Whatever your lifestyle or personal challenges, stress is something all of us experience! And, as we all know, it is something that affects our health and happiness in many different ways.
Chinese medicine excels in understanding and relieving stress and its effects on the body. We may think of stress as a modern issue; but classical Chinese medical texts frequently list emotional strain or upset as a cause of disease. Optimum health depends on the smooth flow of energy, or qi, through the body’s systems. And stress, tension, and unhappiness of all kinds can block that flow. If you’ve ever noticed what your body feels like at the end of a busy, lonely, or high-pressured day, you know what I’m talking about.
According to the American Institute of Stress, between 75 and 90 percent of visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related problems. Examples might include digestive problems, insomnia, depression, menstrual symptoms, infertility, headaches, back and neck pain, fatigue, anxiety, and chronic pain syndromes - all of which are aggravated by stress. (Not surprisingly, this reads like a list of conditions that respond well to acupuncture and herbal medicine.) Taking care of your stress level is one of the best ways to take care of your health.
Here are some suggestions:
As much as possible, eat well. Keep sugar and caffeine intake under control, and try to eat meals at regular times to keep your blood sugar and energy level steady. Everything is easier to deal with when we are well-nourished!
Exercise!Stress causes tension in the body, which impedes the smooth flow of energy, causing more physical and mental tension. Exercise of any kind gets the qi moving again. Try a 20-30 minute walk daily (if you dress warmly enough, it feels good to be outside!), yoga, or your favorite gym routine.
Have an acupuncture treatment. (You knew I’d say that!) Anyone who has dozed off on the treatment table can attest to the fact that acupuncture is very relaxing. In addition to relieving symptoms, acupuncture has a soothing and balancing effect on the nervous system. This can help you get out of the stress cycle and approach your week in a more centered way.
Spend some time with your closest, most comfortable people. Our lives can be busy, and sometimes full of people we might not choose to spend time with; don’t forget to recharge yourself with some easy, nourishing connections.
Do some self-massage, using the acupressure point Liver 3 (see the next post, Acupressure for Stress). Or, if you can talk someone into giving you a foot massage, even better!
Marilyn, I'm one of those people who's specifically taking herbs and getting regular acupuncture treatments for stress and anxiety. While I think that this is one component of learning to de-stress, I've found that both of those things in concert have been especially helpful in alleviating some of the symptoms that have plagued me for years. Acupuncture has such an immediately calming effect on me; I'm not so sure about the herbs because I think the effect there is incremental (I don't swallow my pills and then immediately feel relaxed, that is). But overall, acupuncture as a modality--especially in conjunction with stuff like yoga--has been a godsend.
Nirmala, I'm glad to hear acupuncture and herbs have been helpful! Acupuncture has such a great balancing effect on the nervous system -- people usually leave feeling more calm and peaceful and happy, no matter what they are being treated for. It's one of the fun things about being an acupuncturist! :-) Taking herbs at the same time is great, because it supports the healing process between sessions... it's like getting a mini-treatment every day. Good treatment should always help with the immediate symptoms of anxiety, and at the same time help balance and strengthen your system to make a lasting change in your response to stress. And, as you point out, it helps so much if you are also making changes in your life -- doing yoga, eating well, getting good support, eliminating stressors where possible, and making sure to have some relaxing and fun time in your week. Keep up the good work, and thanks for writing! -- Marilyn