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Creating a Foundation for Emotional Health


Creating a Foundation for Emotional Health

Emotional stresses in life can cause a myriad of physiological symptoms. Undue stress aggravates chronic illness, taxes the nervous system and other bodily systems including the circulatory and digestive system. In order to cultivate our physical health, we also must work to cultivate our emotional health and our emotional response to stress.

Emotions versus Feelings

Often times, there can be confusion for people differentiating emotions from feelings and word to the wise - they are two different animals all together. Emotions are an unconscious expression often triggered by past experiences, common emotions can be inappropriate joy, fear, abandonment, and anger. Feelings are a bodily felt sense and a conscious expression, for example telling a loved one how you feel about them.  Our end goal in differentiating between triggering emotions and conscious feelings is to make our day to day interactions and stresses less reactive and more proactive - thus less stressful.  As we work toward cultivating emotional and thus physical health, we need to create a strong foundation onto which we can build.

Know Your Needs

Be specific and write these down. Do this on a regular basis.

Needs can change from day to day and moment to moment. Create regular check-ins with yourself and make sure you know what your needs are. These may be as simple as:

  • Eat 3 healthy meals a day
  • Get 8 Hours of Sleep
  • Connect with my Partner Daily

Needs will vary from person to person, but starting with the basics is a wonderful starting point to building your Emotional Foundation.

Reach Out to Your Essential Others

Your ‘Essential Others’ - these are other essential people in your life. They may be spouses, children, close friends, spiritual leaders or community members. These are people that are in essential relationships with you that need to be cultivated, cared for and maintained. Reach out to your ‘Essential Others’ and get to know what their needs are. Begin a dialogue of direct communication and how you can meet each other's needs or compromise on ways to grow your relationship in a healthy and productive way. 

Create Resilience and Strength

Even with a strong foundation, life will surely throw you curve balls. It is during these pain points that we are being called to do further emotional or spiritual work. Ask yourself certain questions to deepen your understanding of yourself and those around you:

  • What lessons can be learned from this situation?
  • How can I get back closer to equilibrium?
  • What specific steps do I need to take?
  • How have my needs and those of my ‘essential others’ changed ?

Emotional health can be a struggle for many and building a strong foundation and resilient mindset can be deeply rewarding on many levels. But remember it is a practice that takes time and effort to cultivate.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their emotional health there are many great local resources. Contact your healthcare provider today for an appropriate referral.


Spring: The Season of Wood & Honoring the Liver


Spring: The Season of Wood & Honoring the Liver


In Chinese medicine, we talk of the elements and their associated organs in order to understand their intricate relationships with each other, ourselves, and the outside world. It is a way of storytelling, that lends beauty to the often dry world of anatomy and physiology. 

I often liken the way acupuncturists speak about 'the elements' in Chinese medicine to learning a new language, a new way to talk about health in relationship - not the silo approach we often see in Western medicine. With that said...

It is Springtime, and we are deep in the throws the Wood element. The Element associated with the Liver and Gallbladder. Spring is a time where earth absorbs all the water and sunshine it can and gives birth to new beginnings. This is the time to align your Vision (Liver) and Execute (Gall Bladder) that vision. It is also important to honor the spirit of the Liver or Hun - which is in charge of Dreaming and Active Imagination. 

If not cared for, the Liver can become easily stagnated, impacting the entire digestive system. Factors that can impact the Liver physically include, recreational and prescription drugs, alcohol, lack of sleep, illness. Emotional etiology includes, anger, repressed emotions, resentment and apathy. And on a spiritual level, you may see people who lack direction and vision in their lives or the inability to execute their dreams.  

Some Simple Self Care for the Liver

Physical Level

Think Green!

Eat Foods the Nourish the Liver Blood by focusing on green and seasonal. 

Every day have one or more of these delicious veggies. 

Artichokes, Asparagus, Dandelion, Chard, Celery, Basil, Peppermint, Parsley

High quality grains and protein are also essential building blocks to liver health. 

Avoid: Alcohol, Recreational Drugs

Care for Your Belly

I find abdominal massage to be a wonderful way to nourish and move the Liver Qi. I use a 1% dilution in carrier oil of Lavender, Peppermint or Bergamot. Work the oil up under the right ribcage, around the solarplexus and massage around the belly in a clockwise direction. Gently recognize and massage any tender areas until they dissipate. Breathe deeply as you do this. 

Emotional Level

Express Yourself!

Begin a mindful practice where you begin to express emotions in a healthy and constructive way. One of my favorite authors who captures the interplay of the body and emotional health beautifully is Thich Nhat Hanh - check out any of his books. They are all truly wonderful. 

Spirit Level

Dream Big!

Begin to keep a Dream Journal. This practice can take time to work with. But just starting the process can be incredibly rewarding. 

Hug a Tree!

Spend time in nature. Embrace the blooms and growth around you. And seriously give your favorite tree a hug, If you're not ready for that, try a picnic with loved ones under a favorite tree. 

I hope through incorporating even one of these practices, you begin the process of honoring the Wood element and all the Growth, Vision and Dreams it can bring to your life. 

Catherine Craig L.Ac.