Updated: Jul 3, 2019
Community Acupuncture – How, What, Why Now? #8 Author: Jordan Ramsay
Living in a city like Toronto is not always easy. Our bodies and minds are constantly processing so much. You might have a full-time job with part-time study, or you are a freelancer who’s hustling all the time. On top of that, we want to be able to attend to our friends and community, and all sorts of relationships.
When things get really intense, our bodies often respond in ways that make things even more challenging. Sleep can be disturbed; digestion can go wonky; we can become overwhelmed, angry, or exhausted emotionally and physically.
The good news is, acupuncture can help regulate our bodies and help us cope with stress.
Here are 5 ways that acupuncture can help to de-stress:
1. Regulates the liver system In TCM, the liver system is responsible for the free flow of qi and of emotions. Stress can overload the liver system which can lead to stagnation of qi and emotions. Frustration, feeling overwhelmed, and emotional rollercoaster are examples of a stagnant liver system. Acupuncture works by moving qi and blood to activate the liver channel and facilitate flow in areas that are stuck.For example, feeling bloating or tension around your abdomen / rib cage can come up for some people when stressed. This is an example of qi – often liver qi – getting stuck. By activating the channel and moving qi, this can have a dramatic effect of unblocking this held tension in the abdomen.
2. Moves Qi and blood A common symptom in times of stress is muscle tension. Acupuncture increases circulation and can help unlock held tension in the muscles. By moving qi and blood through the channels and muscles, much movement that has been stuck by either repetitive motions, or long held tension (e.g. sitting at a desk all day, or that emotional muscle clench that can be held in your jaw, shoulders / neck, or glutes) can be moved again and released.
3. Clears heat Excess cortisol (the stress hormone) can form heat in the body. This can show up as insomnia, anxiety, rashes, headaches, acne, night sweats, nightmares, excess hunger, etc. Things that increase heat in the body are often what we use more of in times of stress: caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and less sleep. Acupuncture can help clear heat from the body and regulate the way we can adjust our stress.
4. Turns on the parasympathetic nervous system and turns down the sympathetic nervous system The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for activating our digestion and calming our body and mind into a restful state as well as sleep. It stimulates blood flow to our internal organs to help repair and regulate. Whereas the sympathetic nervous system is the system used in stress. It releases cortisol and is used in the fight or flight response.Acupuncture stimulates the release of several neuropeptides and neurotransmitters including oxytocin which is a hormone and chemical messenger that regulates the parasympathetic nervous system. Oxytocin is known widely as the ‘love hormone’ and can lower cortisol levels (‘stress hormone’) and anxiety and increase feelings of connectedness.
5. Calms the mind Acupuncture can directly help in calming the mind. As it regulates blood flow and stress hormones and brings the body into a parasympathetic state, the mind often calms down during a treatment. This can have lasting effects on our thought patterns as well as in retraining our stress response.
Coming in for acupuncture once a week can help your body and mind find balance in times of stress, transitions, big changes, etc. Many clients have found that their digestion improves, sleep is deeper, their emotions are more balanced, and stress levels decrease significantly after coming in for weekly treatments.
Remember that no matter what it is that you are going through, you’re not alone. Make sure to do the things that help to ground you and make you feel connected and safe in times of stress. Let’s hold each other tenderly.