Affect damage is a concept within TCM that describes how our emotions affect us on a physical level. It is the concept that our emotions play an integral part in our state of health. There are five basic emotions recognized within TCM: joy, grief, thought, fear and anger. In a well-balanced system, it is expected that people will experience each of these emotions in their appropriate context. TCM views pathology when any one of these emotions is felt more than others or is displayed in an inappropriate manner. We have the potential to damage ourselves in this manner every day. In fact, most people who come into our office are under a heavy load of stress that leads to excessive worry. If continued unchecked, this worry and stress can wreak havoc upon the body. As awareness grows within the mainstream for the mind/body/spirit connection, people are becoming more aware of exactly how much our mind affects our body. In the meantime, it is important that we all develop our own methods of keeping our stress in check.
Here are a few tips that I have found to be particularly helpful:
- Stop yourself! When you become aware that you are worrying or stressed about something, take a physical inventory of your body. Do your shoulders hurt? Did you lose your appetite? Are you craving something? Try to first make yourself aware that you are in a moment of stress, and then try to figure out where you are placing this stress within your body.
- Take 10 deep breaths. Deep breathing is a mechanical way that you can help calm your nervous system and calm your mind.
- Live in the moment. Yes, it is a cliché. Remember that we have little to no control over the future. Rather than worry about what is coming up tomorrow, focus on what is happening today! You can control your actions today and that may have an effect on what happens tomorrow.
- Remember that the world is bigger than you. This is a personal one for me. Whenever I become overcome with the stresses in my own life, I remember that there are more troubles and bigger issues in the world than the ones I am dealing with. Not to discount my own experience but gaining a wider perspective is a great coping method.
- Get a hobby. (Hopefully a healthy one—like exercise, rather than a daily cocktail) Sometimes a little distraction is all it takes to chill out.