2008-12-05 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Seasonal Stress Homeopathic Sensations
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES In the 1930s, Dr. Hans Selye presented a revolutionary concept of stress to the world. He wrote a paper on stress syndrome in 1936 that attempted to demonstrate that stress was a definable biological phenomenon whose mechanism could be objectively identified. Selye demonstrated the role of emotional responses in causing much of the wear and tear experienced by human beings throughout their lives. This was a new concept of mental and physical disease. Prior to the 1930s the term stress was used in physics and applied to the properties of steel and building materials. After Dr. Selye's works were published, stress took on a new meaning: bearing the grief of being alive. Our lexicon became peppered with the noun, verb, adjective and adverb forms of the word "stress."

Grief, sadness, despair and depression take a toll on us, mentally, emotionally and physically. Certain seasons, particularly winter, seem to bring out symptoms that match the state of our emotions. Homeopathy means "similar suffering." As we look at the sensations presented by people suffering in this season, through the lens of homeopathy, we "see" remedies to consider at the holidays.

Darkness seems to trigger feelings of loneliness and isolation in some people. Shivering cold weather can lead to irritability and restlessness in the struggle to generate warmth and find a place of comfort. Being forced indoors may also mean the constant presence of others, and discord between relatives and friends.

Seasonal changes affect us all to some extent. Less light during our waking hours has an impact on our organism and is manifested in many different ways. Just as there are no two snowflakes alike, so no two humans react in exactly the same way to the same stimulus.

With the inherent darkness, the seasons of autumn and then winter spawn all manner of discontent. In our homeopathic Materia Medica, we find the symptom, "Darkness aggravates," mentioned more than 400 times and included in the symptom profile of 84 remedies. We call this suffering Seasonal Affective Disorder Syndrome or SADS. And these people are SAD! Melancholia is a common feeling as the winter approaches. Heartfelt sensations of loss and despair make this a prime time for heart attacks in both men and women.

As though in answer to the darkness comes the anticipation of light and its festivals of celebration - another dilemma for those who suffer from anticipation anxiety or who are oversensitive to excitement, noise or crowds. Odd as it may seem, anticipation of the holidays and an excess of joy can make one sick. "Ailments from anticipation" is a repertory rubric that is often used by homeopaths during the holiday season.

At winter solstice - when the sun stands still and the night is the longest

- we look forward to the lengthening of days. For as sure as there is darkness, there is light. One follows the other as an unwavering principle, a Universal law. Cultures all over the world have traditions and rituals to honor this time and to give us hope. Hope is an antidote to despair. The solstice is a time for reflection, for coming to a greater understanding of

our true needs and desires, and for making and using rituals and tradition to build a more meaningful life for ourselves. A life that doesn't merely bear the grief of being alive, but one that celebrates the journey of being alive.

One way to gain a greater understanding at this time is to look at ourselves and our health issues through the eyes of homeopathy. When we are in a state of balance and health, we can see all sides of an issue. We are able to adapt to our environment. We can tolerate diversity both within us and outside of ourselves without losing our place. The opposite is also true. When we are in a place of disharmony within, this becomes the lens through which we see everything. During times of heightened sensation, like the holidays, the disharmony of the people around us may become patently obvious as their symptoms and attitudes tell the story of their suffering.

Take a look at some of the typical faces of the season - the ones you may recognize gathered around the holiday table. With the objective observance that Dr. Hahnemann espoused, you may be able to perceive the homeopathic remedies needed to restore balance to these people.

ARSENICUM ALBUM: These are the people who are angry, critical or curt when asked what they want for a gift. They may be in a state of anticipatory anxiety because of all the expectations placed on them at this time. They may be a bit miserly or have just experienced financial loss in this economy so they don't want to be placed in a position of having to give a gift in return. They may drink a bit too much at the holiday party and offend someone with criticism or insult. Of course, they themselves are easily offended and attempting to console them only makes matters worse. These are your "B" list guests or relatives that you have to invite. Darkness also aggravates their state and makes them sad, but they suffer their grief in silence. Only one who knows them well can tell that their irritability and meanness is a mask for their grief.

IGNATIA AMARA: Those who need this remedy also suffer from anticipation anxiety. They experience the approach of the holiday season with fear and headaches as they remember the deaths of loved ones. The grief of loss colors their season. They will likely be the ones who host the festivities as they tend toward homesickness and feel better in their own homes. They are nostalgic, like company and can be very cheerful while busy making preparations. However, all the excitement and mental exertion can cause them to become hysterical and impatient at trifles. (Mom? Are you reading this?) This can range from quarreling or scolding to outright screaming to sitting, staring and sighing. Children who need Ignatia are those who misbehave badly and appear jealous of a sibling or relative, overtly provoking them with pushing, biting, hair-pulling or other injurious behavior.

NATRUM MURIATICUM: The little old woman sitting rigidly in her chair, looking as though a smile would crack her face, is probably also suffering from grief. She anticipates the holidays with real dread because she recalls all the unhappy memories. She dwells on past offenses, hates those who have offended her and, therefore, wants to be left alone. She will stiffen up as you approach to hug her. She has tremendous grief since the death of a loved one, but is unable to cry about it; this is why she needs to keep everything in her life so structured, lest the dam break! Holding in all these emotions is a great effort so the holidays are very hard for her. The emotional excitement of these occasions causes great weariness and headaches.

NUX VOMICA: No seasonal celebration can be considered complete without the presence of a person who needs Nux Vomica. There is one in every family. While they also suffer from ailments of anticipation, it is more likely the family that will suffer most acutely. This person is irritable, jealous and tends to overindulge in both food and alcohol. They can be malicious and lack inhibition even when not drinking, but Nux Vomica is a classic remedy for character changes from drugs and overindulgence in alcohol. They are nervous, oversensitive and talk a lot about business. Quite dictatorial and overbearing, they are competitive gogetters. The heightened excitement of the crowds and noise aggravate them to become irritable, impatient and quarrelsome. These people also suffer from grief and the hatred of people who have offended them. One would wish that they would desire solitude. However, they prefer to deal with these emotions by overindulging in food and drink and suffer terrible hangover headaches and stomach and digestive disturbances as a result.

COFFEA CRUDA: These people are not aggravated by darkness or grief. They are aggravated by the excitement of the season and the festivities. They do suffer from anticipation - unbridled joy. They react with wide-eyed exhilaration and can't seem to come down from the high. They are oversensitive to emotions like joy and pleasurable surprise and this can lead to severe insomnia. Often, these are the children who come home from a party and literally bounce off the walls unable to calm themselves down and go to sleep. If you have ever felt the rush of energy and the hyperactivity of mind and body that may result from a strong cup of coffee, you can better understand the feeling of those who benefit from Coffea Cruda.

Homeopathic drug pictures come alive in the people we meet and they tell us the story of their stress. We hear, see and feel the way in which they are suffering. The manner in which they are bearing the grief of being alive. A well selected homeopathic remedy meets the challenge these people face and opens a door to the freedom of expression that allows one to manage their grief appropriately. Once brought into the light, so to speak, the suffering sensation can be rightly integrated into the persona of the whole person and the load is less heavy to carry. It is less stressful and therefore, does not exact the same toll on their mental, emotional or physical bodies (or those around them!) Once rightly perceived, feelings of grief, loss, sadness and despair can become sensations that remind us of the journey back to hope and joy… appropriate sensations of the season!

Resources: Homeopathy Today, National Center for Homeopathy

May The Blessings Be!

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