Gratitude and Stress

by Jennifer L Fockler

Gratitude and Stress, Jennifer L. Fockler, L.Ac. in Chicago, IL

Gratitude, what is it? How do you practice it?

 

This is what I’ve been working on this Fall, personally. Of course, we talk about the pumpkin pie and the turkey, but what about the spirit of Thanksgiving?

 

I think that in our culture this can be a tough one because it goes against the grain of consumerism, where you always need to buy the latest and greatest or have designer handbags or shoes. Then throw in Black Friday sales on top of that! Pretty soon the holiday turns into a shopping frenzy and it’s meaning is lost.

 

In Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the season of Metal, which is your Lung and Large Intestine systems. These two paired organs work together to create chi, through breathing, and letting go of what is no longer needed, through the bowels.

 

Autumn can be transformational when you add in some gratitude and get rid of what no longer serves you on an emotional and physical level. This will help you to create more chi and ‘room’ in your life. In a way, you can see this as just physics (literally just taking a dump), but it can also represent a state of mind or attitude about life.

 

This also ties in with the philosophy of minimalism that is popular right now, where material possessions are low and daily routines are super low maintenance. Keeping it simple, helps the mind and emotions also stay clutter free. If you’re interested, this is a great place to start www.theminimalists.com

 

I would encourage everyone, myself included to try a gratitude journal. It can be everyday, a couple times a week, or once a week. Just write down five things you are grateful for, no matter how big or small, its that easy. Some prefer a paper journal or notebook, while others like a digital version on their phone. I don’t think it matters so much as actually doing the mental exercise. Find what works for you. For some more tips, check out www.ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/gratitude_journal

 

 

Do the holidays stress you out? Do they give you a case of the blues?

 

This is a very common reaction these days. Maybe you lost someone, feel broke and pressured, feel left out or feel alone.

 

The fact is, you are not alone. Actually, you are in very good and crowded company!

 

Chinese medicine has some tips to help ease these discomforts, so maybe you can enjoy a little bit of the season. Also, I’m throwing in my two cents, the things that help me personally.

 

My number one tip, is to stay on top of your basic self care. Get enough sleep and eat in season and relatively healthy. Often when we get stressed, these are the first things to get lost in the shuffle. Eat soups and stews and eat in moderation in general. Eating too much can cascade into feeling like crap pretty quickly. Please don’t deny yourself, there are lots of extra treats this time of year, but have one instead of ten. I also like to drink hot drinks of any sort, like teas, coffees, gluhwein, and just plain hot water. Of course, watch the caffeine and alcohol to make sure you are staying hydrated.

 

My number two and close tie for number one is to keep it simple! It’s so easy to go overboard with decorations and gifts and cooking and baking and parties and…..you get the idea. More is not always more, if you know what I mean. I would rather spend less time shopping and more time with family. This year we are gifting each other events, like Hamilton and a Hawks game. We even went to Vienna to hang out at the Christmas markets! Of course, there will be a few minor presents, but nothing compared to some. This is about finding and knowing your limits, which will be different for everyone.

 

Number three is going to sound pretty scary to some of you, Bundle up and go outside! Physical activity moves your Liver qi and helps your body process stress so that it doesn’t end up in another place, like acid reflux or insomnia. Winter sports are soooo much fun if you wear the right gear. I enjoy ice skating, skiing, platform tennis and snow shoeing. But if you’re not into that, just go for a walk and look at the Christmas lights. There is something really magical about getting warm and sweaty in the cold, then coming inside and warming up with a drink and hot bath, for instance. In Vienna, everyone was standing around and walking in the cold and drinking warm punches, with and without alcohol. The outdoor seating was even open and occupied in the snow!