Holistic Healing: Dr. Marina Christov’s Fusion of Chinese Medicine and Mental Health

In this conversation, we are delighted to speak with Dr. Marina Christov, a Chinese medicine practitioner who is revolutionising mental health care with over 20 years of experience. Dr. Christov combines the ancient principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine with modern mental health strategies to provide holistic care that addresses both the body and mind.

In this interview, Dr. Christov shares her journey into Chinese medicine and explains how her unique approach offers a different perspective on mental health care. She delves into the profound impact of a negative mindset on overall health and the importance of understanding the mind through the lens of symptoms. 

Dr. Christov also highlights the effects of modern stressors like blue light and technology on our well-being and offers practical Traditional Chinese Medicine strategies to counteract these issues, such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, and Qi Gong.

Dr. Christov, I’m curious about how your approach in Chinese medicine offers a different perspective on mental health care. Could you share a bit about that?

I love the mind! It is a fascinating universe unto itself, capable of boundless creativity, deep understanding, and profound insights. I see the infinite potential it carries. In my practice, I pay particular attention to the way a person uses their mind.

I have also observed the consequences of a negative mindset and without a doubt, see the correlation between negativity, or lack of clarity and poorer health outcomes. This in turn, not only affects one’s health but their overall quality and joy in life.

I also, naturally love the principles of energy, available through the lens of Traditional Chinese medicine. There is a saying: “Where the mind goes, energy flows. And where energy flows, whatever you are focusing on grows.

Therefore, I put a lot of emphasis on the person’s mind, before I work with their energy systems. I also want the patient to understand their own mind, through the language of their symptoms, so they can have the tools available to grow as a human being.

I feel that my ultimate role is to inspire a fresh perspective, and give people knowledge of how to handle challenges, setbacks, and uncertainties. Through my approach, I want people to be better equipped to navigate life’s ups and downs with grace, resilience, and adaptability, when required. Ultimately, I want to see a society of empowered individuals who actively practise a Life of Harmony. 

You’ve highlighted the impact of blue light and tech on our well-being. What are some traditional Chinese medicine strategies to counter these modern stressors?

Traditional Chinese Medicine is really underutilised in this field. Most people would not think that this modality can offer strategies that counteract the stressors from blue light and modern technology, but this could not be further from the truth. My role is to make this ancient healing practice very much “alive” and relevant, so we can tap into its wisdom and restore balance in our technologically obsessed or oversaturated lifestyles.

Acupuncture can definitely be used to help alleviate the stress of our overstimulated nervous system and improve eye health, while herbal remedies like Chrysanthemum and Goji Berries support vision and adaptogens such as Ginseng, enhance resilience. Practices like Qi Gong and Tai Chi, with breathwork can slow our minds down and bring us into the present moment, while cultivating a state of ease. 

I also prescribe a diet with eye-nourishing foods, regular routines for adequate rest, and specific screen time management protocols. 

Over your 20 years in Chinese medicine, what inspired you to blend physical and mental health practices so closely?

You cannot treat the body, without treating the mind.

Over my 20 years in Chinese medicine, I have been consistently inspired by the profound interconnectedness of the body and mind. My dedication to blending physical and mental health practices is driven by the profound and lasting benefits I have observed in my patients, as well as my deep belief in the wisdom of TCM’s holistic principles.

One pivotal moment in my journey was witnessing the transformative effects of Acupressure, when combined with Qi Gong, and intention setting on patients with chronic stress and anxiety. These practices, which integrate point stimulation with mindful movement and breath awareness, not only improved their physical health but also significantly enhanced their emotional resilience and mental clarity.

This demonstrated the power of harmonious energy flow and balanced Qi in regulating both body and mind. Additionally, these techniques not only treat specific symptoms but also nurture a deeper sense of well-being and balance

Additionally, the holistic philosophy of Chinese medicine links emotional imbalances to physical ailments, and physical issues can affect emotional states. For instance, TCM teaches that the liver is linked to stress, irritability, and anger, while the spleen is weakened by worry, and lack of self worth.

In other words, every organ is influenced by a specific emotion. By addressing these connections through acupuncture, herbal medicine, and lifestyle adjustments, I witness how patients can achieve deep and lasting health improvements.

The ever-growing body of scientific research supporting the mind-body connection further fuels my passion. Studies demonstrating how stress impacts the immune system, how physical exercise can alleviate depression, and how meditation can enhance cognitive function all underscore the importance of a holistic approach.

Could you tell us about a memorable moment where your holistic methods significantly helped someone’s mental health? 

It happens every day. The transformation of someone coming in, all anxious and overwhelmed and post treatment walking out in a state of total ease, with a big smile on their face. 

You’ve developed a range of award-winning teas—how do these fit into your therapeutic work, and what benefits might someone expect from them?

I created the range in response to the most common presentations I would see in clinical practice. From poor concentration, to insomnia, to my favourite; the stress relieving, adaptogenic “The Peaceful Warrior” there is a tea to bring balance to everyone.

As a herbalist, I wanted the formulas to be able to offer daily relief that was easy to implement. I spent a long time getting the taste profile to be perfect, to ensure compliance. I am also big on creating daily rituals to bring us back to our “centre of power”.

The warmth of a teacup provides physical comfort, while the ritual of preparing and drinking it encourages mindfulness, offering a mental break from stressors. As we work, we can be nourished by the healing benefits that herbs provide. In the warmer weather we can make ice cocktails that allow us to participate in social events, without the side effects of alcoholic beverages. 

Also, the knowledge that we are consuming a product grown without synthetic pesticides and harmful chemicals, I hope, can increase the appreciation, and enhance the enjoyment of the tea drinking experience. 

Considering the mental health challenges many of us face today, what simple daily practices from Chinese medicine do you recommend for keeping our spirits up?

Morning Qi Gong: Start your day with a 10-minute Qi Gong routine. Follow a beginner’s video or practise simple movements like “Bouncing on the Toes to Release Qi” and “Shaking the Body.” These exercises invigorate your energy and promote a calm mind.

Acupressure Breaks: Set a timer to take a 5-minute break every hour during work. During these breaks, press and massage the Yintang point (between the eyebrows) to relieve stress and the Taiyang points (on the temples) to reduce eye strain. Also, the Shenmen point (on the ear) is fantastic for stress relief. You can apply gentle pressure for a few minutes each day, even when you are at your desk.

Mid-afternoon, practise the “Eight Brocades” QiGong exercise, specifically the movement “Two Hands Hold Up the Heavens” to stretch the spine and improve circulation. This can be done in just a few minutes and helps rejuvenate energy levels.

You may like to try the Joyful Tea blend; “ Joie de Vivre.

For someone new to the principles of Chinese medicine, what’s a gentle way to start incorporating them into their daily routine to enhance their well-being?

In the face of modern mental health challenges, Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a wealth of daily practices to enhance emotional well-being and maintain a positive spirit.

It will be fortunate and wise to have an acupuncturist as an ally, and book in for regular tune-ups.

Maintain a balanced diet, that is seasonal, eating away from your desk, ideally together with your colleagues, family and friends, to nourish the heart and foster strong social connections. 

Spend time outdoors each day, whether it’s a walk in the park, or simply sitting in nature. Connecting with the natural world helps ground and calm the mind.

Establish regular routines and ensure adequate rest. These are the foundations for mental stability. Regular digital detoxes, proper hydration, and practices that connect you with the intrinsic beauty of life. 

Foot Massage: Before bed, spend a few minutes massaging your feet,you may like to use magnesium oil, focusing on the Bubbling Spring point (K1) located in the middle of the sole. This helps ground your energy, revitalise you after a busy day and cleanse your meridians.

Evening Herbal Tea rituals- Before bed, drink a cup of Sweet Surrender to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. 

The idea of energetic medicine is fascinating. Could you explain why it’s so effective, especially for those dealing with anxiety from too much screen time?

Energetic medicine balances the body’s energy, or Qi.It is like tapping into the world wide web that exists within the body. 

Practices like acupuncture restore the communication networks, create order or flow of Qi, alleviating blockages that contribute to tension, overwhelm and anxiety. These techniques also regulate the nervous system, promoting a state of calm by activating the parasympathetic response. It is like rebooting the internal computer, closing the unnecessary tabs and improving the speed and function of our systems and organs.

Energetic medicine enhances the mind-body connection through mindful breathing and meditation, which increases self-awareness and resilience against stress. Additionally, it improves sleep quality by calming the mind, reduces physical tension through massage and acupressure, and facilitates emotional release, addressing both the physical and emotional roots of anxiety. 

By promoting overall harmony and well-being, energetic medicine offers a powerful, non-invasive solution for the mental strain associated with modern technology use.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.