THE PROBLEM: Stress is truly a silent killer in our culture. We are constantly barraged with the demands of life, violence on TV and anger on the internet! This is all on top of the business of life where most of us just have too much on our plates.
If your life is anything like most of the people I know, then you are busy, too busy, with seemingly not enough time to take care of yourself. Maybe you have kids, a job, a long commute and activities outside of work. It can feel like the giving never ends, and then it leaves you depleted and overwhelmed. Revving on this gear over time will eventually lead the body to being depleted due to the over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system or 'fight or flight' response.
THE SCIENCE: Essentially the same physiological effects to stress happen today, as did when we were all literally in survival mode in our day to day life. If a tiger was charging at you, stress hormones like adrenaline would be released, the blood from your internal organs would rush to your legs and say, "run like hell!"
Now there is no tiger chasing most of us (hopefully!), but instead it's a crying baby, a tense interaction at work, or getting cut off in traffic. Either way the response inside is the same, the body gets cut off from its blood flow and the entire body suffers. So then over time, symptoms arise: back pain, neck tightness, digestive distress, insomnia, not to mention the anxiety! Then before you know it, you have been slapped a label like IBS, Fibromyalgia or Depression. How did this happen?!
THE WAY BACK TO BALANCE: Well I am here to tell you that there is an antidote to the 'fight or flight' and it's found in the parasympathetic nervous system, or 'rest and digest' or 'calm and connect' mode. We can't always change external circumstances or our responsibilities but we can always change what is happening inside. I am a huge fan of an amazing book called, "The Urban Monk, by Pedram Shojai. In it he says, "The world outside us begins to change as we shift our inner state."
Ever notice how when you are in a calm and relaxed state, that your kids are magically less crazy than usual? I know that I have!! Getting ourselves calm and balanced on the inside is key to having life on the outside not just flow smoothly, but to truly shine.
HOW ACUPUNCTURE CAN HELP: Here is where the science of acupuncture comes into play. Many think of acupuncture as just moving an invisible energy called Qi (pronounced chee), and yes I do believe there is an activation of energy at play. Remember we can't see our cell phone signals, but we know they are real....lots of energy is beyond our sight.
However, what I'm talking about are actual physiological changes that happen in the brain during acupuncture that change our hormonal responses to stress. When a needle is inserted into the body, it stimulates the sensory nerves to send a signal to the brain to activate a response. Recent research suggests that acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone and signaling substance that regulates the parasympathetic nervous system. It is also sends a signal through the nervous system to the brain, where chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine and enkephalin are released. When the body receives these feel good and pain relieving hormones, then the calming effect can go even deeper.
Regular weekly acupuncture can help shift the body into this 'calm and connect' mode, enhancing the quality of our lives on many levels. When life gets busy, all too often the good stuff that relieves stress can get cut out, but carving out your 'me-time' for acupuncture will set your entire week right!
Melissa is a self described 'nerd' about all topics relating to health and wellness. She is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and co-owner of Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing.