How to maintain the mental health and work in a stressful job?

For SHA Wellness Clinic
Tuesday February 12th, 2019
Natural therapies

Philippa Harvey - TCM Specialist
Philippa Harvey - TCM Specialist

Philippa Harvey, our TCM Specialist, explains how to look after the Liver QI, the organ most affected by stress at the body, mind and spirit level.

The alarm goes off, you jump up and try and remember where you left your mobile . Always far enough to make you get up and switch it off… or you will put it on snooze and fall asleep again. Today, like every day actually, you have a very busy day. But that is ok, you are prepared for your meetings and on Sunday you can have a lie-in as you are catching up with your friends to cycle that 40km, at 8:30am…Cool.

A usual situation in our modern, busy life, we have not been taught anything else really. Since children we have been told to be hyper- productive and not waste time. We were busy with school, and then rushed off to tennis classes, music then extra maths, throw in some intensive language classes. Because when you are young your brain is like a sponge, open to being taught.

Prepared for when we grow up, so we get a great job. All is perfect; on top of that, we are looked after by our company. By recommendation most modern businesses try to protect our health and safety. Larger corporations will also try to manage our welfare. So all external factors are covered: ergonomic chairs, good-lighting, fresh air, time off, salary, good line manager, etc. So why are we exhausted or not really happy?.

Perhaps stress in the work place, at home? If so, this is something that only we can manage, this is something that has to be learned or unlearned as this is internal situation, and sometimes hard to define. Like any part of our body, if we train too hard or do nothing, it aches or deteriorates. Our mental health is as sensitive or equally susceptible to break down. We need to balance our life, and manage that internal situation of stress.

Oxford dictionary defines stress as “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” Ok, we know this; I want to add that I like to define stress as not knowing the future, so we add fear to the equation

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we deal with a lot of people under a great deal of stress. Stress blocks the energy of the Liver. Once the Liver’s energy is stagnated, nearly every other organ is affected. We start to lose our hair, vitality and we have anaemia. Ladies have PMS, menstruation disorders and may get uterus cysts. And we can continue, weight gain, swelling in the face, excessive gas, redness, and pain in the eyes, gastrointestinal disorders (heartburn, indigestion), etc. If our organs are not working well together there is a domino effect, heart pressure will go up, and heart disease may result.

When an organ’s function is abnormal, the organ displays an “emotion.” The Liver’s emotion is anger. We are irritable and more angry than normal; loose our patience quickly and we become sad.

So, what does the Liver QI and stress have to do with mental health? Everything as our organs are all connected. In TCM Liver QI deficiency, over a long time can cause depression.

Before we get depressed, how do we deal with stress? In clinic I hear “Oh, I’m stressed just like everyone else”, no problem. Yes, a little stress is a motivator, but that we have normalised high levels of stress. It becomes that Sunday 40KM ride every day without stopping to check if our tires or breaks are in good working order. What will happen when we try to stop?

How to look after your Liver QI, the organ most affected by stress at the body, mind and spirit level from a TCM perspective?

  • Acupuncture: Moves QI, and is a wonderful way to relax the body.
  • Foot Massage: Our feet connect us to the earth, and the energy of the earth circulates throughout our entire body. The feet are major conductors of energy for our Liver.
  • Tui Na Massage: A massage that focuses on the Qi circulation and muscles in the body.
  • Meditation: Meditate or be mind full as this reduces stress. There are several forms: Qi-Gong,Tai Chi, or sitting meditation
  • Teas: Try not to consume alcohol as this puts more strain on the Liver, try some teas such as Chrysanthemum tea, Jujube Seed tea, or Valerian Root
  • Food to feed the YIN of the Liver: string beans, beets, mushrooms, spinach, carrots, parsley, apples, banana, mango, coconut, peaches, melons, grapes, cherries, plums, olive oil, almond oil, kelp, spirulina, wheatgrass, oats, rice, barley, tempeh, tofu, miso, nuts & seeds, mackerel, sardines, oysters, mussels and clams.


When your alarm goes off on Sunday ready for the 40Km bike ride, because you need it to let off “steam “, think of your Liver. Maybe give it a gentle walk in a park instead, take your shoes off, touch the earth, and rub the acupressure point called “Taichong” (Liver 3) which stimulates the Liver channel. It may be sore, but this means you’re hitting all the right spots. You are unblocking your Liver Qi .Next week will be a better week.

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