Stress & Anxiety
If you have ever suffered from a physical or emotional symptom that was related to the stress in your life, you will want to know how you can minimize these symptoms. Control begins with awareness and knowing how your habitual response to stress leads to your symptoms. Any of your physical systems that react to stress can be controlled. Begin the process for developing control by understanding how your body responds to stress.
The primitive survival mechanism known as the "Fight/Flight" response is built in to every human. It responds to fear/danger from everything from life threatening situations to the alarm going off in the morning. Every human has a habitual response to stress that is either learned or genetically implanted. In a real life or death situation almost all of this response will be triggered by survival to help you to fight off or flee this danger.
Since awareness is half the battle in controlling stress, you must learn to be aware of how you respond to stress. Remember, you have a unique response. It may include:
1. Increased heart rate. This pumps blood around the body to get oxygen and sugars to the cells that you will need to use to survive. Symptoms that can be associated with this stress response might include: Rapid or irregular heartbeats
2. Breathing usually becomes more rapid. To get more oxygen into the body. Symptoms that can be associated with this stress response might include: hyperventilation and some forms of asthma
3. Stress hormones are released. Adrenaline, also called epinephrine, is released by the adrenal glands. This hormone helps to maintain increased heart rates and will tell the liver to release stored sugar for energy to the body. Other stress hormones do other things. Noradrenaline is associated with anger and will raise blood pressure for most people. Symptoms that can be associated with this stress response might include: high blood pressure, panic or anxiety
4. Blood pressure can go up. Triggered by released stress hormones. Symptoms that can be associated with this stress response might include: high blood pressure
5. Muscles that you would use to fight or flee often become very tight until released by relaxation, massage, stretching, or exercise. This is one of the most common responses to stress and has lead to everyday expressions like: "uptight", "Pain in the neck" (and other places.) Symptoms that can be associated with this stress response might include: tension headaches, tight jaw, neck/shoulder pain/tension, back pain, insomnia (including trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or not feeling rested after sleeping), fatigue, loss of concentration (distracted by muscle pain or tension), learning disabilities, poor communication (listening and speaking)
6. Changes in blood flow/circulation. Blood is directed toward the brain and major muscles for survival. Blood is directed away from surface of skin in hands and feet (for survival a primitive response so you do not bleed to death if you get cut running away or fighting for your life.) Blood is directed away from digestive organ and reproductive organ because for survival it becomes a low priority to digest food or keep the species alive if you are threatened. Symptoms that can be associated with this stress response might include: high blood pressure, cold hands and feet, upset stomach, migraine headaches, pre-ulcerous/ulcerous conditions, increased colitis, sometimes constipation, and 70% of sexual dysfunction in both men and women can be linked to this stress response.
7. All of your senses are heightened are survival vigilance. You are more sensitive to noise (ringing telephones or door bells), to light, to smells, even to increased sensitivity to touch. Your neo-cortex (the thinking part of your brain) shuts down and the survival mechanisms in the middle and lower more primitive parts of the brain take over, so you react to things and do not think things through as well. Basic emotions: fear, anger, sadness, and joy (nervous laughter) take over from complicated, sophisticated higher function emotions. Symptoms that can be associated with this stress response might include: emotional irritability, substance abuse to escape stress through self-medication, anxiety, depression, poor impulse control, poor problem solving and reduced communication abilities
8. You perspire/sweat to cool the body's increased metabolism down. Symptoms that can be associated with this stress response might include: hyperhidrosis (which can lead to dehydration due to over sweating)
9. Imbalances in normal hormone levels. Longer term, unresolved stress can affect the immune system which is normally there to fight off infections and promote healing. Symptoms that can be associated with this stress response might include: frequent colds or flu's, infections, cancer or tumor development, increased allergic responses, auto-immune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma)
10. Adrenaline production inhibits progesterone a key hormone of fertility. This hormone is released during stress.
How Can Acupuncture Help?
Traditional Chinese philosophy states that our health is dependent on the body's motivating energy, known as qi, moving in a smooth and balanced way through a series of channels beneath the skin. Stress, anger, or any intense emotion acts like a traffic jam, blocking the free flow of energy in the body. Many people who are very stressed experience upper back, shoulder and neck pain. This is because stress causes the 'snarling up' of the energy passing through channels in these areas causing pain, tension and stiffness – often resulting in headaches as well.
Through acupuncture, these energy blockages can be addressed. Acupuncture can help energy flow smoothly, and alleviate not only the symptoms of stress and anxiety, but the stress and anxiety itself. In addition, acupuncture improves circulation of blood throughout the body. The calming nature of acupuncture also helps decrease heart rate, lowers blood pressure and relaxes the muscles.
Acupuncture Can Help By
Reducing risk of further health implications
Reducing the number of sick days taken
Offering an effective preventative treatment for stress
Making stress easier to handle
Research by JC Butler et al (2005) was conducted on 55 patients suffering from stress-related emotional disorders. All patients were treated with acupuncture for the condition and the total effective rate for the reduction of symptoms in all 55 patients was 95.4%
In Scotland research was conducted among hospice staff who were measured for stress using a psychological profile and then tested again following four acupuncture treatments. A 44% reduction in stress was recorded (2002)