How to Manage Stress and Improve Your Quality of Life

Stress is the body’s natural response to pressure. Learn how to manage stress effectively to improve your quality of life.

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Chronic stress over a prolonged period can negatively affect your quality of life and lead to severe physical and mental illnesses. That’s why it’s crucial to learn how to manage stress effectively.

How to Manage Stress Proactively

Woman talking to her therapist in a mental health clinic.
Seek out a mental health therapist if you feel overwhelmed and do not know how to manage stress effectively.

In Western medicine, there are no specific medications for stress. However, therapies and lifestyle habits can help alleviate a stressed-out mind and nurture your well-being.

Talk therapy

Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a type of therapy that combines practices like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga to help you relax. Cognitive behavioural therapy, on the other hand, enables you to understand your thought patterns and trigger points.

Ecotherapy

Spending time in a green space or natural environment benefits your physical and mental well-being in many ways. For instance, gardening, being around animals, or involving yourself in a conservation project can help reduce feelings of anger or stress.

Gentle exercises

Regular physical activity works wonders to minimise the effects of stress on the mind and body. For example, meditative exercises such as Taichi or yoga helps maintain a good flow of qi (vital life energy) while calming your mind at the same time.

Lifestyle modification

Adopting healthy lifestyle habits is the key to managing stress more effectively. Consider these suggestions to relieve stress and have a better quality of life: 

  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit your intake of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol
  • Reduce smoking
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Think positively
  • Manage expectations
  • Set time aside to rest
  • Listen to music
  • Connect with others
  • Go for a walk
  • Make time to have fun or do something you enjoy
  • Seek professional help if it gets too stressful

You can also consume essence of chicken formulated with Cordyceps extract, which helps with nourishing the lungs and strengthening the kidneys.

Relieving Stress with Herbs

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), stress can disrupt qi, leading to imbalances in the body like stagnation, excess internal heat, and poor blood circulation. If left untreated, it will eventually cause health disorders.

Fortunately, TCM herbal formulations can help with stress which is often caused by imbalances in the liver and the heart.

Regulating qi flow

As the liver regulates our emotions, interruption to the flow of liver qi can trigger emotional disturbances like anger, depression, frustration, and mood swings. In this regard, the consumption of herbal formulations such as xiaoyaosan (逍遥散) is good for easing stress. Tonics that are prepared with eclipta (mohanlian, 墨旱莲), black sesame (heizhima, 黑芝麻), eucommia bark (duzhong, 杜仲), glossy privet fruit (nvzhenzi, 女贞子) and Himalayan teasel root (xuduan, 续断) invigorates the liver. Herbs like Cyperus (xiangfu, 香附) and rose buds (meigui, 玫瑰花), as well as acupuncture treament, can help with qi flow.

Individual herbs like Cnidium (Chuanxiong, 川芎), Lingzhi (灵芝), Hawthorn berries (Shanzha, 山楂) and turmeric Root (Yujin, 郁金) have the potential to boost liver qi.

Eliminating internal heat or fire

Untreated liver qi stagnation can also stir up internal ‘fire’. For this condition, TCM practitioners are likely to suggest an ancient formulation called Tian Wang Bu Xin Wan (天王补心丸).

Herbs like anemarrhena (zhimu, 知母), asparagus root (tiandong, 天冬), Chinese gentian (longdancao, 龙胆草), figwort root (xuanshen, 玄参), foxglove root (shengdi, 生地), salvia root (danshen), andChinese magnolia vine fruit (wuweizi, 五味子) can also help.

Nourishing the heart

According to The Emperor’s Inner Canon (Huang Di Nei Jing), the heart governs the Zang-fu organs and mind (shen). It’s also the seat of consciousness and intelligence. In brief, heart health relates directly to shen. A heart disorder can unsettle your shen and give rise to emotional disorders like anxiety and insomnia.

The prescription of Biota seeds (baiziren, 柏子仁) can treat insomnia that’s accompanied by constipation, fidgetiness, palpitations, and night sweating. Heart-Tonifying Soup (Yang Xin Tang, 养心汤) and Suan Zao Ren Tang (酸枣仁汤) can help to calm the mind and soothe the nerves. Acupuncture and massages which involve the feet and head can also enhance the heart’s functions.

Calming the mind (shen)

A relaxed mind relates directly to a harmonious body. The use of ingredients like American ginseng (huaqishen, 花旗参), lily bulb (baihe, 百合), longan fruit (longyanrou, 龙眼肉) oyster shells (muli, 牡蛎), and thinleaf milkwort root (yuanzhi, 远志) can help you achieve a calmer mind. 

Learning how to manage stress is important to ensure a healthy mind and body. However, if you feel overwhelmed, consult health professionals to help you create an action plan for overcoming stress-related challenges.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Stress from the TCM Perspective”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.

References

  1. Mental Health Foundation. 2021. Stress. [Accessed 10 November 2021]
  2. 2017. How to manage stress. [Accessed 10 November 2021]
  3. Qi Stagnation. [Accessed 10 November 2021]

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