Stress and Anxiety
What is stress and anxiety?
Stress is a feeling of strain or pressure. We need stress for biological function. We use stress to adapt to new situations. Without stress, we would not evolve and develop. A basic example of positive stress is exercise. We train, overload or stress our muscles then adapt and grow bigger and stronger.
However, excessive stress can be bad and damaging. If your body and mind don’t get rest or a break from the stress, something breaks. If you’re awake for five days, the stress will put your mind and body at the limit of what could be lethal. Stress comes from many sources: relationships, work, responsibilities, kids, economics, duty, grief – even health.
Modern life is stressful. We have more technology and less time to use it. We are virtually connected to thousands of people but are speaking to each other less and less. Sitting at a desk plugging away at a computer, tension builds up and we have no release from the stress.
Consistently high stress levels have some of the following symptoms:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation and nausea.
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles.
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat.
- Frequent colds and infections.
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability.
Anxiety can probably be summed up as a fear state. Excessive stress will usually lead to some level of anxiety. However, they can occur independently of each other.
Symptoms of anxiety:
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness.
- Problems sleeping.
- Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet.
- Shortness of breath.
- Heart palpitations.
- An inability to be still and calm.
- Dry mouth.
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
How acupuncture can help you
Acupuncture treatment is a great inclusion as part of your stress coping strategy. The logical solution to coping with stress is to eliminate the cause of that which is stressing you out. This is not always possible or practical. For example, you can’t stop caring for your family, doing your job or stop running your business.
Stress pushes our autonomic nervous system into an increased fight of flight stage. This is an up-regulated sympathetic nervous state. This is good for getting away from danger but not so good for day-to-day living.
Acupuncture works by stimulating nerve pathways to create a physiological effect in the body. Acupuncture can help down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system to be more in balance with the para-sympathetic state. The insertion of acupuncture needles releases neuro transmitters such an endorphins, enkephalins and endogenous opioids. All of these have a very relaxing effect on the body. An acupuncture session is sixty minutes of relaxing “me” time. It takes you out of the modern world to a safe place where you “sit” with yourself without distraction. This is of immense value. The effect of the acupuncture is usually quite immediate. After the session most people feel relaxed and contented. The effect usually lasts several days. Repetition of acupuncture treatment encourages a more sustained effect. If the stress has been long standing, usually a course of four sessions is recommended to make a better impact on reducing the stress level.
Stress management should also include some of the following:
- Psychologist/psychotherapy/counselling – having an independent sounding board can be stress-liberating. The ability to express everything you feel in a non-judgemental, neutral, confidential setting can be both energizing and restorative.
- Good/real food – the less processed food, the better. You are what you eat. It’s true.
- Exercise – endorphins help to burn off the anxious energy.
- Examination of your goals and expectations. Are you spreading yourself too far or too thin? Re-evaluation of what is realistic may put things in better perspective. Achievable goals are great goals.