Martial Arts for Stress Management

Stress is something everyone deals with on a daily basis.  

Whether from work, family, illness, or just a bad day, stress is always there.  It can accumulate to unbearable levels and make you feel as if there's no escape.  Learning how to manage stress can help keep it from overshadowing everything in life.  However, it's hard to find the time to do this, as it feels like your always running around crazy.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), depending on the school of thought (there's quite a number of them), stress is the root of almost all problems.  It starts as stagnation in the body, which manifests as pain from tight muscles in the neck and back region.  Tight muscles do not allow for a good flow of blood.  From there, headaches occur from the tightness of the Trapezius muscle pulling of the Occipital bone of the skull.  That headache then begins to disorientate us and it becomes harder to focus.  Lastly, from the lack of focus, emotional dysfunction starts to happen and we start to act less like ourselves and more like a crazy person.

As mentioned before in the last article, emotional dysfunction can lead to a lot of problems, depression only being one of them.  Excess emotions related to the 5 Elements lead to diseases based on their corresponding organ.  Anger leads to Liver problems, Worry leads to Spleen problems, Fear leads to Kidney problems, Sadness/Grief leads to Lung problems, and Anxiety leads to Heart problems.  The emotion of Joy, which is seen as a positive emotion and also attributed to the Heart, rarely causes Heart issues, but it does happen.  People have been known to have heart attacks after winning the lottery or during sex.

You're Probably expecting me to now explain how martial arts is great for the body and relieving stress.  It does, just as any active exercise helps to relieve stress!  However, that's not what I'm going to talk about.  

I'm going to talk about how martial arts helps you learn to manage stress.  It's the practice of martial arts that teaches you how to do this.  The actual workout is another component which we'll discuss in a later article.

When I learned kung fu, I was first taught the Dán Tuǐ (springing leg - 彈腿) exercises.  We called them "Body Coordinations" for a good reason.  It was to start training the body for progressively harder routines.  Without learning these routines correctly, everything we'd be taught later would be more difficult to understand and practice.  Therefore, we were required to find the time to practice whenever we could.  With time at a premium, because of work or school, it was very difficult.

Martial Arts states that it teaches confidence, discipline, and respect.  However, what does the really mean?  One meaning is it helps build confidence in your abilities, the discipline to work those abilities, and the respect of using those abilities.  Learning confidence, discipline, and respect is not just limited to martial arts either, but can be gained through many different professions.  Dancing, woodwork, fishing, writing, sewing, and even going for an afternoon walk will teach this.  It's all a matter of perspective.  In this case, the confidence to practice, the discipline of practice, and the respect of time to practice.

I am busy all day.  I am either running around at work, answering questions about computer errors, performing miracles (and I can only do one a day ...), helping our kids get ready in the beginning and end of the day, writing articles (like this one!) and books, answering TCM questions, teaching tai chi, kung fu, and push hands, driving back and forth to parties, and a myriad of other things that keep me busy through the night.  However, I will always find the time to help my wife and my family, no matter how busy I am.  It's because they're important to me, more so even, then my love for martial arts, TCM, or anything else.

Learning how to schedule time is not just for work and practice, but for other things, such as spending time with yourself and others.  I always talk about the balance of Yin and Yang in my articles and this one is no different.  Finding time for yourself is just as important as finding the time to work.  There is always rest and research before activity and work.  When the work is done, you go back to resting.  Too much of one will disrupt the other and cause health issues.  For example, I sit all day at work in front of a computer and I rarely have time to workout at home.  So, I do chin ups on the steel girders and Tai Chi in the attic at work during my break.  I can only do four pull ups :( , but I could barely do one when I first started.

Although I like to joke about it, this quote is entirely true:

"Work is the greatest thing in the world, so we should always save some of it for tomorrow." - Don Herold

So remember, you need to schedule time for yourself, even if you have to ask someone to help.  Taking a 15-minute break when you start to lose focus can help you find it again.  Actually, it's recommended that you take a 15-minute break every four hours, but nothing's stopping you from taking one every two hours if you need it.  If your back/neck hurts, ask your loved one for a massage.  If there's something they can do that can help lessen your stress, let them do it.  They'll be more than happy to help you.

It's okay to do this for yourself.  Just like the quote says, the work will be there when you get back.