BACK TO NORMAL: DEALING WITH CONFLICTING FEELINGS THE TCM WAY
Understand Your Emotions & How to Naturally Cope With Them
See ya later, Zoom meetings. After a year of WFH and social distancing, it’s almost time to go back to “normal.” That means working from the office, kids going back to school, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers at bars, parties, and shopping malls.
If you’re the type of person who has had a nightmare about showing up to the grocery store without a mask, you’re probably–understandably–a little anxious about everything opening back up. But at the same time, like most people, you’re probably dying to get back to living your life–whether that means live concerts, brunches with the girls, shopping at your favorite boutiques, or in-person work out classes.
It’s normal to feel conflicted, overwhelmed, or confused about how to feel about all of this. After a year of isolating, seeing people is weird! We’re used to staying six feet apart and not seeing other people’s faces from the eyes down. Sometimes it feels like we’ve forgotten how to interact and socialize with other people after a year of chilling on the couch and wearing sweatpants to Zoom meetings. And now we’re just supposed to go back to normal like nothing happened?
No matter what, it’s going to be a big change. And if you’re having conflicting feels about all of this, you’re not alone.
But have you thought about what kind of impact those conflicting feelings will have on your mental and physical health? In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), your emotions directly affect your physical health, so it’s important to keep in mind. TCM is all about the mind-body connection, so it makes sense that conflicting feelings of anxiety and relief can wreak havoc on your body. Here’s a quick breakdown of how it works, plus ways you can help deal with it.
TCM: Body and Mind
In TCM, there are 5 basic emotions: Anger, Joy, Worry, Sadness, and Fear. And each emotion is connected to one of the 5 main organs.
Experiencing a lot of one emotion can affect the related organ. And when an organ is imbalanced for any other reason, we might sense some excess emotional activity. For instance, if you’re constantly afraid of losing your job, you might end up with some kidney-related symptoms like constantly needing to pee or having dry mouth. On the other hand, if your liver is imbalanced, you might notice bursts of uncontrollable anger, even if you’re a pretty chill person. Joy might seem out of place, although it refers in Chinese to a manic type of happiness.
Dealing With Conflicting Emotions, TCM Style
When it comes to “going back to normal” post-COVID, you’re probably feeling a lot of feelings. In particular, you might be happy and excited to see your friends and go to your favorite places (Joy). But you might also still be afraid of catching COVID or one of the variations, even if you’re vaccinated (Fear). And at the same time, you could be constantly stressing about how close that stranger is standing next to you or whether you’ve turned into an awkward weirdo thanks to a year in quarantine (Worry).
That’s a lot of feelings! And it’s ok to feel all of them. But if you let them get out of control, they can start to wreak havoc on your organs. Here’s some tips on how to avoid that:
- Get it out: Sometimes, doing something physically can help you process an emotion. For instance, if you’re angry, breaking some eggs outside is a harmless way to channel that emotion. If you’re feeling overstimulated or have a lot of nervous energy, try having a one-song dance party or going for a jog to release that pent up energy. If you’re sad, put on a romance movie so you can cry it out. The mind-body connection means that sometimes a physical motion can tell your emotions that it’s time to be felt instead of repressed.
- Feel your feelings: Try not to rationalize your emotions too much. Sometimes, we think that when we can figure out exactly why we’re feeling the way we do, we think we can rationalize it and not experience it. But there’s a big difference between knowing that you’re sad because a loved one died and actually letting yourself feel that grief. While letting your emotions take over isn’t healthy, pushing them down isn’t going to help either.
- Stimulate your liver meridian: Feeling overwhelmed by all these conflicting emotions? Make sure to give your liver meridian some TLC to help your Qi flow to the organ and clear out messy emotions. The meridian runs from the big toe up inside your leg and then travels through your liver and gallbladder up your throat and to your eyeballs. Look up the meridian on Google or try the butterfly pose, where you sit on the ground with the bottoms of your feet touching. Let your spine round out so you can direct your forehead towards your feet, but don’t strain. Stay in this pose for 3-5 minutes a few times a day.
At the end of the day, you have to remember that no matter what emotions you’re feeling–it’s ok! You’re allowed to be stressed, happy, nervous, and more, especially after making it through a crazy pandemic and a thousand “new normals.” But don’t let your emotions control you or take over your life. Just remember to feel them, experience them, accept them, and move on.