In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we see emotions as the biggest factor in internal disharmony, meaning imbalances that aren't caused by outside influences like injury or pathogens. Everyone experiences an array of emotions every day, and this expression of different feelings is healthy and normal. However when an emotion is too intense, isn't fully expressed (i.e. "bottling up" anger), or endures for too long, the body will react, often with physical symptoms.
If you suffer from anxiety, grief, depression, over-thinking, worry, fear, or anger and can't seem to "get out of it," TCM is a useful tool in guiding the body, mind, and spirit back into balance. We say tool because sometimes TCM alone won't be enough. When your acupuncturist goes through your health history with you, she might make recommendations about meditation, counseling, exercise, or other therapies in addition to advising treatment with acupuncture, herbal medicine, and diet. Acupuncture guides the body to heal itself, regulates the stress and "feel-good" chemicals in the body, promotes relaxation, manages physical symptoms, and can even clear the head of busy thoughts and bring focus to what the underlying issues really are, but a lot of times it's up to you, the patient, to dig up the root cause of your suffering and release it in your own way. Acupuncture can facilitate that process and works very well with other methods of treatment, including medications.
Chronic stress puts the body into "fight or flight" mode in which the body thinks that it is under attack and prepares to either fight off or flee the predator. While this was very useful for our ancestors who were often in danger of carnivorous animals and other threats in the wild, now most of our stressors consist of things like deadlines and traffic - not exactly life-threatening. "Fight or flight" is meant to be a temporary state that gets a person past immediate danger and then subsides, but in today's fast-paced society many people live in this mode day in and day out. Stress can make you more productive and can be used as a tool to see what is important to you (i.e. you're stressed about an upcoming presentation because you really love your job and want to do well), but it is still a good idea to recharge the body by getting out of that fight or flight state.
Acupuncture puts the body into the opposite "rest and digest" state. The needles tell the body to calm down and relax, and patients are often surprised at how easy it is to fall asleep during their treatments. With continued treatments the body becomes used to being calm again, and the organ systems begin to function normally, no longer needing to adjust for the anticipation of stress. In this way TCM can provide both immediate and long-term relief.
Please contact us if you would like more information about how acupuncture works for stress, anxiety, depression, or other emotions.
Photo credits: Sarah Anna Hansen Photography
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