Acupuncture for Stress Reliefby Shawna Snyder, L.Ac., Dipl. OM on 02/11/16
Stress is the body's natural response to internal and external stressors. There are two types of stress, unhealthy stress and healthy stress. The difference between these two types of stress is how it affects the body. Unhealthy stress includes negative emotions and thinking, overexertion, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, and environmental pollutants. Conversely, healthy stress is what you use when are under pressure, whether on the job, during an athletic event, or needing to make a quick split decision in traffic.
Chronic stress can cause a plethora of physical and emotional problems. Those suffering with chronic stress can cause pain sensitivity, irritability, anxiety and digestive disorders. If the chronic stress is not relieved, more serious health conditions like high blood pressure, ulcers, depression and migraines can occur. These conditions may interfere with your quality of life compelling you to seek out interventions like pharmaceutical medications, which may cause serious adverse side effects.
Fortunately, you can relieve chronic stress without prescription medications using Traditional Chinese Medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine, also known as TCM, helps alleviate stress and teach you new techniques for dealing with the most common stressors.
In TCM, the emotions you experience can affect different areas of the body. The seven emotions are joy, grief, anxiety, anger, fear, fright and pensiveness. Joy, for instance, affects the heart, while grief and anxiety influences the lungs. The liver is affected by anger, while fear affects the kidneys and fright influences both the kidneys and the heart. Finally, worry has been shown to affect the spleen.
Emotions are a normal part of life. It is the physiological response to stimuli. However, when emotions become so powerful that they become uncontrollable and overwhelm or possess a person, then they can cause serious injury to the internal organs and open the door to disease.
When you are anxious, your Qi, which is controlled through breathing, does not move. Anxiousness can cause breathlessness, shallow breathing and irregular breath patterns. Anxiety can damage the Large Intestines and the Lungs. In fact, overly anxious people are prone to ulcerative colitis.
Grief causes disharmony in the Lungs. When grief is expressed, sobbing occurs. This sobbing originated deep within the Lungs. Grief causes the lungs to become weak and the Qi can become stagnant. Grief causes a weakened immune system, coughing and an increased chance of bronchitis to occur.
When one is excessively joyful, the spirit scatters and can no longer be stored," states the Lingshu (The Vital Axis). In Traditional Chinese Medicine, joy is more than a feeling of deep happiness. It is a state of agitation, overexcitement or mania, causing overstimulation of the emotions. Over-stimulation can lead to problems with such Heart symptoms as feelings of agitation, insomnia and palpitations.
Anger includes a full range of emotions, including irritability, frustration and resentment. When anger occurs, the Liver Qi stagnates, resulting in headaches, dizziness, high blood pressure and Stomach and Spleen issues. Additionally, those who have anger issues often have ruddy complexions and are more prone to have sudden fits of rage.
Worry occurs when you are excessively mentally or intellectually stimulated. Those who must have a lot of mental focus, such as students, parents and business owners, often experience worry. Spleen symptoms associated with worry include fatigue, lethargy, concentration difficulties and digestive disorders.
Fear is a healthy emotion that can protect you from danger; however, when it becomes chronic it can cause problems in the kidneys. Children who have had physical or emotional trauma in particular, often suffer from fear, which can lead to involuntary urination.
Fright is much like fear; however, fright happens suddenly and unexpectedly. Think back; have you ever said statements such as "You about scared me to death?" When you are frightened your Heart pounds, breathing increases and the body responds with a sudden urge to urinate. These symptoms are directly related to how fright can cause a disruption in the flow of your Qi.
Restoring Your Mental Health and Protecting Your Vital Organs
There are numerous things you can do to help protect yourself from these different emotions. Follow these tips to help protect your health and restore your well-being.
1. Chew your through thoroughly.
2. Avoid drugs, alcohol and caffeine.
3. Practice deep breathing techniques.
4. Exercise moderately.
5. Meditate to calm the mind.
6. Follow Chinese nutritional therapy and eat nourishing, unprocessed wholesome foods.
7. Acupuncture and other Chinese medical practices can also help restore your body's equilibrium.
How Acupuncture Can Help Relieve Stress
Most people report that after an acupuncture treatment they feel peaceful and relaxed. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Endocrinology in March 2013 reported that rats treated with acupuncture exhibited lower stress hormone levels, including cortisol and ACTH, than rats that received no acupuncture.
During periods of stress, the adrenal glands increase the production of stress hormones. Over time, this increased stress can cause a plethora of symptoms including anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, fatigue and weight gain. Furthermore, many stressed out individuals report an increased occurrence of infections, pain and digestive disorders, such as acid reflux and IBS.
Additionally, a study conducted in 2013 by the University of York found that acupuncture is more effective than using antidepressant prescription medications in treating mild depression. The researchers reported that one-third of the patients who received counseling or acupuncture were no longer depressed. However, only one-fifth of the patients receiving antidepressants were no longer depressed.
What to Expect at Your Appointment
At your appointments, your health practitioner will discuss your day-to-day life, do a thorough medical exam and discuss how stress affects you both emotionally and physically. Then, using a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, Chinese nutritional therapy, non-needle techniques, aromatherapy, stress relief practices and other lifestyle recommendations, the physician will work with you to restore any imbalances found in the body.