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Finding Serenity with Acupuncture: A Path to Stress Relief

One of the many things that have come to define modern life is the escalation of our stress levels as a global society.

There’s now a wide body of evidence to suggest that stress, and its related conditions – anxiety and depression, for example, is a growing mental health problem. And evidence from public health bodies, charities and watchdogs suggests there is a huge gap between demand for treatment for stress-related mental health problems and our ability to meet it.

Stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure and we experience it day-to-day, but each of us manifests its symptoms in different ways.

There’s no doubting that stress is an inevitable part of life, but while it can sometimes motivate and push us to perform better, excessive or chronic stress can take a toll on our physical health.

Acupuncture is an effective and proven treatment that has been shown to mitigate both the emotional and physical impact of stress and anxiety. Later on in this article, I’ll explain just how acupuncture can help you to de-stress, manage the symptoms and enable you find peace.

But first, let’s take a look at the headlines from some of the most recent research into the toll stress takes on people in the UK.

Stress by numbers

The most common cause of stress is work-related stress with 79% saying they frequently felt it (Statistica)

  • One in 14 UK adults (7%) feel stressed every single day (CIPHR)
  • 30% of older people reported never feeling overwhelmed due to stress, compared to just 7% of young adults (Mental Health Foundation and YouGov)
  • 74% of people feel so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope (Mental Health Foundation and YouGov)
  • Inpatient hospital admissions caused by stress-related illnesses in the UK cost around £8.13bn (Statistica)
  • 1 in 3 cite relationships as an external stressor (The Workplace Health Report)
  • 46% say that they eat too much or too unhealthily due to stress (Mental Health Foundation and YouGov)
  • 29% say that due to stress they started drinking or increased their drinking (Mental Health Foundation and YouGov)
  • 16% say that they started smoking or increased their smoking due to stress (Mental Health Foundation and YouGov)
  • 51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed and 61% reported feeling anxious (Mental Health Foundation and YouGov)
  • Of those experiencing stress, 16% had self-harmed and 32% said they had experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings (Mental Health Foundation and YouGov)
  • 37% of adults who reported feeling stressed also felt lonely as a result (Mental Health Foundation and YouGov)

Just from this selected takeaway of findings, it’s clear that the impact of stress on both body and mind is profound and can manifest in various ways, affecting nearly every system and organ. Here are some ways stress can affect physical health:

The physical impact of stress

  • Immune System: Prolonged stress can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses. Stress hormones like cortisol can suppress the immune response, making it harder for your body to fight off pathogens.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Chronic stress is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and hypertension. Stress can elevate blood pressure and heart rate, leading to strain on the cardiovascular system. Over time, this can contribute to the development of conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and arrhythmias.
  • Digestive System: Stress can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system, leading to symptoms such as indigestion, nausea, diarrhoea, or constipation. Chronic stress has also been associated with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Musculoskeletal System: Stress often manifests physically as tension in the muscles, leading to symptoms like headaches, neck pain, and back pain. Chronic muscle tension can contribute to the development of musculoskeletal disorders and exacerbate conditions such as arthritis.
  • Respiratory System: Stress can exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It can also lead to shallow breathing or hyperventilation, which may worsen symptoms in individuals with respiratory disorders.
  • Skin: Stress can worsen certain skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. It can also lead to flare-ups of conditions such as cold sores and hives. Additionally, stress-related behaviours like scratching or picking at the skin can exacerbate existing skin problems.
  • Endocrine System: The body’s stress response involves the release of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can have widespread effects on the endocrine system. Chronic stress can disrupt hormone balance, leading to issues such as irregular menstrual cycles, decreased libido, and reproductive problems.
  • Sleep: Stress can interfere with sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or disrupted sleep. Poor sleep quality can further exacerbate stress and contribute to a vicious cycle of sleeplessness and heightened stress levels.

In addition to these direct physiological effects, stress can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating, substance abuse, or neglecting self-care, which can further compound the impact on physical health.

Managing stress through strategies such as relaxation techniques, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, seeking social support, and practicing mindfulness can help mitigate its detrimental effects on physical health.

But acupuncture can be a remarkably effective treatment that can offer rapid relief from the effects of stress and allow you to better manage your stress reflex.

Acupuncture for stress

The fundamental principle of acupuncture revolves around the concept of Qi (pronounced “chee”), the vital energy that flows through the body along pathways called meridians.

According to TCM theory, imbalances or blockages in the flow of Qi can lead to physical, mental, and emotional disorders, including stress.

So how does acupuncture work to alleviate stress?

Regulating the Nervous System

Acupuncture stimulates specific points on the body using thin needles. By targeting certain acupoints, acupuncture can influence the nervous system, promoting the release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin.

These chemicals help to reduce pain and induce feelings of relaxation and well-being, thereby alleviating stress.

Reducing Muscle Tension

Chronic stress often manifests as muscle tension and tightness, leading to discomfort and pain. Acupuncture can help relax tense muscles by increasing blood circulation to the affected areas.

Balancing Hormones

Stress can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in the body, leading to hormonal imbalances that contribute to mood swings, anxiety, and other stress-related symptoms. Acupuncture aims to restore harmony within the body by regulating the production and release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

Enhancing Emotional Resilience

Many people report feeling a sense of tranquillity and mental clarity during and after acupuncture sessions. By fostering a state of relaxation and inner peace, acupuncture helps individuals develop greater emotional resilience, enabling them to navigate life’s challenges with a sense of calm and composure.

In addition to its direct effects on stress, acupuncture is also valued for its holistic approach to health and well-being.

Acupuncture is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and individual experiences may vary. Some people may experience immediate relief from stress after a single session, while others may require multiple treatments to achieve lasting results.

Additionally, acupuncture is often used as part of a comprehensive wellness plan that may include other modalities such as herbal medicine, meditation, and lifestyle modifications.

So, if you’re searching for relief from stress, why not give yourself the gift of relaxation and explore the transformative benefits of acupuncture for stress relief? Your body and mind will thank you for it.


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