Your body can't heal in stress

I was chatting with a client and asked how her experience at a recent retreat she attended went. She said, “It wasn’t relaxing. I’m exhausted.”

I said, “How is that possible? It was retreat.”

She said, “I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m tired. And, it was too busy. I need quiet time.”

That was an amazingly introspective revelation.

Unfortunately, our entire society is set up for stress without the counterbalance of relaxation.

From our busy as heck workdays, to the news media and social media constantly feeding our minds, to our vacations and retreats that are over-scheduled with a bazillion things to do.

We are programmed to cram everything into our days and nights without any space to relax, wind down, reflect, and integrate our experiences.

Let’s pull back a bit and take a peek at this from an ancient perspective and then a modern medical view.

According to ancient knowledge, the universe and everything in it operates from the energies of Yin and Yang. I’m sure you’ve heard those two simple words gleaned from Classical Chinese Medicine at some point in your life.

The yang component represents excitement, movement, light, physical activity, thinking, expansion, assertiveness, heat, and growth.

While the yin component represents calm, darkness, passivity, intuition, contraction, coolness, and stillness.

These forces in the universe aren’t necessarily acting against each other at the same time. They are playing a game, bouncing back and forth, creating balance.

Our modern society is set up for chronic yang experiences and constantly on go, go, go!

That’s great for action and growth, but not good for relaxing and healing.

I believe this is one of the main reasons why our health is disintegrating.

We are out of balance. The yin component is virtually missing from our day to day lives.

If you were to apply this ancient energy model to the human body’s nervous system, you would experience sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) as yang energy, and parasympathetic nervous system, (rest, digest and heal) as yin energy.

To heal the body, mind, and spirit, we need to tap into the yin aspect of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Here’s a great example from the modern medical perspective.

In the book CURED, the Life Changing Scient of Spontaneous Healing, by Jeffrey Rediger, M.D., the good doctor is questioning everything he’s learned in medical school, and offers new ways to look at the miraculous recoveries of people that were given up on medically or offered death sentence diagnoses.

Below are his thoughts on the nervous system response:

“The more primitive human that you once were, long ago, was able to turn fight or flight off after the threat was gone. The sympathetic nervous system would slowly wind down as the parasympathetic nervous system, or rest and digest system, booted up and took over. In that mode the brain deploys acetylcholine, an organic chemical that hits your bloodstream like a drug. The vessels, capillaries, and arteries all through your body immediately begin to relax and dilate, letting blood rush back to your core. Your heartbeat slows. Digestion kicks back on more efficiently processing the energy and nutrients essential to your immune system. Blood, oxygen, and immune resources immediately become available for arguably their most essential function: healing.”[1]

He alludes to the fact that if we are living in fight or flight (as most people are) we don’t switch on our own internal healing mechanisms.

If your days and nights are on constant go without periods of calm and ease, no matter how healthfully you eat and live, your body will be functioning from the yang energetic perspective, and it will burnout or suffer dis-ease from the non-stop activity.

For healing, we need to balance our active states with passive, quiet, yin energy.

So what can we do?

We need to reprogram ourselves to turn on the yin. Here’s how:


I know that life is short and you want to cram everything into your days and nights that you possibly can. But, it’s similar to eating food.

If you sit down to an overly large meal and shovel everything into your pie-hole at one time, you are going to overwhelm your digestive system and won’t be able to process effectively or efficiently.

Take it easy.

Put one bite of food into your mouth, chew it slowly, and relax, to let your body absorb the nutrition.

Do the same thing with your daily activities.

Don’t rush around from one thing to the next.

Do one thing at a time.


Then digest your experience.


This is vital to get into yin mode.

You may think that you can wind down from your busy day by looking at your phone, computer, or by watching television. But that keeps your mind busy processing external input.

Part of the yin experience is to go within your own system and reflect quietly, without any external input.

It’s the time to relax and digest your daily experiences.

But, the more we keep putting in, the busier and busier the body and mind become. More yang, more yang, more yang.

The computer, television, or cell phone will keep filling your mind nonstop with stuff. Those electronics are plugged into a yang energy source (electricity).

To recharge your own body and mind, you need to go within and plug in to… yourself.

Don’t take anymore external input.

There is only so much your brain can handle.

Shut it down.


This is one of the best ways to “shut down” your mind, get rid of all of the external input, and go within.

Follow your breath.

One breath at a time.

Don’t engage with the outside world – unless of course, there is a fire and you have to get up and run away.

Other than that, just be still.



Do nothing.

I know it may be uncomfortable to do nothing, but it’s vital for your health and well being.


Everything in our modern world is set up for instant gratification.

If you want something, just hop onto the internet and order it. In most cases, it will be at your doorstep in less than 24 hours.

In nature, things work much more slowly.

  • A flower takes time to bloom.
  • A tree takes time to grow.
  • A glacial lake takes billions of years to form.

One of my favorite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” 

Get out into nature and sit under a tree that has been growing for 150 years or longer.

Slow and steady wins the race.


Anger is hot fiery yang energy.

I think anger is a good thing, but oftentimes we hold onto it for too long. And, that is dangerous to our health.

Somehow, someway, get into the habit of experiencing your anger and then letting it go. Anger will keep your body and mind spinning out of control with yang energy.

Plus, it increases blood pressure and heart rate, and tanks immunity.

“Chronic anger weakens your immune system, which affects your overall health. Unresolved chronic anger, whether expressed or suppressed, is associated with increased risk of coronary disease, heart attacks, stroke, respiratory illness, and is a source of depression, particularly in men.[2]

One of the ways to balance the anger, is by learning acceptance and understanding. That’s the yin counterpart to yang’s anger.

It takes practice, and it can be done.

Trust me… I used to be one heck of an angry human.

There’s a lot you can do to passively activate your healing.

But, if you are chronically activating your stress response to food, supplements, your environment, your work, and the people in your life, you’ll always be chasing the next diagnosis.

Instead, relax, slow down, get calm, tap into the “yin” and let the healing find you.

If you’d like to try it, I’m hosting a relaxing, healing retreat experience in North Carolina.

Learn more here:

[1]  Cured, The Life-Changing Science of Spontaneous Healing, Jeffrey Rediger, M.D., Flatiron Books, 2020, pg. 155