How to beat chronic stress with acupuncture

Is stress good or bad? How does it affect our minds and bodies? How can acupuncture and lifestyle / nutritional modifications help?

Good Stress

When we are exposed to an acute, distressful situation, our sympathetic system amps up — what is famously called “fight or flight.” Our adrenal glands release corticosteroids that make our blood vessels constrict and our heart rate increase. Cortisol also increases our blood glucose level. Glucose is the main source of energy that powers our overactive cells during stressful events. This is called “good stress” because it empowers us to handle an acute situation.

Figure 1: Effects of stress

Bad Stress

But, more often than not, our stress lasts longer than a few minutes or a few hours. It extends to days, weeks, months, and even years. This has very detrimental physical and emotional effects.

Our modern lifestyle

The modern lifestyle can be very harmful to our emotional and physical health. Our culture praises working and hustling, while ignoring the importance of introversion, resting and relaxation. Clearly, this way of living is not working. Research shows that stress can cause many problems (See Figure 1).

Studies show that less stress = success

In fact, research shows that people who are happier and less stressed are also more successful. A long-term study was conducted on high school students found that those who experienced less stress were more likely to achieve their career goals.

Figure 2: Tai Ji symbol

Balancing Stress in Life

We cannot live entirely with or without stress, and we cannot live entirely with or without relaxation either, so we must balance the two.

The yin yang / tai ji symbol (Figure 2) illustrates the idea of balance between the yin and yang energies.

How can acupuncture help?

Acupuncture blocks the HPA axis, which is in charge of the stress response.

So how can acupuncture help with stress? A study showed that rats receiving acupuncture had lower cortisol levels and less anxiety, depression, and hopelessness through behavioral tests, compared to those who didn’t receive acupuncture. Acupuncture blunts activity in the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, which is in charge of the stress response.

Other studies also show that acupuncture can help treat anxiety and depression in human subjects.

A word of advice

Keep in mind that acupuncture is a spoke in the wheel of the East Asian medical system. This means that when you work with a Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac), he or she may also prescribe herbs / supplements, and offer lifestyle and nutritional counseling.

A good acupuncturist will treat you, not your symptoms. So not only will your stress improve, but all aspects of your life such as sleep, digestion, pain, and energy.

About the Author

Sai Jurawanichkul, a licensed acupuncturist, believes in living, teaching, and practicing wholistic medicine, which fosters a cooperative relationship among all facets of health such as physiology, emotion, spirit, nutrition, and lifestyle.

Through a personal philosophy of iidokodori, or “collecting good things,” she helps her patients live a fulfilling life by overcoming obstacles (whether that be pain, physical or emotional disorders). She introduces diverse treatment plans and adapt those most suitable to provide effective, individualized treatments. She works collaboratively on approaches that best attune to her patient’s needs.

Learn more about Sai.


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