People of all ages and walks of life experience acute and chronic stress. Stress can result in anxiety, depression, and exacerbate pain or somatic complaints that you have been told are “all in the mind”. Inherent to Chinese Medicine is its ability to ameliorate these complaints by regulating the stress response.
Managing stress with Chinese medicine is a process. It involves acupuncture, as well as acupressure and simple qigong movements that can be done at home. Herbs, diet, and lifestyle modifications may be prescribed. I also suggest that people have a support system such as psychological or spiritual counseling to support an often lonely self-transformation.
Acupuncture points have been shown in research to down regulate the production of stress hormones - the sympathetic nervous system response. Acupuncture ameliorates the acute stress response relatively quickly, meaning immediately before, during, or after a stressful experience. However, chronic stress is like getting farther and father behind on the rent/mortgage payment. Counter balance by the parasympathetic nervous system needs time to:
I recently had the opportunity to intern at a hospital-based pain and stress clinic. Part of the training involved experiencing first hand the same acupuncture treatment protocols I was giving to patients. What I realized is that while we have an accurate perspective on how acute stress affects our daily lives, we do not have the same insight into chronic stress. Recovering from chronic stress is a slow unwinding from what is perhaps far deeper than what our conscious rationale minds can perceive.
Acupuncture addresses the sequel of chronic stress in a holistic way regardless of whether a person initially recognizes the sequel or not. Meaning, seemingly unrelated functional problems are related in Chinese medical theory. Ameliorating stress is core to holism. This makes the benefits of acupuncture different than the benefits of pharmaceutical medication:
Pharmaceutical drugs are important part of treating stress, anxiety, and depression. They can relatively quickly improve and preserve quality of life so a person may fulfill daily functions and roles as they work out what ever they perceive their external stressors to be. But a person is vulnerable to relapse if the medication is stopped; or there may be side effects. Acupuncture can be done concurrently while a person is taking these medications. Research studies show that acupuncture has the potential to lower required doses of medication. It is an ongoing but effective commitment for stress management because stress is an inherent part of life. I like to describe this as physical therapy for the psyche.
In Chinese medical theory, stress is defined as the effects of "unfulfilled desires" to have/achieve something good and fulfilling or retreat from something bad and threatening- think about it. But at some point, the body and mind can become overwhelmed by internal and external stressors happening too much, too fast, or too soon (i.e. childhood). The result is Liver Depression with Qi Stagnation. Treating this pattern of disharmony is the core protocol for stress, anxiety and depression. It is usually the root cause of all the subsequent Chinese medicine diagnosis associated with chronic stress, anxiety and depression.
In my experience it takes far fewer treatments to calm acute stress after a hectic day, than it does to even begin to recover from years of chronic stress (7 to 10 treatments). In the recovery process, one may first experience core muscles adjust to relaxation; dull aches where qi tends to stagnate; flushes of pent-up tension; and other unfamiliar physical sensations. Followed by better sleep and digestion; improved cognition and decision-making; reduction in chronic pain and somatic complaints; deeper breathing etc.. One may feel "Not as Bad" before feeling "More Better".
In the video series above, Master herbalist George Lamoureux suggests ways to manage stress by regulating the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA-axis); nourishing the Three Treasures (Qi, Jing & Shen); and rectifying the healing breathe.