Based on my experience as an acupuncturist treating patients during the pandemic, I can say with confidence that we all have experienced high amounts of stress. We have had to make vast changes, adapt to new circumstances, and even overcome fears and trauma reactions to the uncertainty in our lives.
Each of us is unique, and we each react in our own way unique to the events of the world. The Five Element Theory supports the idea that each person may react with certain tendencies or inclinations based on their own individual constitution and imbalances when presented with high-stress events.
Five Element Theory: How Stress, Depression and Anxiety Display in Each Element
The Five Element system is a whole and complete diagnosis system of Chinese Medicine. It focuses on treatment of the person as a whole being and seeks to balance the body by moving Qi (energy) so it can flow freely within the body. The system is one of observation and is based on the determination of imbalances associated with the elements of fire, earth, metal, water or wood.
As an acupuncturist I base treatments on this information by using specific acupuncture and healing protocols to bring each of the elements into balance. When all the elements are balanced, there is good health. When an element is out of balance – either underacting or overacting- it can cause harm to the other systems by overpowering them or through an inability to nourish. Because this is a system of balance, each of the elements rely on one another to create the highest and best expression within the body. Here are some ways each of the elements may be affected by stressful situations:
How Stressful Times Impact the Elements
The Fire element is the home of the awareness of the Heart. The Fire element has an excitement for life and allows for passionate desires. If this flame fades, Fire people can become depressed, anxious, lost or saddened. They may not have the same excessive energy as usual to complete their grand plans.
People with the earth element are natural caregivers. They are loving and compassionate people who typically go out of their way for others. When Earth people are particularly stressed, their spirit of giving can be dampened and the desire to serve can be squelched. If the Earth element person does not have enough energy to fulfill these expressions, they will tend to become withdrawn and may become overly self-involved or feel sorry for themselves.
People with a Metal element disposition may have a hard time staying present during times of stress. They may lean toward escapism, especially in mental, emotional and spiritual realms. They may feel like there’s nothing left to live for, or simply feel cut off from others, from their source of inspiration, or might lack the ability to see the bigger picture and find good from a situation.
The Water element is associated with willpower and the ability to live according to their own alignment. When external events take place outside of their control, Water element people may try with all their might to persevere through the circumstance. They may feel limited by expectation placed on them, and can sometimes become frozen with fear if the situation is too overwhelming.
People with the Wood element are expressive and creative people who take action. If the Wood element is out of balance, a person will feel unable to fulfill their visions and bring projects to fruition. They may also feel frustrated and depressed, like they’ve lost access to their usual creative energy.
In conclusion, using the Five Element system, we can work together to allow your body to relax, reduce stress/anxiety, alleviate depression, and bring oneness to the body. When the body and nervous system drop into rest and digest, and relaxation mode, healing begins to take place. From this calmer state, energy can flow freely through each element and the mind can open to new possibilities, which releases fear and allows for hope for the future.