How acupuncture can help you to be all you want in 2022 without burning out
As we stand and look at the blank canvas of a brand-new year many of us will feel a tingling sense of anticipation and opportunity as we consider the chance to look at the 12 months just gone and work out how we can make the next dozen more satisfying or rewarding.
Lots of us do this by making New Year resolutions, breaking down the improvements we seek into bitesize chunks that we commit to tackling in the months to come.
This compartmentalisation of the negative things that affect us – or, in some cases, the good things that we want to make even better – makes the task of dealing with self-improvement seem less daunting.
Resolving to do one thing – perhaps losing a few kilos of excess weight – feels easier to achieve than trying to do the harder things, like giving up chocolate completely or going to the gym three times a week for the next 52 weeks of the year.
These targets we set are positive and admirable, obviously, and will certainly contribute to making us feel as though we have made progress in that personal; ‘to-do list’ of self-improvement.
But I question whether they really get to the heart of what ails us, both physically and emotionally.
Much of what we perceive to be wrong or off kilter in our lives is often down to the relentless pace at which those lives are lived, and amount of time that’s eaten up trying to chase a continuous stream of punishing deadlines.
There are challenges that many of us face in life that are the result of a very real, diagnosed medical problem, so it’s important for me to make it clear at this point that I’m certainly not including them in the generalised argument that follows.
Everybody is different and you’ll know when what I’m saying isn’t relevant in your case.
But, for most of us the bad habits or negative behaviours and traits we’ve collected are rarely down to a conscious choice.
Usually, the things we like least in ourselves are the product of lack of time and the emotional and physical burn-out we experience trying to fit eight days into a week.
I suppose the point I’m trying to make here is that there’s no point in dealing with the symptom (resolving to lose weight, give up chocolate, hit the gym etc.) if we don’t first deal with the cause.
And now I can hear you protesting that it’s impossible to deal with the cause because you have to keep all those professional and domestic plates spinning and you can’t unstitch time.
But I think you can. And I believe acupuncture can help you to do it, because what unstitching time requires is a clear and objective head, because taking control of your life, rather than being its passenger, only happens when you make conscious, logical choices.
First things first
Before any magic can happen, you need first to really want to make fundamental changes to how you view and manage your life, rather than simply sweeping the clutter of negativity under a carpet of New Year resolutions.
Second, you need to believe that making those changes is possible and to understand that this journey isn’t always going to be easy (although a good part of it will be).
How can acupuncture help?
Okay, so I think acupuncture is your secret weapon in gaining that clear head I talked about. Day to day life is like a fast-spinning carousel that requires all your concentration and effort just to stay on it.
You know those films where there’s a scene of frantic activity and it suddenly freezes and what you hear on the soundtrack is the character’s thoughts? That’s what we need to do here. Freeze the carousel long enough that you can hear yourself think.
Acupuncture is great for this because it helps you to switch from a sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze) mode to a parasympathetic (rest and recover) mode, encouraging you to relax and to promoting a sense of calm.
The stress and anxiety you feel in life – either over trying to keep pace with the demands on your time, or over the effect of the negative coping mechanisms you’ve acquired to help do that – are the product of blockages in the flow of the life energy we call Qi.
Using the insertion of totally painless superfine needles into the skin, acupuncture helps to stimulate that energy and dispel the sense of stress, fatigue, anxiety and burn-out you feel – which in turn helps you to be clear-headed in your thoughts.
In effect, it stops the carousel for a short time. (Of course, if you have regular acupuncture sessions – which I do recommend – you can continue to enjoy the benefits of that calmer, less stressful approach to life.
Usually, our life laundry falls into two piles: the stuff that absolutely must be done regardless of whether we want to do it or not, and the stuff we choose to do.
Sometimes, though, we mix these up, and over time the things we once chose to do feel like they’re now things we have to do.
So, the first thing we need to do is sort out the laundry and make sure everything is in the right pile. Write down the things you must do every day or every week or every month. Now ask yourself whether those are totally out of your control, or whether you could choose not to do them.
If you have even a 5% choice over whether you do something or not, put it in the ‘controllable’ laundry pile. If it needs to be moved back, you can do that later.
Once you know what you can control and what you can’t, everything gets a bit easier. At that point you can almost ignore the ‘uncontrollable’ pile because those bits of laundry will always need to be done and you’ll need to fit them into the time you have.
It’s the ‘controllable’ pile that’s interesting – but it’s also challenging, because now is the time to decide whether you’re going to carry on doing some of that laundry or not.
In that ‘controllable’ list, work out what causes you the most stress and at the same time take a view on whether the stress is worth it.
If you’re doing something that means you lose the hour in the evening when you could be making healthier eating choices, or doing the shopping needed to make healthier meals, is the negative impact worth the outcome of doing it? If not, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you simply decided not to do it anymore?
Once you’ve worked through that list of demands you should find you’ve created a little bit of flexibility in your life.
Just say no
This is always the hard part, especially if you’re a natural people pleaser. But saying no is extremely liberating.
A lot of our sense of burn-out is caused by saying yes when we mean no because it adds to an already unmanageable mountain of tasks. But when we say no, we create a boundary – and if we’re saying no in the right way, most people will have no problem with it.
Create ‘me’ moments
In every day, create a sacrosanct time to do something for yourself. It may be something that seems trivial – reading a magazine, practising some mindfulness or doing some gardening, for example – but it’s important to create these spaces to give yourself respite from the day and to create time to think.
Reap the rewards
When you objectively assess and remove the things that cause you stress, you may well find that some of the negative traits and behaviours that cause you unhappiness also start to recede.
You may well find you have time to make healthier eating and drinking choices. You may well create space in your day to walk or take some other exercise. You may end the year having done many of those things that you currently promise yourself you will do ‘when I have the time’.
More than that, you’ll find time to discover who you really are and what you really want from your year. And that is perhaps the greatest gift you can give yourself in 2022.
If you’d like to find out how acupuncture can help you to reclaim your emotional health, please get in touch – I’d love to hear from you.