huge steps toward peace and happiness within. Acupuncture can help this process become easier and smoother. By bringing the functional systems of your body into balance your thinking becomes clearer, and it is easier to be more aware of the different stories you have come to live with. It also helps to increase focus and allow for breathing and meditation exercises to become easier. Overall, acupuncture is a wonderful technique for easing anxiety and bringing about greater ease in life.
Interested in learning more about acupuncture? You can read About Acupuncture or How Acupuncture Works. You can also learn about Eastern Medicine, Five Element Theory, or Our Philosophy. To learn more about Wisdom Traditions Acupuncture, take a look at About Us. If you have any additional questions, feel free to Contact Us or Schedule an Appointment Online.