We all experience feelings of stress at one time or another in our lives. However, when the stress is extreme, or lasts a long time, our emotional health and ultimately, our physical health begin to suffer.
Our bodies are hardwired to help us react to stressful events. At the first sign of a threat, whether real or perceived, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and facilitates what is called the “fight or flight” response. Our heart rate increases, our pupils dilate, and our digestion temporarily shuts down, directing blood to our extremities, so that if need be, we can either fight what is threatening us, or turn and run if the threat is too formidable.
Unfortunately, the fight or flight response, which worked well when we needed to outrun a saber-tooth tiger, does not serve us as well if the “threat” is a demanding boss, difficult family member or even a worrisome situation that is not being resolved. More often than not, the stress in our lives is long-term, and as a result, we find ourselves in a constant state of fight or flight, which takes its toll over time. Cortisol, the body’s stress hormone elevates, blood pressure increases, and our immune function is suppressed. As these symptoms become worse, they can develop into anxiety, depression, fatigue, digestive problems, and tension headaches.
How Can Oriental Medicine Help Reduce Stress?
According to Oriental medical theory, energy flows through our body via a network of pathways/meridians. Stress, anxiety, depression or any strong emotion interrupts the smooth flow of Chi or energy throughout the body. This interruption or blockage can lead to other symptoms like upper back, shoulder and neck pain. This is because stress is causing tension in those areas, blocking the free flow of energy, causing pain, tightness, and often leading to headaches or migraines. Stress may affect many other parts of the body, most notably digestion, the ability to sleep, pain conditions, and blood pressure. It can also aggravate an already troublesome health condition.
Through acupuncture and herbal medicine, theses energy blockages can be addressed and released. This in turn can alleviate not only the symptoms of stress and anxiety, but the stress and anxiety itself.
Acupuncture alleviates stress by releasing natural pain-killing chemicals in the brain, called endorphins. In addition, acupuncture improves circulation of blood throughout the body, which oxygenates the tissues and cycles out cortisol and other waste chemicals. The calming nature of acupuncture also decreases the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and relaxes the muscles.