by Serena Ma, ND, MS, LAc
This month we are celebrating Serenity Natural Health's 10 Year Anniversary. It's hard to imagine that I've been in New York for over 10 years. I'm not a native New Yorker and had never lived here until I moved here in 2007. I went to college in Boston so had already fallen in love with the East Coast - and every time I visited New York, I was enchanted by her energy. I didn't mind a small apartment. Who wants to stay home in this amazing city? I wanted to meet interesting and intelligent people, see art, listen to music, eat amazing food, have fun!
10 years later, I'm a homebody now. Ok, I have a 2-year old so that's a big reason why, but NYC's energy can be exhausting! This constant adrenaline rush feels good at first, but it's hard to keep it up the late nights forever. It's no wonder why New York is filled with yoga studios, meditation spaces, gyms, why the parks are packed when the weather is nice, and therapists are on every block. Balancing out that adrenaline rush is essential for longterm survival in NYC.
All my patients hear my spiel: According to Chinese Medicine, stress affects the Liver Meridian, and the Liver's job is to maintain the free flow of Qi. Stress affects that flow and often gives way to stagnation of energy, so any movement or flow or breathing counters the stagnation.
By the way, stagnation can result in: insomnia, depression, anxiety, headaches, digestive issues, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, fatigue, pain, infections, menstrual issues...to name a few.
Also, your body can't keep up with the constant adrenaline rush. You literally tire out your adrenal glands. So here comes adrenal fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, kidney qi deficiency.
In my 10 years of treating NYers, I've learn that NYers MUST take care of themselves. Unless you want to crash and burn, self-care must be a priority. Nurturing yourself can look like different things for different people:
- Take a class (art, cooking, yoga, music) - whatever nourishes and inspires you.
- See your friends - strong social support and oxytocin (love hormone) together exhibited the lowest cortisol (another stress hormone) levels and more calmness, so see your friends and give a big hug.
- Go outdoors - go for a gentle walk in nature (or a resemblance of nature here in NYC). 'Forest bathing' or shinrin-yoku (Japanese) has been shown to lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost immune system, and improve feelings of well-being. This involves just being with the trees, no hiking. Just relax.
- Eat well - make sure you are avoiding foods/habits that make you feel worse, instead opting for food that nourishes and benefits you.
- Sweat it out - exercise, go dancing, take a movement class. These all literally move your Qi so you don't get stuck.
- Talk it out - this could be with friends or your therapist.
- Bodywork - acupuncture, massage, rolfing, craniosacral, whatever your body jives with. Bodywork helps to facilitate Qi movement. Who can relate to stress sitting in the shoulders? Well it also sits itself throughout the body and sometimes bodywork is the best way to nudge it.
- Read - a 2009 Sussex study found that reading was best at reducing heart rate and easing tension in the body after only 6 minutes! Pick up an actual book, instead of reading the latest news on the internet.
- Meditation - Quiet the mind and give it a break.
And above all....SLEEP. This is the most important on the list. Adequate, good sleep is needed for the body to restore and repair itself. In fact, sleep deprivation is connected to: memory problems, cognitive dysfunction, moodiness, depression, higher blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immunity, and weight gain.
So I'm a homebody now. But I still meet the most amazing people at work. I occasionally step out for music and art. I eat delicious food everyday. I take care of myself. And I'm having a lot of fun in New York City.