So what’s the big deal with stress anyway? Sure, I’m stressed out juggling work, the kids, my husband, the grocery shopping, and now the holidays, but I can handle it. I know too much stress isn’t good for me, but it’s not like it’s a disease, right? I mean, its not like it’s going to kill me, is it?
Research from Carnegie Mellon University suggests that, although not a disease in and of itself, stress is a contributing factor in human disease especially depression and cardiovascular disease, and possibly even cancer.
As an acupuncturist, most often when meeting someone new, I am asked if acupuncture works and how. Skeptics will often make a general statement that “sure it might work somehow but it’s mainly a placebo effect and that all it does is relax you”, as if that doesn’t have any health benefits. As an acupuncturist I say, “Exactly!” Stress reduction is a by-product of acupuncture and it does relax you, and in this relaxation state it helps to manage your central nervous system and all your bodily processes to maintain health. According to a Yale Medical School study, acupuncture was shown to significantly reduce stress as shown by measuring blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety states, and electrodermal activity. With the insertion of tiny needles in the body at various locations, acupuncture reduces stress by regulating the sympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for our fight or flight mechanism to avoid danger. Too much stress keeps our sympathetic nervous system in a state of constant stimulation. Long term, stress causes this system to become depleted and disease arises. Acupuncture works by suppressing the sympathetic nervous system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the system that controls our body when we are relaxed. This thereby improves our immune response by increasing serotonin and opioid peptide (feel good hormones) levels in the blood and decreasing cortisol (stress hormone) levels. In a nutshell, not enough serotonin and opioid peptides can cause depression, anxiety and a general sense of malaise, as well as lead to insomnia and sleep disorders; and too much cortisol can weaken the immune system, increase inflammation, prevent proper metabolism of nutrients and increase fat production (that new layer of fat around the middle).
Too often we underestimate the value of our health when we are feeling well. I know, because I’m one of those people. Every time I get a screaming migraine I swear I will take better care of myself. But when I recover and feel good again, I put my own health on the back burner because I’m too stressed out and don’t “have time” to take care of myself. But each and every time I get a migraine I know it happens because I have left my body in a state of constant stimulation and overtaxed my sympathetic nervous system. The solution, take time for myself to unwind from life’s stressors. And part of that relaxation comes from regular acupuncture treatments. An acupuncturist friend of mine and I have recently made a pact to give each other treatment at least once per month, and this year I’m going to stick with it! I deserve better health, and so do you. We can’t always reduce the stressors in our lives, but we can change how we respond to them in our bodies. If I had a nickel for every time a patient told me that they can’t quite put their finger on it, but that since they started acupuncture their “mood and overall sense of well being has improved”, I would be a very rich woman.
So, does acupuncture just relax you? Sure does. But it does so much more and in this process your body’s nervous system becomes balanced so that your body functions better to ward off disease. This may show in lower blood pressure, balanced hormones for more regular periods, no night sweats, no PMS, more energy, and for me no more migraines. Long term that means my body is working better to ward off more serious illness.
So what do we recommend for managing your stress? Give us a call to find out how we can customize a stress-relieving plan just for you. Just as your hair needs regular maintenance, so does your body.