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Can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine help with Stress and Anxiety?

Other signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety

Stress and Anxiety are extremely common in our fast-paced modern lives, affecting our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

While Western medicine offers various approaches to managing stress & anxiety, Chinese medicine can provide a complementary method for supporting stress and anxiety naturally with a unique perspective on understanding how the health of the body is impacted by the mind and vice versa.

The Chinese Medicine Perspective on Stress & Anxiety

As everything in Chinese Medicine, the concept of stress and anxiety is related to the balance of Qi (energy) and the flow of blood within the body. Stress and anxiety disrupts this balance, leading to various health issues, unique to each individual.

Some of the organs most commonly associated with stress and anxiety are the Liver, Heart, and Spleen.

1.     The Liver: 

The liver, according to Chinese Medicine, plays a central role in regulating emotions. When stress accumulates, the liver's Qi can become stagnant, leading to emotional imbalances such as irritability, frustration, and mood swings - just to name a few.

If your Liver qi is struggling it also very commonly shows in waking up regularly between the hours of 1-3AM.

Over time, chronic stress can create more heat in the liver meridian which may manifest as symptoms like headaches, PMS, menstrual irregularities, digestive issues, muscle tension, alternating hard and loose stools, waking regularly during the night etc.

So what causes our Liver to stagnate? Aside from stress and emotions, a diet filled with heavy, rich foods or junk food or excessive alcohol consumption. Also a lack of movement can cause our liver qi to stagnate so it's important, if you are prone to stress, to keep your body moving regularly through exercise and keep that liver qi moving.

If you are someone prone to sighing a lot it it is quite evident that you have Liver Qi stagnation to some degree and you need to get that Liver qi flowing,

2.     The Heart: 

Chinese Medicine also links anxiety to the heart meridian, which governs the mind and consciousness. Excessive anxiety can affect the heart's functions, leading to insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, lack of concentration & memory.

When our heart meridian is affected it commonly manifests as struggling to fall asleep at night.

In severe cases, prolonged anxiety and stress can contribute to heart-related conditions such as high blood pressure and heart palpitations.

From a Chinese Medicine point of view the heart (fire element) is also paired with the kidneys (water element) so if this relationship is not kept in balance by the kidney water, the heart fire will manifest. This is common in an inability to fall asleep due to anxiety.

Our Shen (our mind or spirit) resides in our Heart and is observed through our general spirit and body language, but is most noticeable in our eyes, especially when stressed or anxious. They say the eyes are the window to the soul.

If you have strong Shen you are energised, full of life, clear thinking and exuding confidence and happiness. If your Shen is weak then you may have low spirits, a quiet demeanour and shows your Heart Qi may need some work.

3.     The Spleen: 

The spleen is responsible for the transformation of food into energy. Overthinking, worry and chronic stress can weaken the spleen's function, resulting in digestive problems, fatigue, and a decreased ability to extract nutrients from food. Common weak spleen signs could be lack of appetite, fatigue, loose stools.

Long term weakening of the spleen can lead to a build up of something Chinese Medicine calls ‘damp’ – an accumulation of fluids - because your digestive system has been too weak to process properly from food and fluid intake.

This damp can block the way the Qi flows and can impact stress and anxiety by inhibiting the movement throughout the body. Common signs of damp include bloating, foggy mind, heavy limbs, tiredness after meals.

Just remember the Spleen & Stomach needs to digest food but it also needs to digest your thoughts. What we eat is incredibly important in relation to anxiety as our Spleen and Stomach make up our Earth element and are responsible for keeping us grounded, our worry in check and our body fuelled and able to function optimally.

Common Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety in Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medicine recognises that stress and anxiety can manifest in various ways, affecting individuals differently.

Some common symptoms associated with stress and anxiety include:

Can Chinese Medicine help with Stress & Anxiety?
  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep due to a restless mind and heart.

  • Digestive Issues: Stress and anxiety can lead to poor digestion, causing symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. Learn more about Digestive Health and Energy

  • Muscle Tension: Chronic stress and anxiety often results in muscle tension, especially in the neck, shoulders, and back or flaccid muscles.

  • Emotional Disturbances: Emotional symptoms include irritability, mood swings, and feelings of sadness or anxiety, or lack of concentration and memory.

  • Fatigue: Prolonged stress can lead to physical and mental fatigue, making it challenging to perform daily tasks.

How to Manage Stress and Anxiety with Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture offers holistic approaches to address stress & anxiety and promote overall wellbeing.

1.     Acupuncture:

Acupuncture is commonly used to support stress and anxiety and its associated health symptoms (of which there are many and unique to each individual). By stimulating specific acupuncture points, an acupuncturist can help unblock stagnate energy, promote relaxation, and restore balance to the bodies organs and systems. By treating the patient according to their specific health requirements it nurtures their specific health ailments whilst choosing points to also relieve stress and anxiety and regulate the nervous system.

2.     Herbal Medicine: 

Chinese Medicine herbal formulas, tailored to individual needs, support regulating the organs affected by stress and anxiety. Herbs like ginseng and reishi mushroom are known for their adaptogenic properties, which can support the bodies resilience to stress.

3.     Dietary Therapy: 

Eating regularly, mainly warm, cooked foods, and having a healthy, balanced diet (to suit your individual needs) is crucial for maintaining Spleen health. Avoiding excessive cold or raw foods and incorporating warm, nourishing foods in general can help strengthen the digestive system and combat stress. A Chinese Medicine practitioner can suggest certain types of foods to incorporate in to diet to further support the patients specific organ imbalance. Remember Food is Medicine.

Chinese Diet Therapy Acupuncture consult

4.     Mindful Practices: 

Having regular mind body exercises like Meditation, Breathwork, Yoga, Gentle Walks, Tai Chi and Qi Gong can help reduce stress and anxiety by promoting the flow of Qi, encouraging deep breath into the lungs, calming both the mind and the nervous system. Mindfulness practices are particularly helpful for promoting healthy sleep patterns, often affected by stress and anxiety.

5.     Exercise:

Hugely important, being active and maintaining regular exercise not only benefits your health and risk of chronic diseases but also is incredibly important when managing your stress and anxiety.

6.     Lifestyle Modifications: 

Managing stress also involves making lifestyle changes. Prioritising self-care, setting boundaries in relationships, and finding time for relaxation are essential components of a Chinese Medicine approach to stress management and reducing anxiety. Self-care is not selfish, it is a necessity.

Stress and anxiety is so common and generally affects us all at some point in our lives. Chinese medicine offers a holistic perspective on stress and anxiety, emphasising the interconnectedness of body, mind, and emotions and how it manifests in our health every day. By addressing stress through the Chinese Medicine lens, we can rebalance our Qi, soothe our emotions, and promote overall wellbeing.

Acupuncture in Cheltenham

Remember, your journey to stress and anxiety relief can only begin if you take the first steps.

Start with a single session, which includes the following:

  • A comprehensive Treatment plan on how best to achieve your desired health goals

  • Chinese Herbal Medicine, completely customised to your specific health

  • Personalised Diet Therapy that will support (rather than exacerbate) your stress & anxiety and recommendations on what to implement or minimise in your diet to maximise the Acupuncture treatment and Chinese Herbs

  • Lifestyle factors examined - Including how and what you do for exercise, your overall lifestyle and best suited activities and practices to nurture your health

  • Mindfulness recommendations to provide a calm and peaceful mind.

Download FREE monthly Movement & Mindfulness Tracker  to start prioritising both your physical and mental health.

When we make small shifts in all aspects of your health (mind & body) and nurture it to support, rather than work against you it lays down the strongest foundation to begin in your health journey. Take control of your stress and anxiety, rather than letting it control you.

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