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12 Natural Ways to Reduce Stress Now

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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!

Posted in Mental Health | 1 Comment

We’re now billing insurance so you don’t have to

Paying for acupuncture just got easier.  I’ve hired a medical biller to handle insurance billing.  Yes I’ve spent countless hours on the phone dealing with getting reimbursed for my medical insurance claims and it’s a total bummer.  I don’t want you to have to do that so you can get reimbursed for your acupuncture treatments.  And I don’t want to do it either.  So I’ve hired a medical biller who specializes in working with medical insurance companies to process claims.

Wondering if your medical insurance covers acupuncture?  Contact me and provide me a bit of simple information and I’ll verify your eligibility and benefits for you.  If you have coverage, me and my billing department will take care of the rest.  Please note that you will be responsible for any portion of your bill that is not reimbursed by your insurance.  So now you can get the care you need, without all the hassle of filling out long forms and following up with the insurance claims department.

(Image Source: Susan Russell)

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9 Natural Tips to Ease Your Allergy Symptoms Now

Are you feeling taken over by sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes, a scratchy throat, fatigue, headaches, or that foggy headed feeling? Santa Rosa summer is in full swing and so are seasonal allergies.  If you suffer from seasonal allergies it can be hard to move through your daily activities, never mind have enough energy to enjoy the long summer days.  I successfully treat lots of patients for allergies with acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.  While everyone is different, there is some universal advice I give to my patients to help ease their allergy symptoms.  Many of these tips you can implement right away to start feeling better now!

  1. Nasal rinse: wash those particles off your nasal membranes!  When pollen comes in contact with the mast cells in your respiratory system histamines are released which lead to allergy symptoms, bummer.  Good news is that since we have access to our nasal membranes we can wash them off and stop those mast cells from overreacting.  A neti pot is a special ceramic pot that is designed to allow water to run through one nostril and out the other side.  Add non-iodized salt to the water so that it is as salty as your tears and a small drop of grapefruit seed extract—it’s a natural antimicrobial.  If you are confused about how it works, google for a you tube video demonstration.  Use a neti pot twice a day during the height of allergy season or after you have just been exposed to lots of pollen.  I recommend everyone with allergies gets some Xlear nasal spray because it’s easy to use on the go and because it has some added benefits to the neti pot.  Xlear is a nasal spray that contains xylitol and grapefruit seed extract in a saline solution.  It’s all packaged in a metered pump which mists the spray deep into your sinuses.  More and more research is showing that the simple sugar xylitol is beneficial to the respiratory system and it acts as a surfactant to help loosen the particles from the nasal membranes.  Use the Xlear nasal spray pump mist 5 times a day at the height of allergy season.  If you think all this nasal rinsing sounds time consuming remember that we’re lucky we have direct access to the external interaction of the body and the pollens.  If you had inflammation in your heart, there isn’t an over the counter heart rinse.  So take advantage of your ability to treat your allergies from the outside.
  2. Aromatherapy: open and dilate those nasal passages!  Essential oils contain aromatics that can open up your nasal passages, allow you to breath better, and reduce the painful pressure for quick relief.  Eucalyptus oil is antimicrobial and an expectorant.  Fir oil is from a type of pine tree which is very aromatic and opening; it’s also antimicrobial.  Lavender oil is soothing and anti-inflammatory as well as an antiseptic and anticonvulsant.  Look for therapeutic grade organic essential oils.  You can use one or a combination of all three in several ways.  Put a couple drops in a bowl of steamy water, lean over the bowl, and put a towel over your head and breath in.  Start slowly as the steam can be hot and the oils strong.  Or place a few drops of the oils on a cloth and breath in.  You can also mix the oils with some vegetable oil and rub on your chest or place a small amount just inside your nostril with a q-tip.
  3. Eye drops: rinse and cool the eyes!  Plain saline drops or homeopathic anti-itch drops from Similasan will rinse out and soothe the eyes.  Put them in the fridge for even more cooling relief.
  4. Diet: cleanse your body!  Your body may be run down by irritants in your daily diet which makes it more susceptible to overreact to allergens.  The two most common irritants in the modern American diet are dairy and wheat.  Dairy causes an increase in mucous and is often difficult to digest.  Wheat causes inflammation in many people.  Even if you do not notice acute symptoms from dairy and wheat, in my experience they are often background irritants that cause inflammation.  If you think this might be you, perform a test so you can feel how it affects your body and adjust your diet accordingly.  Take a break from wheat and dairy for 2 weeks—plan for it and segregate your food at home and pick a time that sets you up for success.  At the end of the 2 weeks eat wheat and dairy for 3 meals a day and see how you feel.  Your body will let you know if you are sensitive to these foods and if you should reduce or eliminate these foods around allergy season.  No dairy or wheat?  What am I going to eat?  Eat more anti-inflammatory foods.  They boost and soothe your immune system.  Add these to your diet: wild caught salmon, blueberries, broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, turmeric, and extra virgin olive oil.  Still bored by this diet?  Good news is that honey helps reduce allergies.  2 Tablespoons of local raw honey a day exposes your body to the local pollens in a way that the body can process it.  Then it won’t react so bad next time it encounters those pollens.
  5. More water: hydrate hydrate hydrate!  Water flushes the body and helps cells function properly.  I recommend people drink half their body weight in ounces of water each day.  Take your weight, divide it in half, and that’s the amount of ounces you need.  Picture how much water this is and spread it out throughout the day.
  6. Reduce stress: Less stress makes everything feel better!  But more interestingly I have found that it is common for people who are prone to stress to have more sensitive sinuses.  One way to explain this is that according to Chinese medicine, stress causes stagnations which causes friction which causes heat.  Heat rises and gets lodged in the sinuses causing inflammation and sensitivity.  Look for ways to quiet the mind throughout the day.  Meditation is good for this purpose but if that sounds daunting start with taking short breaks in the day to breath.
  7. Acupressure: self massage for your face!  There’s several acupuncture points on the face that open the nasal passages, calm the eyes, and sooth the sinuses.  LI 20 is located on either side of your nostrils, next to the nose, where it meets the face.  UB 2 is on the inside corner of they eyebrow, directly above the inside corner of the eye; you can feel a notch in the bone.  Rub the points in circles, counterclockwise 70 times each.
  8. Herbs: treat the allergies from the inside!  There are many natural botanicals known to reduce the histamine response, increase circulation to the nasal passages, stop itching, and expectorate mucous.  In addition a good custom Chinese formula will address the root cause of the imbalance in the immune system which is causing it to overreact.
  9. Acupuncture: activate your natural healing ability!  If you’re not getting adequate results with the above natural remedies, acupuncture can help nudge your body in the right direction.  As apposed to western treatments, which are aimed at blocking the symptoms, acupuncture will both alleviate symptoms for quick relief and treat the imbalance behind the allergies for prevention.  Each acupuncture treatment is created for the individual to help bring the body back into balance and restore health.  When health is restored the body will stop overacting to the environment and allergy symptoms do not come back.  The best time to come in for treatment is 2-3 months before allergy season.  Most people come in for treatment at the peak of the allergy season when we have to focus more on symptomatic relief before we can focus on the underlying causes.  Even then, for the majority of patients we can lessen the symptoms they are currently having and greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the symptoms in the next season.  If you have any questions or need any help implementing these strategies give me a call.  I’m always happy to help!

(Image source: Kingdom of Rabbits)

Posted in Respiratory Health | Leave a comment

There is nothing better than the gift of health

We now have gift certificates. What a great present it is to introduce someone to acupuncture. Gift certificates can be purchased for any number of treatments that you desire. Acupuncture treatments optimize the health of the mind, body, and spirit. Imagine how pleased your loved ones will be when you give them that as a gift.

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Happy Earth Day

I’m am passionate about health and wellness and that includes the health of our planet.  Whether you understand the science behind global warming or just have a general feeling that our planet won’t have room for all the trash we create if we continue at this rate, it’s a good idea to find some simple ways to reduce your footprint on the earth and the environment.  Although there are certain wastes that are inherent in a health clinic with impeccable hygiene standards—we must use disposable paper towels to dry our hands and single use disposable needles for our patients—I am always looking for ways to green up the office.

Here’s a few of the ways I’ve tried to make sure our office is low impact on the planet:

  • Green business cards: The paper stock is made from 100% post-consumer waste, is FSC Certified, and is chlorine and acid free. And if that’s not enough, wind energy is used for manufacturing.
  • Electronic Health Records: The office is not completely paperless yet…but we’re headed there.  By keeping your records on the certified HIPAA computer system I’m avoiding creating piles of charts and paperwork.  Coming up, the system will allow patient’s to fill out the initial patient health history online and we won’t even need paper for that.
  • Less extraneous packaging for the needles: Besides being a requirement by the California Acupuncture Board, using single use disposable acupuncture needles for each patient is important for my patient’s health.  While still keeping those high standards, I have chosen sterile packaged needles that use less extraneous plastic parts and packaging.  Because all those little bits add up in the trash.

As the office grows, I’ll continue to look for ways to keep it green to support your health and the health of the planet.

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Welcome to our new website, office, and blog!

Welcome to the new website for Thrive Acupuncture and Wellness.  It is my goal with this site to educate you about health and wellness and inspire you to create the life you dream of.

I’m also excited to announce that our Santa Rosa Acupuncture Clinic is now open.  We’re conveniently located in the Fountain Grove Office Park on Mendocino Avenue just across the street from the Kaiser Medical Center.  In my practice, I use acupuncture, herbs, nutritional and lifestyle counseling to treat a wide variety of conditions.  I have a special interest in acute and chronic pain relief, stress reduction and emotional balancing, and respiratory and immune system health.

I’ll be using this blog to stay in touch about upcoming events and share valuable health and wellness tips.  I welcome your questions about your health concerns, acupuncture, and herbs.

Thank you for visiting!

Christina Ness, LAc, Dipl OM, MSTCM

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