Coping with Stress – How Acupuncture Can Help

Stressors come in many forms in our modern society, how we are impacted by them can greatly affect our health. Stress is a natural nonspecific response of the body to the various demands placed upon it. Healthy stressors such as physical exercise, learning new things both physically and mentally, when done in a balanced way, keep us alert and motivated, and support our body’s strength and vitality, thus stimulating healthy stress responses. Unhealthy stressors such as overexertion, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, negative thinking, pollutants and toxins, all challenge the balances in the body and overtime cause decline in the body’s health and wellbeing.

fight or flight stress responseWe also have our fight or flight stress response which through a sequence of changes in the internal functioning of the body brings forth the energy and strength to preserve life in the face of danger.

Some of the responses include

  • directing blood flow away from digestion and directing towards the muscles,
  • movement of food through the digestive tract slows,
  • the release of adrenaline to increase strength and speed, and
  • the nervous systems moves into the sympathetic mode of high alert.

These changes are powerful and effective in the short term but if they continue to be engaged then the body’s health starts to decline. Unfortunately aspects of modern day life such as primetime news, road rage, terrorism talk, long work weeks, the frenzy of getting everything done, the pressure to do it right and meet everyone’s including self’s expectations, and financial concerns, can trigger this fight and flight response. These aspects of modern life are ongoing not short term, so now there is potential for aspects of the fight and flight system to be engaged long term thus depleting and damaging the body. Medical studies have shown that with increased and consistent stress, our white blood cells, which defend us against viruses and bacteria, decrease. Everybody responds to these stressors differently some engage your fight and flight and some do not.

So how do we live in this modern world and stay healthy, as most of us are not moving to a cave in the Himalayas or an ashram in India. We can make some lifestyle choices that minimize exposure to our major stressors, learn different way of responding to our stressors by changing our thoughts and emotional responses, use movement and meditation practices that calm the nervous system, and provide the body with healthy stressors such as moderate exercise and healthy eating habits (big ones here to get the maximum bang for your effort is to minimize processed and refined food, eliminate fast food, moderate caffeine as it engages the sympathetic system to give you that shot of energy thus depleting your resources).

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine assist the body in disengaging the sympathetic mode allowing the parasympathetic system to regain command. When the parasympathetic system is in command, normal functioning of the body is restored, food is digested properly and repairs are made helping to control inflammation. The movement of the nervous system into a sympathetic mode is the initiator of the cascade of changes due to fight and flight, so turning it off is key to returning balance. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine also supports and helps restore the integrity of the various organ systems that have been affected and depleted.

Signs and Symptoms of an overactive fight and flight response and too many unhealthy stressor.

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Depressed immune system (catching coughs & colds easily, slow healing, easy bruising)
  • Digestive issues
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint pain
  • Weight problems