Is Acupuncture the Cure for Holiday Stress?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year….or is it? Holidays have become synonymous with the word ‘stress’. The 2020 Holiday Season is much less festive than years past and has brought a huge burden of stress to us all.

Acupuncture is the Cure for Holiday Stress

Modern life is unbalanced in the best of times. We work too hard, play too little, and consequently experience high levels of stress and anxiety. This year has added a whole new layer of stress as many are working from home, maybe homeschooling, or working in an environment that looks very different from our pre-pandemic way of life.

To top it all off, we are adapting as best we can to a very different social reality! Holiday parties are off the list, gathering with distant relatives, travelling, even seeing our friends have all been put on pause. The absence of our daily social interactions with others outside our immediate household has been profoundly isolating for some and just plain stress producing to us all. It’s truly been a year of throwing out your planner and seeing what today brings.

Chronic stress negatively impacts our health and immunity at a time when we need both to be in full force. Acupuncture treats chronic stress by moving stuck energy or stagnant ‘qi’. (Qi is the life force that flows through your body). Qi gets stuck when we are frustrated. Our collective inability to chart a course right now affects the acupuncture meridians and creates a condition acupuncturists call ‘qi stagnation’. People describe qi stagnation as feeling ‘pent up’ or just needing to get out and ‘blow off steam’. Acupuncture gets your qi moving by using hair thin needles placed at key locations to move your body’s qi which helps you relax. But how does it work?

Acupuncture Blocks Stress Hormones

Scientists have discovered that acupuncture actually affects the brain chemistry by blocking stress hormones. In fact, research published in the Journal of Endocrinology in 2013 demonstrated a reduction in ‘fight or flight’ hormones involved in stress response.

To read more on the acupuncture and stress reduction study: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130314085528.htm

Read more about acupuncture and stress.

May you and your family be safe and well this holiday season!

Acupuncture for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Acupuncture can help Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This is the type of depression that happens at the same time each year, usually in the fall and winter. Doctors attribute seasonal depression to less sunlight. Now that we are turning the clocks back, there will seem like even less daylight as the sun will go down one hour earlier. Even though we gain an hour of daylight in the morning, we lose it at night, leaving us feeling light deprived. Add to all this that we are in the midst of a pandemic and limiting our social interactions, Seasonal Affective Disorder has the potential to be worse for people this year.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder is SAD

Fortunately, acupuncture treatment can be effective for people who suffer from symptoms of seasonal depression. But how does it work? First we must understand how acupuncturists view SAD.

Is SAD a Disorder?

Fluctuating moods occur at each change of seasons according to Chinese medicine theory. Composed of the same elements that occur in nature, our bodies are a microcosm of the natural world. Changing conditions in our world create change in our bodies. Shouldn’t our moods be expected to shift accordingly?

Spring and summer mark an expansive time of year both in nature, and for most of us, our mood. On the flip side, the contraction of the fall season sees energy going in the opposite direction. For those who prefer spring and summer’s expansive, outward flow, the inward, reflective cycle of the approaching winter season may have a more severe affect and could become Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Acupuncturists know that our energy is beginning to contract and pull inward come fall; similar to what is happening outside our front doors as the leaves turn colors and trees begin to go dormant. With the waning daylight hours and the cessation of plant growth, there is a natural desire to turn inward as fall becomes winter. As we enter the dark cold winter months, it is normal to want to conserve energy as we seek to renew ourselves for the next cycle of expansion that begins with the first buds of spring.

Grief and the Lungs

Each of the 5 organ systems of the body is assigned a season and an emotion in Chinese Medicine. Fall is associated with the Lung organ system and the emotion of grief. Because of this, it is in the fall that the lungs need more help than at other times of the year. We tend to catch more colds and flus starting in the fall and to feel the emotional effects of the season associated with grief. Acupuncturists know how to regulate the Lung organ system to help achieve strength at a time when it is most vulnerable.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Here is a list of symptoms for seasonal affective disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association.

  • Sadness
  • A Loss of interest in activities that one previously enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite or eating habits
  • Changes in sleep
  • Loss of energy
  • In more severe cases, thoughts of suicide

People with depression experience many of the same symptoms. The difference is that seasonal depression symptoms are shorter in duration, ending with the change of seasons.The National Institute of Health suggests a diagnosis of seasonal depression isn’t necessary unless symptoms occur for two consecutive years. However, if these symptoms are severe, seek help immediately.

The American Psychiatric Association encourages anyone feeling severe symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts to contact a doctor immediately or seek help at the closest emergency room. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-TALK (8255) or via online chat.

If your symptoms are manageable, you may be able to get by with natural solutions. Exercise, getting outside for more daylight, and keeping up with social activities can help.

Acupuncture Treats Symptoms of Seasonal Depression

Seasonal moods are part of our human design. It is normal for them to change as the seasons turn. Adapting to change is a sign of good health and balance. This year is different, however, because there is a collective trauma many are undergoing as our globe is experiencing a pandemic. Even the most resilient of us may be feeling unable to adapt to the change of seasons this year. When you are unable to adapt and your mood begins to affect your daily function, it could be seasonal affective disorder.

The good news? Acupuncture can help with seasonal depression. Acupuncture helps your body move into the changing season so you can ‘go with the flow’. It does this by increasing neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. A series of acupuncture treatments can help people who are prone to S.A.D. adapt to the seasons more readily. People who get regular acupuncture report an overall balance in their emotional life with less severe ‘ups and downs’.

For more information on Acupuncture and Depression please visit our Treating Depression with Acupuncture page.

Acupuncture for Stress Relief

Got stress? Maybe you’ve got ‘Spring Fever’. Acupuncture is the best kept secret for stress relief! Many of my acupuncture patients are reporting increased irritability, anxiety, and PMS with the onset of spring. Some are feeling unusually tired. People with allergies, TMJ, tension headaches, migraines, and vertigo also tend to notice a flare-up this time of year. Acupuncturists call this ‘Liver Qi Stagnation’ which gets worse in the spring.

What’s Liver Qi?
Spring is the time of year that the organ system called Liver gets unbalanced. No, not your actual liver – the Chinese ‘Liver’ system. Acupuncturists know that the Liver regulates energy flow throughout your body. A busy, stressed out life causes the Liver to clamp down on your energy system – a condition called ‘Liver Qi Stagnation’. Most Americans experience some form of Liver Qi Stagnation throughout the year. Symptoms may include frustration, teeth grinding, ear ringing, allergies, and PMS.

Why is it worse in Spring?
Spring is a ‘strong’ season with an outward push of energy and wild weather swings. Our bodies are made from the materials found in nature so it makes sense that we would notice amplified stress or mood swings when spring arrives. Spring starts in February according to the Chinese calendar. So our 1st day of spring coincides with the middle of spring – a time when the Liver Qi is at its peak. Here in the west, we have the term ’Spring Fever’ which is described as a feeling of restlessness or laziness. If you’ve got pre-existing Liver Qi Stagnation, you’re likely noticing increased stress or fatigue. Perhaps your Liver Qi needs some attention.

4 Ways Move Your Liver Qi

Exercise
Loosen up your Liver Qi with some exercise. Walking, running, or weightlifting are great ways to blow off steam. Yoga and Tai Qi are good additions for smoothing the body’s Qi and helping you relax.

Turn Off Your Cellphone
….and your computer for that matter. With increased connectivity we’ve become more stressed.Your Liver Qi gets tighter with every email, beep, notification, and text that comes in. Unplug and go for a walk – outside in nature if you can. Your Liver Qi will thank you!

Hang Out
Schedule time with people who boost your mood. Nurture friendships and family ties. Go have some fun, or just chill out, preferably with people. Positive relationships create flow – in both your life and your qi.

Visit your Acupuncturist
If you’re feeling stress, PMS, fatigue, or allergy symptoms, your Liver Qi might be stuck. Acupuncture regulates the meridians and the Liver – creating balance and flow. The result? You feel better! So get your qi moving and flow into summer.

Read more about acupuncture for stress and anxiety or acupuncture and menstrual issues including PMS!