New Life Journal, April-May, 2004 by Kath Bartlett
Stress. We all have it. The question is, “How do I get rid of it?”
The answer lies not only in eliminating the causes, but also in learning to manage life’s curve balls. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are useful in the management end. Lifestyle changes can help with the causes. How can acupuncture help, and what can you do to stop stress in its tracks? Before answering that question, let’s look at what happens when we get stressed. Mostly, we tense up. This tightening causes our Qi to get stuck. Qi (pronounced chee) is energy, the energy of life. This energy flows through our body. It’s Qi (energy) that mobilizes our arms and legs to move, our stomach to digest food, our heart to pump and blood to flow. Without Qi, we’re dead, lifeless.
When we get tense the Qi flowing through our body and organs gets stuck. The stuck Qi builds up, like a pressure cooker, and eventually needs an escape valve. We might get angry and have outbursts. When Qi in the stomach gets stuck, we have digestive problems, like acid regurgitation, or heartburn. (Qi gets stuck, and can’t flow down, so it goes upward and escapes out the mouth.) Some people get bowel problems, like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) because this stuck Qi cannot move food through the intestines properly. Did you ever get angry and feel Qi rising to your head (maybe you got warm or red in the face)? This happens because the stuck Qi building up has to be released. It goes up to the head, and can cause migraine or tension headaches, and high blood pressure.
Acupuncture effectively treats disorders caused by stress, by unblocking stuck Qi, allowing it to flow properly throughout the body. We feel more relaxed and food is digested smoothly and moves through the bowels properly. As our tension is relieved, so are the headaches. Instead of being so tense and angry, we remain calm and our blood pressure and our tempers stay even.
How does acupuncture treat stress-related health conditions? The acupuncturist beans by asking questions about the problem (e.g.. headache, heartburn, or high blood pressure) and then asks general questions about all systems in the body and emotions. The acupuncturist is determining a constitutional pattern to explain why this patient developed the condition. Next, the practitioner develops a treatment plan, including acupuncture, herbal formulas and lifestyle modifications to treat the condition. The acupuncture and herbal prescriptions include empirical points or herbs known to be effective in treating the complaint, and points and herbs to move the stock Qi. For example, headaches or high blood pressure might be treated with acupuncture points in the feet or ankles, or heavy medicinals like shells or minerals to pull the excess qi down to the feet, therefore stopping the problem.
A recent medical study published in Anesthesiology (June 2003) used ear acupressure to relieve stress and anxiety in patients being transported to the hospital in ambulances. Some got a real acupuncture points (acupuncture group), and some got a fake (sham) points (control group). At arrival, the stress level in the acupuncture group decreased sixty-six percent. In contrast, the stress level in the control group increased .ten percent. Such studies indicate the effectiveness of acupuncture in-stress treatment.
Stress is our internal response to outside stimuli. Modifying the way we respond and react to external triggers and the way we live, we can make a great impact in improving health and in resistance to stress. Here are seven things Yon can do change Your response and eliminate stress.
Walk away from it. Walking is a great way to move Qi, so it doesn’t get stuck. Sometimes while you’re walking you’ll see a new way to solve the problem. Somehow in the flesh air things don’t seem so bad, and you relax.
Breathe. When life gets overwhelming, take a deep breath, and then slowly release it Watch the breath, as it comes in, and as it goes out Meditation requires you to focus on something other than your problems, like your breath, relaxing music or guided imagery. In doing so, You get your mind off your troubles, and when you come back they just don’t seem so bad. People with regular meditation practices consistently report that they are Calmer and less reactive to stress triggers.
Do one thing at a time. Resist multi-tasking. Trying to do to many things simultaneously inherently causes, tension. Prioritize, and then calmly and efficiently work down the list, one by one.
Shorten the list. When you’re overwhelmed because of too many to-dos, cross some off the list. Deadlines can be postponed, and some things will just have to wait.
Get help. Often we feel there’s just too much to do, and not enough hours in the day. Don’t try to be superwoman/man. Enlist aid to get the must-dos done. Often people around us are not aware that we need help because we’re not telling them.
Attend to your financial health. Financial stress can be insidious, affecting our emotions, sleep and physical well being. If your income fluctuates, be sure to save enough during the higher months to cover your expenses during the lean months. Is your nest egg Large enough to cover unexpected expenses, or sudden changes hi employment? (This is usually eight months expenses kept in cash in the bank.) Having a plan and knowing that you are in control of your finances can go a long way towards relieving this kind of pressure.
Have fun. What’s life but to be enjoyed? When your troubles are mounting, go do something you love. It’s hard to be tease when you’re having fun. So whether it’s dinner with friends, watching a favorite movie, or a bubble bath, be sure to make joy part of your routine.
Ear Acupressure Helps Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Thirty-six patients being transported via ambulance to a hospital for various medical conditions were randomly assigned to receive auricular acupressure at the relaxation point or a sham point. Anxiety was assessed at departure and on arrival to the hospital using a visual analog scale (VAS):
|at departure||on arrival|
Kath Bartlett, Board certified in acupuncture and herbology by NCCAOM, is a Licensed Acupuncturist. Kath’s Asheville office: (828) 258-2777, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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