Managing Modern Day Stress
Updated: May 16
As I mentioned in a previous post, May is Mental Health Awareness Month and while stress is not a mental health disorder, it can negatively effect our mental health and lead to a mental health disorder if not managed.
Unfortunately, a staggering number of Americans deal with stress daily. A large number of those dealing with stress are unable to or choose not to manage that stress properly, which can turn into chronic stress. And while the summer is fast approaching, unfortunately stress doesn't magically go away in the summer.
Why is it important to talk about stress and the importance of managing it?
If left untreated, stress does not only have an impact on mental and emotional well-being, but it can also cause detrimental physical effects, such as cardiovascular disease, if left untreated.
In the short-term, stress has been shown to lead to poor quality of sleep, irritability and mood swings, heightened anxiety, decreased energy, poor concentration and focus, increased muscular tension and pain and digestive disorders. Long-term stress leads to an abundance of the stress hormone 'cortisol' leading to a build-up of inflammation in the body, eventually triggering effects like dementia, cardiovascular disease, stroke and even cancer.
Stress just doesn't affect our mood. It has a huge impact on our quality of life and well-being.
So how do we manage it?
As an acupuncturist, I am able to help to body undo the negative effects of stress (i.e. the symptoms you develop as a result of stress) as well as help the body stay out of the stress response to begin with.
With acupuncture, the insertion of a thin needle at a specific point on the body causes the local nerves to send a signal to the central nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system (also called 'rest and digest') is turned on and a whole biophysiological cascade begins. This includes the production and release of certain chemicals, hormones and neurotransmitters that help to aid in the body in repaid and better functioning. This can include those chemicals needed for better sleep, digestion, mood or even energy.
With repeated sessions, acupuncture can help the body to reset and stay in the parasympathetic system like it is supposed to be - at least for the majority of the time. Unfortunately, in our culture, we often stuck in the sympathetic or 'fight or flight' mode. Once our body is able to understand that it does not need to be in the stress response mode all of the time, it can begin to operate optimally again.
Outside of the clinic, there are a lot of lifestyle habits that can be taken on to help manage stress. During an acupuncture treatment, I often talk to my patients about a number of aspects of their life, including: diet, hydration, sleep, exercise and rest. What you put in and do with your body has a tremendous impact on how much stress impacts us.
Some recommendations I often give for the use of hydration to help manage stress: if you are experiencing stress and tend to have more physical tension with that stress, I recommend a nice cup of lemon balm or passionflower herbal tea in the evening after dinner. These herbs have been shown effective at reducing both mental and physical tension. If you are stressed but tend towards depression or lethargy, I would recommend a cup of hibiscus herbal tea; hibiscus has properties similar to that of the happiness chemical GABA. If you are experiencing stress and seem to be stuck in your mind, I recommend peppermint, lavendar, or tulsi (holy basil). These have a nice cooling and grounding effect.
If you or someone you know is experiencing chronic stress, think about giving acupuncture a try. Not only can the treatment itself help bring your body back to optimal functioning, but part of Chinese medicine is taking into consideration your lifestyle and how we can make small adjustments that have profound, positive impacts. All of which is included as part of your acupuncture session.
For more information, please click on the link below to take to you the May 11th workshop: https://youtu.be/GoAwTevve5E