Ease Stress and Release Emotional Trauma with Acupuncture
Oct 01, 2020 08:40AM
By Julie Peterson
Potential illness, job security, diminishing finances, family well being and schooling are just a few of the things that people are worrying about these days. While these are certainly not new stressors, the pandemic has presented most, sometimes all, of these in one messy heap for people to deal with simultaneously. In addition, lock-downs and social distancing have many people feeling alone. That’s a lot of stress.
A new routine or fear of the unknown can cause discomfort any day. Throw all the other concerning topics in the mix and it’s a recipe for serious anxiety or depression.
The Root of Health Problems
“We have seen an increase in the people dealing with the high levels of stress that are triggering anxiety attacks, digestive issues, insomnia, migraines, increased reaction to pain as well as many other issues,” says Michelle Connell, AP, MAcOM, at Healthy Healing Acupuncture in Merritt Island.
It’s no secret that stress can cause havoc within the body and the mind.
“Even those of my patients who rarely, if ever, report anxiety are coming in complaining of insomnia, forgetfulness and irritability,” says Hilary Morris at Stuart Acupuncture.
And beyond the stress-related issues newly presented in 2020, the year has even done some dredging.
“For some patients without distractions and with more time to reflect, emotions are coming to the surface, whether they are as a result of the current situation or past events,” says Marcela Bowie, DOM, AP, at No Worries Natural Medicine in Indialantic.
But stress is difficult to manage, because it’s a physiological response that prepares the body for an ancient fight or flight response. Further, if the problem causing the stress can’t be solved, the stress continues and becomes chronic.
“If we sense danger, we need to be able to successfully fight or flee. Then our bodies return to homeostasis, a state of balance, once the threat is resolved,” says Angela King, AP, DOPM, at Indian River Acupuncture & Functional Medicine. “With something like COVID, there is no end in sight to the threat and this uncertainty and lack of control is very taxing on our minds and bodies.”
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
To tame stress, release emotional trauma and heal the resulting physical manifestations, TCM looks at the person, not the symptom.
“Some people get more anxious and can’t sleep, others get more irritable and maybe their blood pressure rises…both people may feel stressed, but their experience is very different and requires different herbal formulas,” says King.
For this reason, TCM is not one-size-fits-all. To truly find the root cause of any issue, practitioners diagnose with consultation, signs and symptoms, Chinese tongue and radial pulse diagnosis and sometimes bloodwork.
“With Chinese medicine, we approach each patient individually and find where the imbalance is for that person. A manifestation of anxiety, or any symptom, can be due to a number of different reasons with a multitude of treatment options,” says Bowie.
Another benefit of TCM is that it’s preventive. “Emotions affect our internal organs,” says Bo-Shih Ni, LAc, DOM, at Ni's Chinese Medical Center in Melbourne. “In Chinese medicine, a skilled practitioner can detect the effect the stress is having before the damage is done.”
Studies show that consistent acupuncture treatments help balance cortisol and release endorphins, serotonin and dopamine that help decrease the stress response of the sympathetic nervous system by inducing the relaxation response.
“When you get an acupuncture treatment, you will generally feel a relaxed feeling come over your body,” says Connell. “The balance of fight or flight and rest and relax chemicals and hormones in the body will allow the immune system to work more effectively and help to keep you healthy.”
“Acupuncture also improves sleep patterns and regulates digestion which can become imbalanced in many people during times of stress,” says King.
Herbs as Medicine
Chinese herbs, sometimes in the form of teas, may be recommended to soothe affected organs or help with anxiety symptoms.
“In a largely generalized approach, Chinese medicine has a common formula called ‘Xiao Yao San’ that can be modified which is sometimes referred to as ‘The Happy Tea’ for its stress relieving effects,” says Bowie. “Anyone wanting to use Chinese herbal medicine for any condition, including stress, [should] first consult with a licensed acupuncture physician or doctor of oriental medicine to find the root cause and to customize their treatment.”
Morris also says that seeing a licensed Chinese Herbalist is the best route before incorporating herbs or teas, as there are many that could treat stress, but the most appropriate for each person depends on many factors.
“One herb or combination cannot treat all people with stress. Chinese herbs have to be customized for each individual person as each person's internal system can be affected differently,” says Ni.
TCM Promotes Self-Care
Taking care of the body and mind are always essential, and even more so during times of stress. An individualized treatment plan from a TCM practitioner may include herbs, acupuncture, nutrition and recommendations for daily activities to change the pattern of stress response.
“One basic habit that should be incorporated is a deep breathing exercise that will allow the body to trigger the relaxation response. Breath in through the nose for 5 seconds and breath out through the mouth for 5 to 7 seconds. Repeat for 5 cycles. Do this several times a day to regain control over how your body responds to stress,” says Connell.
For some, underlying health issues are causing increased anxiety about surviving a potential infection. Taking preventive action can help allay concerns through empowerment.
“We focus on strengthening immune resilience and decreasing inflammation thru evidence-based natural supplements. We know that COVID’s destructiveness is in part due to the massive inflammatory response it can create,” says King. “Anything we can do to lower inflammation by losing weight, getting blood pressure under control and managing blood sugar and chronic pain will be of benefit.”
Feelings of being cooped up indoors and isolated aren’t of benefit to physical or mental health either. It’s crucial to get out of the house and safely enjoy the outdoors.
Finally, it’s important to take control of thoughts and be mindful of focus.
“Stop dwelling on the negative and focus on something positive, uplifting and encouraging. The more you fill your mind with things that are positive, the less stress there will be,” says Ni.
To connect with the practitioners in this article, click on their business name to learn more.