Let’s face it, we put ourselves through a lot of stress trying to balance work, family, money, health, and more. We’re constantly on the go, over-scheduled, multitasking, eating while we’re driving, concerned about deadlines at work and paying the bills, and wondering how we’re going to squeeze in some fun. Short bursts of stress are normal and even helpful. When the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) kicks in, cortisol and adrenaline give us energy and power; and heightened sensitivity helps us respond quickly. But what happens if the fight or flight response is working overtime and not allowing time for the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system to reboot? When the constant fight or flight becomes the new normal, it leads to adrenal exhaustion, increased blood pressure, a suppressed immune system, mental and physical fatigue.
Stress is so detrimental to our health that two thirds of visits to doctors in this country are due to stress related symptoms. And stress is linked to the 6 leading causes of death—heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. Not only does stress pose a serious health risk, it’s no fun. A life bombarded with stress robs us of joy and creativity that make life worth living.
So what can we do? We can’t just disengage and stop living life. It’s best to acknowledge that stress exists and get curious about what you’re gonna do to reduce it. Just a few simple changes can get you on your way to feeling rejuvenated, vibrant, creative, and healthy. Here’s my top 12 pieces of advice that I give to patients in my Santa Rosa acupuncture clinic that I see make a quick and significant impact:
- Rest well. Get enough sleep and do it on a regular schedule. When you are awake, make some quiet time for reflection each day. Meditation is great for this but if that sounds overwhelming just take some quiet time before you eat, or drive, or when you get up to tune in and see how you are feeling.
- Eat well. A diet of high quality organic foods in a variety of colors will help you get the nutrients you need to feel good. Eating on a regular schedule and avoiding refined sugars reduces the stress of blood sugar spikes.
- Supplement in the meantime. The goal is to eat high quality food so you don’t need ‘em but if you’re currently pretty run down and strung out you might want some fish oil for the omega 3’s that will reduce inflammation and soothe the nervous system, Calm magnesium to quiet the mind and relax tight muscles, and vitamin B to provide a stable energy boost.
- Get regular movement and exercise. Getting your circulation moving and releasing endorphins are just some of the benefits of exercise. Find something you enjoy so you can stick with it. Even better if that activity is outdoors so you can get the added benefit of sunlight and Vitamin D.
- Check your thinking and your mental state. I firmly believe that the intellect is important for certain things like working on your finances (see tip #7) but most of the time it’s not as valuable as we’ve been led to believe. When we go out to lunch we don’t make a pros and cons list to decide what to order, we just know what we want. If we can tap into that knowing more often, we’d make things a lot easier for ourselves. If you find yourself overthinking something, release expectations and cultivate an attitude of curiosity. I often ask myself “How’s this gonna work out?” If you can’t get to a place of genuine curiosity, put it on the shelf for later. If you wait to solve problems when you are feeling open, the answers will be plentiful.
- Practice good time management. People who are in the moment and take one thing at a time are less stressed and actually more productive. You might need to get realistic and shorten the list, delegate, and ask for help. That part is a lesson I keep learning over and over with much thanks for the reminders from my fiancé.
- Get your finances in order. 73% of Americans say money is their number one stressor. Start with 5 minutes a day to assess your situation. This will get you out of denial and on the road to making better choices.
- Smell something good. Aromatherapy oils awaken and activates the senses. Lavender is calming while citrus is invigorating. You can put good quality oils behing your ears to take it with you or in a diffuser to surround yourself.
- Drink herbal tea. While coffee can appeal to us when we’re feeling run down, it’s just a temporary boost and it drains our already tired adrenal system. Mint tea is invigorating while chamomile is relaxing. Making a pot of tea can be a perfect excuse to take some time for yourself.
- Give yourself some acupressure. Massage the area of skin between the eyebrows to sooth the nerves. This is the acupuncture point yin tang and it’s a universal chill pill.
- Take an herbal formula. There’s Chinese herbal formulas to sooth nerves, relieve irritability, calm stress, anxiety, and reduce associated pain and muscle tension. Everyone is different so it’s best to consult with an acupuncturist because the formula that helped your friend with insomnia could give you a headache or vice versa.
- Get some acupuncture! Here’s just a few of the benefits of acupuncture on stress:
- Balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems
- Activates endorphins
- Improves circulation of blood which oxygenates tissue and removes chemical waste, like cortisol
- Decreases heart-rate
- Lowers blood pressure
- Calms and clears the mind
- Relaxes muscles
- Reduces anxiety
- Soothes digestion
- Eliminates headaches
- Helps with pain, stiffness, and aches
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about implementing some life changes to reduce your stress, acupuncture is a great place to start. That’s because it works by taking the responsibility of the intellect off-duty and balancing emotions from a purely physiological perspective. Patients find that by balancing their stress and emotions with acupuncture they feel instantly more relaxed and grounded. It works exceptionally well by reminding you of your innate ability to feel good and have an elevated state of mind. This inner sense of wellbeing is often described by patients as feeling grounded, open, free, or in the flow. When one is operating from a place of good feelings and an elevated state of mind, they able to make long term changes that bring out their best sense of self.
If any of this resonates with you or you have any questions, please be in touch. I’m always happy to help people be their best!