Looking through the lens of Chinese medicine at the state of the nation and the world as we close 2016, I see a giant pile up of stagnated liver energy on the interstate of emotional well-being. In fact, bumper-to-bumper traffic is a perfect metaphor for a common diagnosis we call “liver qi stagnation.” That’s pretty much what happens to the vital pathways in your body when your liver qi (energy) gets jammed.
What gridlocks your liver qi? Well, here in NYC almost anything Trump does. Generally, anything that upsets you and causes you to feel distress can jam your liver qi. So as you can imagine, the election results and the uncertain winds of change it brings forth is crushing liver qi and spirits all across town. And in a ironic literal twist, every street around Trump Towers is a traffic nightmare that is jamming up the qi of NYC and all its citizens who must struggle out of the maze of barricades and detours.
In response to the state of the nation, people around town are wrought with anger, depression, uncontrollable fits of crying, hopelessness, mood instability. These are all classic signs of stagnated liver qi. If people around you seem moody or irritable, don't take it personally! They might just be trying to process everything that's going on. Better to buy them a tea, or ask them if they need a hug.
LIVER QI 101
Your liver qi under normal, harmonious circumstances is responsible for the smooth circulation of your fluids, blood and qi. We say that the liver spreads the qi throughout your system, engaging your internal physiology in a wonderful dance of upward and outward movement that keeps everything in exquisite motion. In these circumstances, your mood is bright. You feel upbeat and motivated. You are able to meet the world with an empowered sense of wonderment.
But, when your liver qi stagnates, you want to snarl at someone for walking or driving too slow in front of you. Tension takes over most of your muscles and you feel tight all over, especially in your neck and jaw. Commercials make you cry. You may even isolate yourself from others for fear that your overwhelming rage might make you say or do something you’ll regret. Ladies, think PMS.
Liver qi stagnation takes its most obvious form in such emotional expressions. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having emotions. But it’s also important to know that you are not your emotions. They are simply energy that either moves through you, or you hold onto. And it’s the latter that causes liver qi to stagnate.
Physically one of the most classic signs is an aching type pain along the sides of your ribs. Stagnant liver qi can impede proper digestion, leading to issues like reflux or nervous diarrhea. Insomnia can also be triggered by stagnated liver qi. Painful or irregularly timed periods are also symptoms that have us looking toward the liver when diagnosing and strategizing acupuncture or herbal treatment.
When you do something like think about the latest Cabinet pick, or ridiculous twitter feud, do you get angry? Unbearably irritated? If yes, your anger just stagnated your qi. After the shock and grief of Hillary’s loss, did a depression come over you that caused sleepless nights? That was your liver qi movement in paralysis, disrupting the sound harmony of your heart qi. When you ponder the possibility of a return to fascism and the roll back of gains made in civil rights do you get tense? #LIVERQISTAGNATION
TAKING BACK YOUR LIVER (AND YOUR POWER)
Perhaps the simplest and fastest way to reclaim the harmony of your liver qi is to stop watching or reading the news. Not for forever, but maybe for a day, a week - take a news detox. Mark Twain said “If you don't read the newspaper you’re uninformed, but if you read the newspaper you're misinformed.” So why not take a vacation from the sometimes agitating and often despair generating news?
Personally, I have no problem being counted amongst the uninformed. I'd rather have healthy liver energy. If that doesn't work for you, then perhaps consider limiting your news consumption so you can have space to relax.
When you feel liver qi stagnating emotions taking over you, get yourself moving. That can mean literally - like go for a walk or a light jog to get your heart rate pumping and your blood moving.
Or, take constructive action on what’s bothering you. In other words, do something about it. For instance, if you’re worried about Roe v. Wade being overturned and you’re mad at Mike Pence, make a donation to Planned Parenthood in his name as so many others have done. When you choose an action that also benefits the good of others - you can be sure this will move your liver like the best of herbal medicine. You’ll know this is happening because you will feel….good.
Nurture and support your wellness and health as your top priority. Self-care is going to be (big league) important in 2017. Already we’ve seen an explosion of change happening globally, nationally and in our own individual lives, and most likely this will only amplify in the new year. We are going to need our resources to make it through all that with bells on. I’m talking about resources like our health, our mental well-being, our physical strength and stamina. So take good care of your body, mind and soul as a daily practice.
Sleep. I think most of us are deeply deprived of the restorative powers of good sleep. When we’re not well rested we have difficulty processing our emotions and we tend to hold onto them. This clouds our judgement and has us easily defaulting into fearful and obsessive thinking and hopelessness. But when well rested, it’s far easier to look at things from multiple angles and choose a perspective that is more balanced.
Look, what’s going to happen next year is going to happen. But as a therapist once said to me, we are not what happens to us, we are the choices we make as a response to what happens. So as the tumultuous and unpredictable year of 2016 closes I am choosing to continue living my best life, despite who sits in the oval office. I choose to believe that everything that happens, happens for the highest good in some way my small human brain may not be able to comprehend...that includes the reality of the Trump presidency.
I choose to spend more time and personal resources helping communities outside of my own who need a helping hand. I choose to seek and extract the opportunities from all of these seeming challenges we face because they are there, we just have to be willing to look. And last, but not least I choose to protect and maintain the integrity of my health and the harmony of my liver qi to the best of my ability, no matter what circumstance may befall me, our nation or our global community.
Wishing you much health and harmony, and a prosperous new year!