Anxiety is related to the heart in Eastern Medicine and the heart is a summer organ. By that I mean the heart is most active during the summer months and least active during winter. The common sense reason behind this is that people are more active in summer and less active in winter.
In addition, Eastern medicine believes that because the heart is least active during winter, heart attacks are more likely. Anxiety is an indicator that there is an imbalance in heart energy. It is characterized by a nervous, agitated feeling. A person cannot feel at ease in their own body. If this feeling persists it can weaken the heart over time. Please note: having anxiety does not mean you are in immediate danger of having a heart attack.
Eastern Medicine vs. Western Medicine
In both Eastern and Western Medicine anxiety, the feeling of unease or nervousness, can become a mental disorder. While anxiety is a natural defense mechanism, it can persist becoming a chronic state in which a person perceives the world. When this happens the entire system becomes compromised. The successive treatment for anxiety as a disorder is where Eastern and Western Medicine part.
The predominant treatment for anxiety in Western Medicine is medication and psycho-therapy. Both of which, play a valuable role in the healing process and for most people afflicted are necessary in order to move forward. Eastern Medicine will give herbs in some cases and all Eastern medical doctors recognize the importance of psychiatry. However, treatment that brings balance to the energetic system is the most important factor for treating anxiety in Eastern Medicine followed by similar treatments you find in Western Medicine.
Both acupuncture and massage are necessary to treat anxiety at the beginning. Each of us maintains postures throughout the day that consistently activate muscles for long periods of time. Those with anxiety add another piece because not only are they tensing musculature consistently, but also are often holding their breath while doing so, thinking less than positive thoughts, and feeling stressed all the time.
This low level of consistent stress maintains cortisol (stress hormone increasing heart rate and blood pressure -fight or flight) in the bloodstream exacerbating the tension in the muscles. Massage releases tension, increases circulation to move unnecessary cortisol out of the system, and allows the system a moment to rest (when we rest is when we heal).
Acupuncture directly treats the organs by treating their energetic system. As the functions of the organs improve, there is less internal stress on the system and therefore less anxiety. Because anxiety can stem from any of the Zang organs acupuncture is necessary to fully address the complexity of the disorder.
The Importance of Shen
In Eastern Medicine anxiety can come from a disturbance in any of the Yin/Zang organs, but the heart organ is always affected. The heart organ guides the Shen, which balances our emotions and allows us to see the world from a calm loving space. When the Shen is not in balance we distrust the world and struggle to maintain our place in it.
In order to completely balance the Shen, a holistic approach is necessary. Both Western and Eastern medicine recognize that anxiety is a multi faceted disorder and needs a similar approach for treatment. In both approaches diet, exercise, and proper rest come first followed by treatment. Eastern Medicine simply offers additional treatments like acupuncture and massage before herbs or medication come into play.