These past few months have undermined our expectations and presumptions about living in New York City in profound ways most of us have never experienced before. This has affected the health of many people in a variety of ways. Not only are we living in fear of contracting or spreading coronavirus, but we had to alter our daily routines, change the way we feed ourselves, exercise and spend time with our friends and family or out in the community. Many have lost their livelihoods. We are also experiencing economic insecurity, even if we haven’t lost our jobs, because the outlook for a recovery, both at home and abroad, is uncertain at best.

Are you feeling out of sorts?

All this has been creating fear and anxiety for many of us, which we experience in different, very personal ways. Some people have outright anxiety, heart palpitations, or even panic attacks. For others, this disturbance manifests in more subtle ways. You may be struggling with sleep issues, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, lack of restful sleep, or sleeping too much. You may have developed emotional eating habits. Maybe you have noticed that you are more easily startled and hypervigilant. Others may feel depressed or hopeless, lonely or unmotivated, or any other way that isn’t a typical expression of their usual selves. Of course, these emotions can also add themselves to other psychological or physical challenges you were already dealing with previously. Many people are feeling more pain.

It’s good to remind yourself that these emotions and health issues don’t come as a surprise during challenging times such as we’re now going through. Know that you are not the only one, that you’re not alone, and that there is definitely something you can do about it. There’s help out there.

How East Asian medicine looks at our emotions

While conventional medicine still mostly tends to treat physical and psychological health as separate entities, East Asian medicine historically has looked at human health as a multi-faceted interplay of physical manifestations and intangible forces we describe as spiritual, mental, psychological and emotional. These aspects of human existence are on a continuum and represent different expressions of our life force, called qi (“chee”) in Chinese medicine. Organ systems and energy channels are associated with distinct emotions and influenced by movement according to the Five Phases of Transformation (wu xing), often referred to as the Five Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. For example, fear is the emotion associated with the Kidneys, according to Chinese medicine, which is the deepest level of our health and the root of our existence. The Kidneys are also the locus of our willpower.

Without going into to much detail, the goal of our healing strategies in Chinese medicine is to identify imbalances in these systems that manifest as certain physical and mental-emotional disturbances and help a person restore balance and harmony. This process can take time.

What conventional and Chinese medicine can offer you

In our conventional medical system in the West, doctors mostly rely on pharmaceutical drugs and talk therapy to help people manage their emotional discomforts. In East Asian medicine, our main strategies include acupuncture, touch, herbal prescriptions, and nutrition therapy. These approaches are not mutually exclusive but can complement one another as a person is striving to regain his or her equilibrium and well-being. However, especially acupuncture is generally much lower-risk than medications. That’s why I often encourage people to first try acupuncture, along with other holistic therapies, when they experience relatively mild or temporary disturbances in their mental-emotional health. Acupuncture can allow someone to benefit more profoundly from talk therapy or counseling because it can reduce excess activation of your sympathetic nervous system. Often, people find acupuncture helpful because they can experience the calming and restorative effects without having to articulate them.

In fact, I would take it one step further. Acupuncture can even be an opportunity during a crisis to enable you to face yourself in deeper ways, at the level of growth, development, reproduction and evolution. It can create space for you to remind yourself of who you are and why you’re here, allow you to center and align yourself with your life’s purpose, and reveal your connection to the universe.

Botanicals offer further options for emotional healing

Using a custom prescription of medicinal herbs, essential oils for aromatherapy, or a homeopathic remedy can provide additional support and nourishment to your body and soul. You can also use these therapies alone if acupuncture is not an option for you.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you will experience enlightenment or bliss during your first acupuncture treatment, but for some people acupuncture certainly has the potential to open up a realm of experiences that can have a profoundly healing effect on their emotions. You may rediscover your self-compassion and hopefulness. If this appeals to you and you are curious about what it’s like, give it a try and see for yourself.

© 2020 Christiane Siebert