Increasingly we all live with constant low-level stress, and our daily habits contribute to poor health without us even noticing. We work, rest, and play with continuous Wi-Fi and information overload, we eat on the go, our exercise routines are often erratic or non existent, and all this puts tremendous demands on our physical, mental and emotional well being. Our bodies have been designed to adapt to stressful events but our natural response system has not evolved to deal with the relentless barrage of anticipated stress.
“Fight or flight” is a brilliant natural response designed to adapt our bodies to danger of any sort, triggering the sympathetic nervous system into action, we feel a rush of adrenaline as our bodies energy is channeled into tissues and systems which need them most, this is known as the Alarm Phase. Energy designed for reasons of survival, fight or flight, manifests as heightened brain function, lower sensitivity to pain, and cleverly inhibits immediate term, non-essential functions, such as digestion, tissue repair, immunity and growth. But the body cannot sustain this unnatural heightened state and must return to a state of internal homeostasis, after the event, and therefore attempts to redirect the stress response to a more manageable level, this is known as the Resistance Phase. It is critical that stress levels are resolved; otherwise the body’s defense mechanisms will start to weaken. The next stage, the Recovery Phase, should then see the body return to homeostasis as it was before the harmful event, but often with our increasingly busy, demanding lives, the body fails to fully recover thus becoming exhausted. The effects of high cortisol and other hormones will then begin to have an effect on physiological and psychological health.
This is because the danger which triggers the alarm response is often less of a real event, such as the siting of a tiger, or collision with a car, and more of an expectation of something coming in the near future; an important deadline, a new business pitch, or exams (yours or your families!). The anticipation of stress sets up exactly the same mechanisms in the body as we see in the Alarm Phase of stress response. In our modern culture we manage our stress as an ongoing process and we get stuck in the Resistance Phase. We don’t switch down from our stress response, which leaves us suspended in chronic imbalance between resistance and recovery. This inevitably leads to exhaustion, or a number of other manifestations such as; IBS, anxiety/panic attacks, insomnia, muscle tightness (especially neck and shoulders), mental confusion, mood swings, headaches, fatigue, fertility problems, lank hair and dull skin.
So how can acupuncture help? The principles of treatment for all TCM are always to treat holistically and to balance the flow of energy through the meridian system, to restore equilibrium. Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules thus resulting in biochemical changes which influence the bodies homeostatic mechanisms thus promoting a return to prolonged recovery stage resulting in both physical and emotional well-being.
If you are experiencing symptoms above and think you might be caught in the stress loop, call Sally and see for yourself how acupuncture can help you.