The holidays are meant to be full of love, cheer and spending time with family and friends. Despite the joyful picture that the media portrays of the holidays, everyone feels the extra stress leading up to all of the events. All of the “hoopla” that goes along with the holidays can put extra pressures on us physically, mentally and financially. During the last few weeks of the year we are often overbooking our schedules with shopping, holiday parties and event planning. This also entails more traffic on the roads, waiting in longer lines and rushing to make our engagements on time. With all of these added activities and inconveniences, our normal routines are disrupted, making us less likely to exercise, eat healthy and get the adequate rest that we need. This lethal combination can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. It is a combination that prevents us from feeling the “love and good cheer” and can even make us resent the holiday traditions and prevent us from taking part in the festivities.
The hectic lifestyle that we live leading up to the holidays goes completely against the Acupuncture and Chinese medical philosophy, which believes that we should actually be conserving our energy during the winter months. Much like most of nature goes dormant in the winter; we should actually be resting more during the cold months. Instead, we do the exact opposite and exhaust our internal energy reserves leaving us anxious, stressed and depressed.
Anxiety and stress manifests differently in each one of us and ranges from mild reactions like worry to more severe symptoms like nausea, insomnia, shortness of breath, palpitations and panic attacks. During 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 kill you. The “fight or flight” response is a process that triggers an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. So, this response was necessary for survival and could actually save your life. The senses are also heightened as a response. Unfortunately, this response still kicks in from stress that we experience in everyday life 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. The repeated activation of these involuntary processes puts great strain on bodies.
From an Acupuncture and Chinese medical perspective, anxiety and stress is related to 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.
Signs & symptoms of an overactive response to stress:
- Depressed immune system
- Digestive disorders
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Joint pain
- Weight problems
If you are someone who experiences any of the symptoms above or is simply just stressed out...there is hope. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine 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. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine aims at treating the root cause of the issue, as well. Best of all, it is a safe, effective and drug-free treatment!
In addition, here are some ways to help combat stress this holiday season as well as in your everyday life throughout the year:
1.) Manage your stress with Acupuncture & herbs! Acupuncture and herbs reduce stress hormones like Cortisol, relax muscle tension and help 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 or a yogi to meditate... but here is a simple technique that will only take a few minutes a day. Inhale slowly for 10 seconds (expanding your belly), pause, and then exhale slowly for 10 seconds (contracting your belly inward to push out all the air). 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 other stress hormones) and increases the levels of the “happy” chemicals (endorphins) 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 or drawing in a journal can help to get your feelings on paper, relieving any built up tension. Whine away on paper not in public.
8.) Have Fun! Do something you enjoy or watch a funny movie. Laughing releases the “feel good” chemicals in the brain.
For more information on stress reduction and Acupuncture, call Kearstin R. Tripi (Licensed Acupuncturist at New Jersey Spine and Wellness Center) at 973-942-4449. Kearstin R. Tripi is a licensed Acupuncturist in the State of New Jersey and a diplomat of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Kearstin studied at The Eastern School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, an ACOM (Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) accredited school. Her training includes Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Richard Tans Balance Method, Kiiko Matsumotos style of Acupuncture, Five Element Style Acupuncture, Tuina, Chinese Dietary therapy and Chinese Herbal Medicine. She completed her clinical externship at the VA Hospital in East Orange, New Jersey where she treated a variety of pain and psycho emotional issues. Kearstin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Fairleigh Dickinson University.