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Blog / Wellness

Tackling Anxiety From a Chinese Medicine Perspective

There’s nothing quite like the holiday season. Parties, great food & drinks, beautiful decorations, the festive spirit, and lots of time with family and friends. While these can all be wonderful, fun-filled things, for many of us, the holidays can also be a time where anxiety rears its ugly head.

There are many different causes of anxiety in Chinese medical theory, but one of the most common presentations that I see clinically is associated with a high level of stress. While the holidays can be a lot of fun, they can also be very stressful for a number of reasons. Acupuncture is a great tool to help you navigate the holiday season and begin the New Year from a place of peace and calm.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, we don’t separate the body and the spirit/mind – we treat a pattern of disharmony in the body that can manifest with physical or emotional symptoms (or both!). When we are very stressed, a few things can happen. First, energy doesn’t flow well in our bodies which can leave us feeling tense, on edge, and anxious. Second, lack of proper sleep, food, and/or relaxation can tax our body’s resources, leaving us feeling drained and ungrounded. This allows energy that should be flowing freely through our bodies to rise and become “stuck” in the upper body and head. This can manifest symptoms like racing thoughts, sensations of heat, heart palpitations, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. 

Acupuncture can free up “stuck” energy and help it descend from the upper body. When getting acupuncture for anxiety, many people find that they feel sleepy and relaxed almost as soon as the needles are inserted. While this instant relief is fabulous, it is recommended that you visit your acupuncturist regularly to achieve lasting results. 

From a biomedical perspective, acupuncture has been shown to be extremely helpful in rebalancing the central nervous system. Specifically, acupuncture seems to encourage activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. For people with anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight response to real or perceived danger) tends to be in overdrive. Acupuncture can help to flip the switch from sympathetic nervous system activation to parasympathetic nervous system activation, allowing our bodies and minds to relax. Regular acupuncture can help to “retrain” our brains and help us feel more calm and centered throughout the day.

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So, if the prospect of the holidays fills you with dread, be sure to book a session soon with your acupuncturist. A “tune up” visit before travel or a stressful family event can help you to go into an anxiety provoking situation with a clear mind and calm heart.

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