Stress relief: Fighting a silent killer

It has been established by scientific research that emotional stress is directly linked to inflammation and disease. However, it is not the emotion itself that is pathological. Emotions only have a negative effect when they are extreme, suppressed or long-lasting. Whether you are over-worked or unemployed, there are tools that can help you.

The seven disease-causing emotions identified by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are: anger, grief/sadness, fear, worry, over thinking, shock or fright and joy.

But how do our emotions affect us?


Anger causes our energy, or Qi, to rise and most affects the liver. Thinking back to the last time you got really angry, you may relate to the feeling of energy rising. Anger causes our ears to get hot, just like in the cartoons, and commonly causes symptoms such as elevated blood pressure, headaches, flushed face, bloodshot eyes, ringing of the ears, chest congestion, indigestion and bitter taste in the mouth. Anger also includes resentment, irritability, frustration, rage and animosity.

Grief and sadness

Sadness dissolves or consumes our energy. When we are overcome with prolonged sadness and grief, symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness, asthma, cough, loss of appetite, constipation and urinary problems often occur.


With fear, adults often experience low back pain, knee soreness, nightmares, insomnia, palpitations, adrenaline rushes and fainting. A Stanford Medical School study of women who had previously had heart attacks, found that women who were emotionally fearful were the ones more likely to go on to have a second heart attack.

Worry and over-thinking

Worry and over- thinking stagnates Qi, disrupting digestion. This can also be caused by over work, too much study and obsessive thinking. This is very common in our society in both professional and student settings. This can be worsened by eating quickly at work or discussing work while eating. This knots up energy and disrupts your body’s fluid distribution.

Symptoms of worry or over-thinking include abdominal upset, indigestion, flatulence, bloating, poor appetite, diarrhea, constipation and stiffness of the neck and shoulders.

Shock or fright

Shock or fright scatters Qi, injuring both the heart and kidney. This often leads to palpitations, mental restlessness, insomnia, breathlessness and cold sweats.


Joy is generally beneficial, calming the mind and relaxing energy flow.

What is damaging is excessive excitement or an abnormal degree of mental stimulation.

There are four ways to help balance your stress and prevent disease:

• Exercise and movement

Exercise and movement have been shown to release energy that has been affected by anger, sadness, fear or worry.

• Outdoors and sunshine

Sunlight, vitamin D and fresh air are beneficial and help balance emotional stress.

• Relaxation and breathing

Taking time for yourself to relax, calming your mind and re-oxygenating your body, are all critical elements of a healthy lifestyle.

• Acupuncture, massage and more

Some say the calming affect of massage and acupuncture can help rebalance your nervous system. Chinese Medicine uses this combination to combat stress.

• Dustin Dillberg owns Pain Free Kaua‘i in Lihu‘e. His clinic specializes in natural health care solutions. For more information, call Pain Free Kaua‘i at 245-0007 or email


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