Stress is a blanket term used to descrive a wide variety of symptoms and situations. The oxford dictionary says its: “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”. This pretty much describes every day of anyone’s life. In Chinese Medicine, stress doesn’t exist, instead Chinese Medicine has defined key emotions which when in excess affect the energetics of different organs of our bodies. To read about how stress specifically impacts your digestion, see my page under digestive health. As stress is such a broad term, the range of symptoms are equally as broad, but its a question of how your body handles stress. In small amounts there shouldn’t be any long term signs, but if you are experiencing any of the following on a regular basis, then your body is being affected by stress:
- Trouble falling asleep or waking during the night
- Feelings of worry or frustration regularly
- Headaches or neck tension
- Bloating or trouble digesting food, or loss of appetite
- Tightness in the chest or trouble breathing
- Changes to your menstrual cycle
- Frequently catching colds and flues
- Constant fatigue or lethargy
More information can be found on the goverment’s health website
These are all signs that your body is being weakened by excessive stress, and you need to take action!
An interesting research article from America showed Acupuncture to lower stress and improve sleep in the elderly, which had the flow on effect of improving their immune system.
In my Acupuncture clinic, worry and frustration are the 2 most common terms clients use to describe stress. Within Acupuncture theory, worry affects your Spleen and Heart, causing digestive and sleep symptoms. Frustration affects your liver, which can affect your diaphragm, emotions and menstrual cycle. This is why the symptoms can be so widespread.
Once we have identified the root cause of your stress, we then work on rebalancing your Qi. Mind calming points are always included so I work on the acute symptoms, as well as the underlying cause within Chinese Medicine Theory. Often patients have other concerns such as neck pain or nausea which we will also discuss. I also discuss the importance of coping mechanisms, like yoga, running, martial arts, whatever helps you de-stress. I frequently see people internalise their worries and they get to a point where they feel like they will burst. I often suggest patients stay in close contact with their GP so they can work out plans for long term management. I can then do my best to provide further support to the process.
A recent study done on college students and staff in America found: “While participants of both the groups showed a substantial initial decrease in perceived stress scores, at 12 weeks post treatment, the verum acupuncture group showed a significantly greater treatment effect than the sham acupuncture group. This study indicates that acupuncture may be successful in decreasing the perception of stress in students and staff at a large urban university, and this effect persists for at least 3 months after the completion of treatment.”
Possible ways to Relieve Stress
I know this is much easier said than done, but everyone has some control over their lives, and you need to have strategies in place to ensure the stressful parts of your life don’t affect your health in the long term.
- Make sure you have hobbies and outlets – whether it be gym, yoga, tai chi or martial arts. Ensure you have an activity that helps you burn off your work worries.
- Get good quality sleep – a solid 7-hrs without waking and waking up refreshed.
- Good balanced diet – We are what we eat, which is why my clinic is focused on treating digestive health. A good diet means a strong immune system and helps you cope with stress.
- Regular exercise – helps you burn off the stress
- Try and avoid stressful situations
- Don’t let others pass their worries and stress on to you – sometimes you need to be selfish and put yourself first. You can’t help those around you if you’re unwell