Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Acupuncture and Stress

Stress is a word that is heard often in our society to describe many different parts of life. There is job stress, family stress, emotional stress, physical stress, but what exactly is "stress" and more importantly what does it do to your health and quality of life?

Stress is the body's reaction to a change that requires a physical, mental or emotional adjustment or response. Stress can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, nervous, or anxious. However, stress is not necessarily negative. There is a distinction between healthy and unhealthy stress.

Healthy stress includes appropriate physical exercise, good eating habits, positive thinking, adequate rest, and a natural response to emergency situations. These stressors keep us alert and motivated, and support our body's strength and vitality. Unhealthy stress, such as negative emotions and thinking, overexertion, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, and chemical and environmental pollutants and toxins, challenge our health and can trigger physical and mental problems, particularly if they are experienced over a prolonged period of time.

In ancient times, our stress response, also known as our "fight or flight" response, provided us with energy to preserve life during difficult situations, such as an attack or threat by a wild animal. Today, we don't have to look much further than our windows, or computer screens, to view various forms of stress--everything from prime-time news and road rage, to the 40-hour work week, terrorism, and cell phones. All of these combined can send even the most serene person into a stressful frenzy.

Unfortunately, modern day stress is considerably higher, more frequent and more consistent than what our predecessors experienced. Over time this excess stress can actually be detrimental to our health. Our body's natural response to stressful situations is to activate all available resources for survival, and to get us out of a scary situation fast. However, with the increase in physical, emotional and mental stressors, our stress response gets "locked in", resulting in the depletion of the body's resources. Even if the stressors are no longer present, the body continues to keep the stress response active. This results in the depletion of our nervous system, lymphatic organs (spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes), kidneys, and adrenal glands, and can pave the way for a wide variety of symptoms and signs. Medical studies have shown that with increased and consistent stress, our white blood cells, which defend our body against viruses, decrease. This decrease results in lower immune resistance, ultimately leading to physical disease and emotional instability.

Signs and Symptoms of an overactive response to stress:

- Anger
- Anxiety
- Asthma
- Depression
- Depressed Immune System
- Digestive Disorders
- Headaches
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Joint Pain
- Weight Problems

Acupuncturists have been helping people cope with stress for thousands of years. The ancient theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) on how stress affects the organs are similar to those of Western medicine; however, TCM theory and treatment go far beyond treating just symptoms, TCM addresses the root cause(s) of the problem.

One way that stress affects the body is by causing a depletion or blockage of qi, especially that of the kidneys and adrenals. Qi (pronounced "chee") is the vital energy or power that supports the functions of the body. It flows through specific pathways, called meridians, and provides nourishment for the entire body. When qi becomes "blocked" or the supply is inadequate, the body and organ systems become "stressed out" and our health is then compromised. Acupuncture can support and restore the integrity of the various organs affected and depleted by the stress response, along with enhancing the quality and quantity of qi.

Acupuncture along with proper eating habits, exercise, stretching, meditation, as well as chiropractic adjustments, massage, and reflexology can support a balanced and healthy body, mind and spirit.

Acupuncture can provide a safe, effective and drug-free alternative for the treatment of stress.

Things you can do to help combat stress:

1). Practice Yoga - When you practice yoga, you can create an awareness of your body and mind connection, freeing your mind of stressful thoughts.

2). Start a Hobby - Hobbies require a mindful presence and can break a hectic, stressful pace.

3). Do One Thing at a Time - Many of us believe that multitasking allows us to get more done, faster. If you focus on one task at a time, you can get more done with fewer mistakes.

4). Meditate - Meditation teaches us to stay focused on our breath and posture. When you are in a meditative state, you are present and in touch with your innate wisdom.

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