Yes, you read correctly, there is a silent killer among us almost everyday. It can be with you the very moment your alarm sounds in the morning and can follow you into your car while you’re driving. It can stay with you at your desk while working or even when picking your kids up from school. It can follow you around all day long and can even get into your bed with you at night. If you haven’t already guessed, the silent killer is stress. In fact, stress alone is linked to the six leading causes of death (Heart Disease, Cancer, Lung Disease, Accidents, Cirrhosis of the Liver and Suicide). Not only does stress affect your mood, but it actually causes physiological changes in the body. What does that actually mean? Let’s break it down and simplify this complex cascade of events:
When confronted with a stressful situation, our bodies react involuntarily. The nervous system responds by releasing different stress hormones like Cortisol and Adrenaline, engaging the body’s “fight or flight” response. In ancient times, this was an advantage for survival when stresses included fleeing from wild animals that could eat you. So, this response was necessary for survival and could actually save your life. The “fight or flight” response causes your heart to beat faster, your blood pressure to rise, increases the rate of respiration and enhances your senses. Unfortunately, this response still kicks in from stress that we experience everyday that may not be life threatening. Things like traffic, an angry boss or a family fight is much different than getting chased by a hungry bear, but our bodies involuntarily respond in the same way. Constant, repeated stress is detrimental to the body and can result in disease and even death.
From an Acupuncture and Chinese medical perspective, stress causes an imbalance of energy in the body. In a healthy person, energy flows smoothly throughout the body. Healthy people experience different emotions everyday, which is a normal part of life. No one can escape being stressed, worried, angry or sad at certain times, but it is when these emotions are too intense or when they are prolonged over a long period of time that they disrupt the balance of energy within the body and become the cause of disease. This is especially true if the emotions are not expressed and are kept inside for a long period of time (a big no no!).
Signs & symptoms of an overactive response to stress include: Anger, Anxiety, Asthma, Nausea, Depression, Depressed immune system, Digestive disorders, Headaches, Heart disease, High blood pressure, Insomnia, Joint pain, Palpitations, Panic Attacks, Shortness of breath and Weight problems.
If you are someone who experiences any of the symptoms above or is simply just stressed out...there is hope! Acupuncture has been helping people to cope with stress for thousands of years. It can help to balance the mental and physical symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. In addition, Acupuncture and Chinese medicine aims at treating the root cause of the issue. Best of all, it is a safe, effective and drug-free treatment!
Here are some ways to help combat stress on a daily basis:
1.) Manage your stress with Acupuncture! Acupuncture helps to reduce stress hormones like Cortisol, relax muscle tension and helps restore the body’s balance so that your body calms down and even responds better to stress in the future.
2.) Get enough sleep! Try to get at least 8 hours of restful sleep. Our bodies handle stress much better when we are well rested.
3.) Start your day with meditation. You don’t have to be an expert yogi to meditate... but try a simple breathing exercise. Inhale slowly for 10 seconds, pause, then exhale slowly for 10 seconds. Repeat for 5-10 minutes each day. You can also play calming music to enhance relaxation during your meditation. Meditation calms the nerves, reduces the release of stress hormones in your body and prevents adrenal exhaustion.
4.) Drink your stress away....with Green Tea this is! Green tea reduces cortisol, the hormone that your body releases in response to stress.
5.) Boost your mood with Diet & Exercise! Increasing your intake of leafy green veggies helps your body to stay healthy and deal with stress better. Daily exercise also helps to reduce cortisol levels and increases the levels of the “happy” chemicals in the brain.
6.) Beat Stress With Positive Thinking! Your conscious mind can help to control the way that your body responds to stressful situations. Instead of getting down on yourself, repeat affirmations like “I am fully capable of handling the obstacles that cross my path and nothing can stand in my way”. Repeating positive affirmations also reduces the levels of cortisol that are released from the adrenal glands.
7.) Write Your Stress Away. Writing in a journal can help you get out pent up emotions- relieving any built up tension.
8.) Have Fun! Do something you enjoy or watch a funny movie. Laughing releases the “feel good” chemicals in the brain.