Exploring Self-Regulation and the Path to a More Easeful Life
How to Find Calm Amidst Wind & Fire of Emotions
When it comes to pyschoemotional disregulation, aka “losing your sh*t”, there are a number of different possible patterns at play. For a practitioner, identifying the pattern is essential for treatment. I’ve found that understanding what’s going on can also be useful for many of the people I work with. So I’m going to share a little about some of the common patterns that are involved in emotional turmoil.
Qi Stagnation - When we resist life we tense up. That tensing creates friction and impedes the free flow of qi. Friction and tension are both physically and emotionally uncomfortable, which leads to more tension. Eventually an explosion will occur (we lose our shit), to move all that stuck energy. It’s often something minor and inane that causes the explosion of pent up energy. For this pattern, exercise (or any movement), deep breathing, and spicy foods are beneficial. Ultimately, anything we can do to move and express that pent up energy is helpful (journaling, singing, laughing, art).
Blood/Yin Deficiency & Wind - Yin is the substantial part of us (while Yang is the energetic). Blood is substantial (it’s a substance that carries energy in it). According to Chinese medicine we need a certain amount of substance to ground and root our energy into, otherwise the energy will flutter and fly around in us like erratic wind. People with a Yin or Blood Deficiency may have a “windy” quality to them. They're constantly moving around and may have trouble settling into stillness. They may have difficulty feeling satisfied and may literally or metaphorically feel empty or light. They might be sensitive and strongly impacted by others and by emotions. They may also have difficulty sleeping. This can look like “tired and wired” syndrome. Sometimes they have a pale or ashen complexion. This pattern is fairly common in women, especially after childbirth and breastfeeding for years. It is also common in people who exercise a lot. Some basic ways to support this pattern include eating rich nourishing foods that feel grounding (especially high protein foods), carving out quiet time, ideally near a natural source of water to be still, and foot baths are great (with epsom salts and lavender), and “silk baths” are great too (this is what we call when when you rub oil all over your body before or after a shower, sesame and coconut oils are good options).
Yang Rising & Fire - When we really deplete the yin, the yang rises up in more than just wind, but in a blaze of fire. We get headaches or migraines, red eyes, and rage. Some people end up with dizziness or vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dry mouth, and even a bitter taste in the mouth. And there’s often stiff muscles in the neck and shoulders. The tricky thing about this pattern is that it’s intense from all the heat and fire, and yet underlying that energy there’s a depletion of deeper resources. This can also look like “tired and wired” syndrome. So it’s important to get some nourishment and rest as well. I encourage gentler exercise in these situations, along with nourishing foods and grounding practices I mentioned above.
Scattered Qi - overstimulation scatters the Heart qi. The Heart, loves life and connection. It’s fascinated with the beauty of the world and people around it. It’s deeply nourished by meaningful relationships with people and the living world. However, in it’s quest to connect and appreciate beauty, especially in our modern world, the Heart can over-excited and undernourished quite easily. Current technology has been designed to pull at our Heart’s attention, and being pulled in so many different directions scatters our qi. And sometimes the type of connection we get (via Facebook, Instagram, Email, or text, doesn't actually nourish the Heart the way we'd hope).
Drop into your feet:
As you may have noticed, many of these patterns involve energy flowing either upward or erratically. Bringing our awareness and attention to our feet, is very grounding. Qi follows attention, so if you focus on the sensation of your feet on the ground, and bend your knees a sink down a little, your qi will settle. You can do this while driving, washing dishes, walking, talking, playing with your kids, typing on a keyboard, checking facebook or instagram, pretty much anytime. Just let some (or all) of your awareness settle into your feet (are they warm? Cold? Tired?). Go ahead and give yourself a foot rub while you’re at it. (You can also bring your awareness into your pelvis or where your body is meeting a chair if you’re sitting to get a similar effect). I’ve been working with this a lot lately, and noticing that whenever I focus on my feet or pelvis, I also end up correcting my upper body posture and have been standing up straight more often.
The Layers - Feel your Bones
This is one of favorite practices because of how well it works and how it jives with powerful concepts in Chinese medicine. Right now, while you’re reading this, take a deep breath, and shift you awareness into your bones. Feel their solidity and stability. Feel the foundational strength of your body. Inside of you, are living pillars of structural integrity (and inside of the bones, the marrow contains the potency of new life in stem cells). In Chinese medicine, the emotions live in the blood, while our deepest foundational essence lives in our bones. Orienting to your bones is a way of getting underneath your emotions, and feeling your own inner stability, amidst a swirl of dynamic emotions. This is a practice I recommend starting as part of a meditation, and then working on bringing into your daily living.
Take your herbs
There are a lot of what I call “Level 1” herbs that can help support your nervous system and invite calmness. These are herbs like chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm, passionflower, nettles, and licorice. I’d encourage you to drink them as a tea. In some situations, we need something a little stronger, which is where “Level 2” herbs come in. These herbal formulations are more powerful and generally needed to be blended into a balanced herbal formula and therefore require professional prescriptions. If you’re interested in learning more about these types of herbs, please let me know.
The most important take-away is that there are lots of tools and support out there. Whether you’re more inclined towards a Biomedical approach and learning about the neuroscience or you jive with the mythopoetic energetics of Chinese medicine, there are ways you can get grounded in the moment and find support throughout your day and week.
Knowing about the tools and utilizing them are two different things. Don’t beat yourself up if and when you trip up. It happens to all of us. Just take it as a signal that something’s off keel and try to orient towards recentering.
(This is the third in a series exploring Self-Regulation: Read Part 1 and Part 2 .)
I hope you found this helpful. Feel free to reach out with any questions or schedule a consultation or appointment to continue the journey. You can also follow us on instagram to get more information and stay inspired, or sign up for the newsletter below to get articles like this in your inbox.