Jessica is a self-described desk monkey who works in a cubicle farm. Her job is boring, but it pays well. Jessica has to put up with a really annoying co-worker and a very demanding boss who doesn’t appreciate her talent or hard work. She’s been looking for another job, but in this economy, Jessica isn’t optimistic about finding her dream position, so she plugs away at a job she can barely tolerate.
Meg is an elementary school teacher. She’s been a single mom for over twenty years. Meg’s grown son struggles with an addiction to pain killers, and as a result has a difficult time holding down a job. Her son just moved back in with Meg for financial reasons, and he is resentful, unappreciative, and insulting to her. Meg dreads coming home from work each day and facing her son.
Paul owns a small business that employs about two dozen people. During the past couple of years, his business has been struggling to survive. It seems that the economy will never recover, and Paul has had to lay off some of his employees. He lays awake at night trying to figure out how to keep his business going.
These three very different people have one thing in common: they’re all ringing the stress bell. For very different reasons, Jessica, Meg, and Paul are all struggling to cope with the events and situations that life has thrown at them. They are also people who have been helped with their stress by seeking out acupuncture.
Before trying acupuncture, especially for something like stress, most people want to know exactly how some needles stuck in your body can actually help them feel less stressed out and better able to cope. This is a fair question, and can be answered on a couple of levels.
First, according to Chinese medicine, stress causes your energy to become blocked. While you may think that talking about energy is the stuff of mood rings, Earth shoes, and beaded curtains, remember that every cell in your body produces energy. Adherents to Chinese medicine simply believe that this energy moves throughout your body in pathways. When you become ill or have uncomfortable symptoms, it’s because your energy is either not flowing smoothly or it has become depleted. In the case of stress, you feel seriously uptight and tense, and this is because your energy has become blocked.
A practitioner of Chinese medicine can alleviate the symptoms of stress by manipulating your energy through acupuncture. Basically, the energy in your pathways rises to the surface of your body at acupuncture points. By inserting acupuncture needles at selected points, an acupuncturist can manipulate your energy to move more smoothly and help you feel less strung out.
On another level, acupuncture can help relieve your stress simply by the nature of an acupuncture treatment. Your practitioner spends a fair amount of time talking with you not only about your symptoms, but also your lifestyle, sleep, diet, and other details pertaining to your health. Then, once the treatment begins, you lie on a massage-type table or sit in a comfortable recliner and relax while the needles do their work. Usually the lights are dimmed and there is relaxing music playing. This combination of really being heard and the relaxing treatment has been described by my patients as a “mini vacation” and “the highlight of my week”. The simple mechanics of the treatment work to relieve your stress.
From a Western biomedical standpoint, research indicates that acupuncture affects your brain chemistry in a positive way. Researchers have found that one benefit of acupuncture is that it raises the level of endorphins, those feel-good chemicals, in your brain. This explains the mellow feeling many patients experience after an acupuncture treatment. The feeling can last for hours, and the effect of a treatment may last days or even weeks. Frequently, my patients tell me that after their treatment, the people, events, or circumstances that normally put them over the top just don’t seem to matter that much.
If the fabric of your life includes unrelenting stress, there is a solution that doesn’t involve Yoga classes, prescription drugs, learning how to meditate, or lots of deep breathing. It’s called acupuncture; and it’s a natural and effective to get you off the stress treadmill and back to being your calm self.