Emotions

Woody Springtime

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So Spring has sprung… well, it kinda sprung, then jumped to a week or so of Summer heat, then the snow came back and we all put our mittens and earmuffs back on… and now, it sort of seems right, April showers are here and we’re uncertain what kind of coat we should be wearing – yep, that sounds like Spring to me!

In Chinese Medicine Spring is the season associated with the Wood Element. It represents a new beginning, a coming out of the hibernation and inward energy of the Winter. There is a real push to this Yang Woody Spring energy, a force to it – like the “shout” tone of voice, the assertion, justice and defiance associated with the Element. I guess there has to be a strength to this Element and season, all the shoots need this kind of energy – they are coming up and out of the bulbs and seeds after a Winter underground, waiting, storing all their energy ready for this time when the light and temperature increases.

The colour of the Wood Element, and Spring is very aptly green, the movement of energy (or Qi) is upwards and outwards. Quite literally, I see the Wood Element in my mind as a tree, the branches reaching upwards to the sky, and outwards, growing, moving forward with strength, blossoming and blooming with leaves, flowers, and fruits – it is this positive, busy, expansive and increasing energy that we can tap into at this time of year.

The Wood Element (along with its organs of the Liver and Gall Bladder) is all about vision of the future, planning, acting on those plans and moving forward. The sense organ of Wood is the eyes, so we can “see” things in different ways during the Spring. We may have new visions, feel compelled to start a new venture, or to pick up on something we put down during the Winter months… its no surprise that everyone feels inspired to get to work on the garden, the home or the DIY as soon as Spring arrives! It’s all about new projects!

People who have Wood as their CF (Element, or constitutional factor) can thrive during this time – as the old saying goes, they really can be “in their Element”!! Ideas blossom, things flower – reflecting the activity in nature and in our gardens. Or it can be a difficult period where they feel as though they should be moving forward, but can’t. It can be difficult to “see” where the future plans or vision should be, the Qi (or energy) doesn’t flow upwards or outwards as it should, it can get stuck and stagnant… this can create what I refer to as a Springtime depression.

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And don’t forget, although we tend to revert back to one “default Element” or CF – mine is Water – we do actually all have all Five of the Elements within us, working together (harmoniously, or otherwise!), so we can ALL feel pushed positively forward on this wave of Woody springtime energy, or feel a bit lacking and unable to “see” ahead.

A tree can be flexible, bending in the wind, and weathering the storm, as long as it’s branches are properly nourished… if the tree is lacking or deficient, it can become stiff and brittle, breaking easily at the first sign of stress. And this is how some of us can feel during the Spring. We may have done too much during the Winter, or been exhausted by coughs and colds at the beginning of the year… as the rest of the world around us starts to blossom and push forward with Wood energy, we can feel flat and unable to move forward at all.

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This disparity between what we feel inside, and what the rest of the busy world appears to be doing outside, can cause us to feel hopeless, stuck and numb, we may feel as though we (or “our branches”) might break if we even try to do anything at all.

Whichever way you’re feeling at the moment, acupuncture can provide a real boost during this change of season, helping you to top up your energies, to move forward in a way that you want, overcoming any stagnation or frustrations. Treatment at this time can also help with hay fever (that might be starting to creep in around now?!) and can expel any pathogens left over from Winter that we haven’t quite managed to shake off yet… and in true Wood Element style, this “forward planning” of sorts, actually leaves our immune systems in better shape for next Winter! So Spring into action and contact me now, to start something new and positive today – acupuncture!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2012

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Enough Petrol in the Tank?

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Here in the UK things have gone a bit crazy on the petrol front. Everyone queuing to fill up their tanks, beeping at each other, blocking surrounding roads, running the petrol stations dry, general hysteria. And all of this is BEFORE the potential strike by tanker drivers even happens, before it is even the same week of the proposed strike. The general advice is fill up so your tank is full to the brim.

This panic buying reminds me of the yang side of the Water Element. As I have described before, there are five Elements in Chinese Medicine – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood – and each of the five Elements have organs associated with them, one yin and one yang (though Fire is greedy and has four!!). The Water Element organs are the Kidneys (Yin) and Bladder (Yang). And although the Kidney energy has a lot to do with “reserves”, it is the Bladder energy that makes us feel panicky over “running out”, before the potential threat has even happened.

On a physical level the Bladder (and Kidney) regulates the balance of Water in our bodies by adjusting the volume of urine. Emotionally, an imbalance in the Bladder official (or energetic organ, not necessarily the physical organ itself) on an energetic level, can give rise to the huge fear, or lack of fear, associated with the Water Element. When the well is dry, there are no reserves of water for the coming year to bring fluid and nourishment; when the bank’s “rainy-day fund” has gone, the reassurance from having a monetary back-up disappears… the general notion that there might not be “enough” for the future is scary, and can induce panic. This is how I am viewing the public’s behaviour this week with the petrol – as I always say, I see the world through “Five-Element tinted glasses”!

When we feel we don’t “have enough” (emotionally and physically) to get us through into the future, everything appears to be a threat, and we may imagine all the worst possible outcomes, never secure in the knowledge that we can survive. The mental and emotional impact can be huge if our Water Element is depleted, particularly if we have a perceived “lack” of actual physical things in our lives too – in this case, a lack of petrol – or should that be a PERCEIVED lack of petrol?!

To a Water CF (a person who has Water as their main Element or Constitutional Factor i.e. CF), it does not matter if there is a perceived threat or a real threat, the fear or panic is exactly the same. It is a case of managing the fear and managing the road towards catastrophisation; for example, A and B leading to X, Y and Z in one or two jumps instead of twenty five!

This case is an incredibly accurate and timely working example of this route that the Water Element and fear can go down – a potential strike of petrol tanker drivers has made the country jump to the conclusion that there will be no petrol, no Easter holidays away, no getting to the doctors or hospitals, patients will suffer, people will not get to work, they will lose money, lose their houses etc etc – the escalation from “the drivers MAY strike”, to “the UK will be ground to a standstill and everyone will suffer” seems to have been one simple step – creating the crazy panic buying seen in the last few days! I reckon quite a lot of people need their Water Elements treating at the moment!!

As a Water CF, I am trying hard not to buy into this mass hysteria and panic buying, though I do have a full tank at the moment (both petrol, and energetic tank from having had acupuncture myself this week!), so perhaps that makes it easier to keep calm! If you recognise feelings of fear of the future, feeling easily overwhelmed, worried about whether you have enough energy to survive what is coming your way, you could benefit from Five-Element acupuncture. This is my favourite part of acupuncture (as a patient and a practitioner!) and it can have a huge impact on your quality of life – contact me here, keep calm and feel better!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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Talking Stress Reduction

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At the beginning of the month I was asked to appear on BBC Radio Oxford as their afternoon show – Jo Thoenes in the Afternoon – was covering the topic of stress, and how this can manifest in our bodies. Local personal trainer George Anderson spoke about the impact stress hormones such as cortisol, has on the body and the way it stores fat, making it difficult to lose weight.

I spoke about how acupuncture can help regulate hormonal imbalances, particularly adrenal fatigue (which is also linked to not being able to shift fat, as well as leaving patients exhausted), as it is a very regulating, balancing and harmonising treatment. And with hormones, balance is the key.

Acupuncture helps both physical and emotional stress, and the best thing about it being a completely holistic treatment, is that when these physical and emotional symptoms occur at the same time, we can treat them simultaneously – we treat YOU as you, not as a tense neck or shoulder… have a listen below!

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVlbxE-TVf0%5D

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The piece finishes by highlighting some of the other things your acupuncturist can do in the treatment room. For example, we can recommend dietary changes, lifestyle advice, drawing attention to the rest vs exercise balance, and so on… remember, acupuncture is not ONLY about the needles, we have a whole wealth of Chinese Medicine theory to draw upon, to help you!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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Open or Shut the Gates?

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So the pre-Christmas build up and the day itself has been and gone, but we’re still gearing up for the New Year celebrations – for my family there are birthdays too! Everyone in the world wants to meet for a “Christmas drink” – we don’t see these people for most of the year, but somehow as soon as December hits, everyone wants to meet, your diary is chocka-block and you don’t even have a window in which to pick up the Turkey!

Now this isn’t a bad thing in itself, the invitations are offered in the jolliest of spirits, everyone is full of Christmas cheer, overtaken by the excitement of the festivities and the warmth of being with people you love… but the emphasis must be on exactly that, being with people you love. At this time of year, many of us struggle with saying no to acquaintances and well-meaning neighbours, so that our social calendars over the holidays are stretched to bursting point and we don’t have time to do the things we really want to do, or the things that are going to nourish us the most.

This kind of joy, the bubbly, jolly socialising, reaching out to others to make connections and relationships is all associated with the Fire Element in Chinese Medicine. It is to do with the Heart organ (with the Small Intestine), and the Pericardium (Heart Protector) with the Triple Burner (temperature regulator in Chinese Medicine). All the associations we recognise to be aligned with the Heart, are synonymous with the Fire Element – love, happiness, people, parties, laughter, warmth and closeness with others. However, conversely, the opposite is also true, at the other end of the spectrum, i.e. a lack of joy, not wanting to socialise, hating parties, feeling miserable and flat – the key is to keep the Fire Element in a state of balance, so the emotions don’t fluctuate massively from being incredibly up, to plummeting down into the depths. This is the case for all of us, as we all have all five of the Elements within us, but it is particularly important for Fire CFs (those people who have Fire as their Element or Constitutional Factor, which is like their energetic default setting)…

This was particularly evident in the last couple of weeks before Christmas, as in clinic, I noticed I was treating nearly all of my Fire Element (or Fire CF) patients with what we call the luo-junction points, Pc 6 and TB 5 – my quota totally sky rocketed as we got nearer and nearer to Christmas!

These points, called Pc 6 (Pericardium 6, Nei Guan, Inner Gate) and TB 5 (Triple Burner 5, Wai Guan, Outer Gate), can provide us with a valuable lesson during the festive period, as it is about maintaining a healthy balance between reaching out and opening our hearts to others, or retreating inwards and “closing the gate” to people around us.

I have used this point combination a lot during December, to allow patients’ spirits to feel more balanced, to get emotionally prepared or “fired-up” for the upcoming onslaught of celebrations, and to feel like they are actually allowed to say no to some social engagements if they so wish – however hard it feels! The Inner Gate (Pc 6) reaches the inner aspect of the person, regulating the opening and closing of the gates of the Pericardium, which protects the Heart. When this inner part feels weary, fearful or overwhelmed by social engagements, the point can stimulate the Heart Protector’s compassion, connection and warmth, allowing us to go “out” whilst still feeling protected.

The Outer Gate (TB 5) has the function of actively discerning who may enter and leave through our gates. It regulates our external boundary, helping us to reach out (physically and emotionally – hence its location on the arm, towards the wrist) to make contact with positive people… when it is not functioning correctly, we may reach out to too much (showing too much of ourselves to others), to too many people, or the wrong people, creating a negative affect.

So remember, think carefully about your own inner and outer gates as you gear up for the New Year parties – are you seeing the people you really want to see? Are you reaching out and making connections with loved ones who are important to you? Or have you succumbed to “accidentally accepting” an invitation that came in whilst your inner gate was too open? Were you unable to protect your heart when someone asked you to celebrate with them? Do you need to do something quieter at home, instead of a drunken night on the town?

Choose to welcome in 2012 with something that will nurture yourself – you can open the gate, or close the gate, whatever suits your own energy, just listen to your intuition as this will be very different for different people. Wishing you all very happy New Year celebrations, whatever they may look like!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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All of the Sweetness, None of the Sugar

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So I seem to have overdosed on Christmas movies in the last couple of weeks! (Hence the gap in writing the blog – the intention was there, but the Christmassy procrastination / hibernation reigned supreme!).

Having found that “Movies 24” changes to “Christmas 24” from the 1st December, there is a veritable feast of cheesy, sickly sweet, American straight-to-TV Christmas films that start every hour on the hour – a one-stop-shop for festive merriment of baking and icing gingerbread men, threading popcorn for the tree, singing carols around the piano (how come everyone can always sing in tune, and there is always someone who plays beautifully?!)…

That heart-warming, fuzzy, contented feeling that comes after seeing the happy ending, where the couple finally get together underneath mistletoe, or the family are reunited (after facing potential misery) beside the giant sparkly Christmas tree covered in snow, as happy shiny people in brightly coloured scarves, hats and ear muffs skate behind them in the background shot – it not only boosts our Fire Elements (the Heart, and emotions of jolly joy and warmth, about happy socialising and people), but the stories feed the Earth Element, nourishing the Spleen (Earth organ).

The Earth Element is all about nourishing, mothering, home-making, feeling centered and grounded, bringing family and communities together, with sympathy, understanding and looking after each other in the sweetest, most supportive way. The virtues of Earth are about care of others, putting others before yourself, a love of family, food, and the home (we won’t dwell on the vices of Earth in this post – that’s just not festive!!). The over-the-top niceness and sweetness that comes in these movies portrays this Element perfectly – so much so that my Wood CF sister cannot sit through them without getting impatient… I however, adore them – the cheesier the music, the more predictable, more magical, more sticky-sickly-sweet the better!! It really does satisfy my Spleen’s craving for sugary loveliness. The Spleen loves sugar, and when imbalanced (to any degree, slightly or hugely), causes us to crave (and eat!) more sugary things like cake and biscuits…

It is also no surprise that these types of films can be called “cheesy” as the Spleen also loves cheese and dairy – though, as described previously, depending on your constitution, cheese may not love your Spleen! It can cause phlegm to build up in the body, creating symptoms like a blocked nose, increased snoring, catarrh in the throat, heavy limbs, or a muzzy head – I treat this in the clinic a lot, especially after all the consumption of Christmas Cheese boards! Cheese hates me, but I can get my fix of sticky, milky, satisfying cheesiness from these films, without compromising my health! And an unblocked nose is always a bonus at Christmas!!

Supporting the Earth Elements (Stomach and Spleen) can reduce cravings of sugar or dairy, and acupuncture certainly does this by boosting the function of these organs. But you can support your own Spleen at home, at this time of the year, by nourishing it in a more abstract way – not with actual food, but with “food” for the spirit of the Element. So if you go to reach for another mince pie, or a Christmas Tree shaped cookie, why not stick a Christmas movie on instead, and get all of that delicious sweetness, but none of the actual sugar! Holistic health in the holidays! Enjoy!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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