Anxiety and the Water Element
Imagine you are living in a time where there is no electricity. No refrigerators, no microwaves, no cars. The winter is coming, and you and your family have been working feverishly to prepare. The food you harvested is being canned, meat is being dried, and you have gone to town to stock up on bags of grain. You don’t know how long the winter will last. You have been chopping wood for the stove and preparing the house for the cold. You are in a place of preparedness. You are alert and have a little more adrenaline to get you through.
Now, fast forward a few months. This winter has been harsh, and you haven’t been able to hunt much. You are going through the wood and jars of food quicker than you would like and there are still months to come before the snow will melt. Sit for a minute and imagine how this feels in your body. Where do you feel it? What emotions are you associating with this feeling?
There are many causes for fear, worry and anxiety. Above, is the feeling of fear associated with the Kidneys. From a Chinese Medical perspective, the Kidneys are responsible for fear, courage and will. This type of fear is felt deep in your body. It is the fear that allows a necessary stress when needed (think fight or flight) but it can also be paralyzing and debilitating. Commonly, this response has become overactive in people. We reach fight or flight at times where this is not an actual threat leading to over taxation of the Kidneys, or adrenal fatigue as you may have more commonly have heard it.
This shows up in many ways. Often someone with overtaxed Kidneys will experience anxiety, fatigue, low back pain, dark circles under their eyes, loose stools (especially in the morning) or tinnitus. This can begin to affect other organs and lead to things like asthma and heart palpitations.
The flip side of fear is will, courage and faith. The Kidneys are also associated with the ears and correspond to deep listening and receptivity. The Kidneys and Bladder make up the Water Element. A person with a healthy water will be a good listener, a productive worker and will know how and when to react to a situation or threat. In the scenario mentioned above, they would not panic over their situation. Instead they would rely on their will and faith to get them through the winter. Out of balance, Water can become fearful, paralyzed and panicky.
Modernly, the Kidneys and Bladder tend to get overtaxed by excessive work, not enough rest and too many stimulants. To improve their health, it is important to have decrease stimulants (such as caffeine) and have enough yin time. Yin is rest, reading, meditation, stretching, gentle walking or anything that fills you up and recharges you. There are also foods that can help, such as seafood, eggs and seeds (especially black sesame seeds).
A water meditation: When you feel anxiety kicking in and your adrenals firing, stop for a second. Take a deep breath. And another. And another but send this one all the way down to your kidneys. Put your hands on over your kidneys to guide you. Is this a real or perceived threat you are facing? Is this a situation that requires your action or reaction? Where are your feet? Connect them to the earth. You have the ability to get through anything. Have you been in this situation before? How did you make it through that time? Tap into your courage, will and faith. Most of what we spend our energy worrying about never really comes through. What purpose does this worry serve. It may help to write some of this down. Spend some yin time achieving clarity. Except in the case of an actual acute threat, a thought-out action will be more effective than a reaction, and certainly healthier for your body.