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The Wood Element and Stress

Stress is inevitable. A healthy amount of stress offers us motivation and can serve to support goal setting and accomplishments. However, when stress becomes overwhelming, it can paralyze us and prevent us from achieving not only big goals, but even simple day-to-day tasks.

When it comes to stress management, it is important to determine your own relationship to stress. This means, you as an individual should consider your quality of life, the resources you have available to support you, and ways in which you are able to attain and maintain this quality of life.

Consider the types of stress you are able to tolerate and get a sense of how and where you can intervene in lowering stress. When we begin to address stress, we are asked to reflect on our lifestyle and to alter the habitual actions contributing to our stress, so let’s talk change.

Change can be seen from the perspective of the wood element in Chinese medicine. Chinese medical theory correlates the wood element to stress as it is the primary element which responds to change, both planned and unanticipated.

In nature, wood bends to environmental stressors such as wind and rain. It is through this quality of flexibility and adaptability that wood remains strong. Think of trees clinging to the sides of mountains amidst seasonal changes.

As in nature, the wood element functions similarly within us. It is the intermediary between us and the constant flux in our bodies, environments, emotions, and relationships. When wood is strong, it survives even the most extreme forces.

The wood element is important in our physiology and is represented by the Liver and Gallbladder channels. The Liver channel deals with the physiologic processes of storing blood, regulating biorhythms, removing toxins from the body, and regulating the movement of energy throughout the body. It is further associated with sleep through dreams. The Gallbladder channel deals with removing toxins from the body and fostering memory storage. When the wood element is healthy, it stimulates transformation and creativity and when out of balance, it triggers frustration, anger, toxicity, insomnia, disturbing dreams and physical pain.

So how do we support the Wood element?

1) Practice flexibility! This can be both mental and physical.

-Are there ways in which you can adapt to feel more support in your daily life?

-What areas of your life feel stuck? Can you address these with a lifestyle change?

- Incorporate physical activities such as stretching, yoga, taichi, qigong, and physical therapy.

2) Eat foods which support the wood element and which grow in the spring. This includes sprouts and shoots such as alfalfa sprouts, brussels sprouts, asparagus, and bamboo shoots. The sour flavor also supports the wood element so foods such as fermented foods, pickled foods, and lemons are great additions to your diet.

3) Breathe and focus on expanding your rib cage. Take a few minutes to elongate your breath and pay attention to the ribcage as it expands and contracts. Imagine bamboo swaying in the wind as you inhale and exhale.

4) Surround yourself with the wood element. Take a walk in a natural setting, sit by a tree, or simply place green objects around you. These visuals are a reminder of your ability to embody wood element energy.

5) Get creative. Dive into a project of your choice. Creativity is truly anything that inspires you. It may be drawing, painting, writing, dancing, playing music, building, sewing, etc. There are no limits to creative expression!

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