Stress, anxiety and depression are the most common mental-emotional disorders that I see in my practice. They are all closely interlinked and very important to treat since nervous system dysregulation affects so many functions in the body.
My local practice relies heavily on acupuncture, especially when stress, anxiety and depression are involved. If I can help relax and balance the nervous system, the body’s focus will be on healing rather than managing the daily ongoing crisis that we call stress.
When treating insomnia, anxiety, stress and hormonal changes, acupuncture is my first choice of therapy. It’s effective, non-invasive and (surprisingly because needles are involved) highly relaxing. Ultimately, when we want to encourage the healing process in your body, deep relaxation in the nervous system goes a long way.
Stress, the good and the bad
The word stress is overused in our society. We use it to describe feelings like fear, anger, being overwhelmed, sadness, grief and more. Because we don’t even name the said emotion, we can run in circles trying to relieve this so-called stress.
Physiological stress can also be normal and healthy. Every time we eat or run it causes a certain amount of demand and pressure on our functions; you may call that “stress” as well. Emotionally, the feeling of being stressed prompts us to take a look at what is bothering us and make changes in our lives.
When chronic stress affects our lives, the ability to cope is diminished. If you keep stretching an elastic band, too often and too much, it will loose its elasticity or simply snap.
Stress, anxiety and depression relief with acupuncture
Emotions play an essential role in Chinese medicine. They are of particular importance because the spirit and the body are strictly connected in diagnosis and treatment. We can go as far as saying that oftentimes the treatment of physical symptoms affects the spirit and the other way around.
One of the most important principles in Chinese medicine is that emotions are a cause of disease only when present for a long time or very intense. In such cases, important functions in the body are impaired. The spiritual aspects from Chinese medicine such as the Mind (Shen), Ethereal Soul (Hun), and Corporeal Soul (Po) are also perturbed.
Symptoms, manifestations and situations related to stress, anxiety and depression I commonly see in the clinic:
- Ruminating and worrying, especially at night
- Feeling discouraged and overwhelmed
- Tight sensation in the chest throughout the day and especially when trying to fall asleep at night
- Buzzing sensation through the body that feels like anxiety
- Waking up in the morning with no motivation or desire to start the day
- Hard time with relationships
- Easily experiencing panic
- Feeling constantly stressed
- Always running late, never enough time to complete tasks
- Too little time to dedicate to rest and leisure activities
Many of these issues are important to be worked on with a therapist. I especially prefer therapy that is body-oriented, instead of talk therapy. Through my own personal experience and my patients’ stories, I have come to strongly believe that moving emotions through the body heals deeply.
Acupuncture can help bring your body into a deep relaxed place; it can also help balance in other ways such as:
- Supporting your neurotransmitter balance with acupuncture is crucial since your mood is dependent on your brain chemistry.
- Acupuncture can help heal the gut, which is important since many neurotransmitters are produced in the gut.
- Healing hormonal fluctuations with acupuncture can help with the emotional ups and downs, especially the week before the cycle or around menopause.
- Relaxing the muscle tension with acupuncture is another key point to promote both physical and emotional wellness.
Functional Medicine help for stress, anxiety and depression
The strength of functional medicine is looking at the root cause. When it comes to experiencing deep emotional disturbances, we have to look at the physical aspect. The lack of certain nutrients can result in us feeling emotionally upset.
Shortly after I moved to Boulder, Colorado, I decided to give gluten a break. Being gluten-free was all the rage around here so I thought I’d give it a try. I was certain I wasn’t sensitive to it, since I had no digestive symptoms. But I eliminated it for a month just in case. I reintroduced it one peaceful quiet morning and within 10 minutes I felt incredibly anxious and had thoughts racing through my mind out of nowhere. I also got a sharp headache and felt very sleepy.
It was an incredible experience for me because I always felt that I have reasons to be anxious, but never thought they could be triggered and worsened by gluten. Then there was the sleepiness that I had experienced since I was a teenager and thought I was depressed and there was something wrong with me.
This is just an experience I had that exemplifies how things that we feel, that we think have no connection with our emotional stress, can end up affecting us. I see these sorts of situations often in the clinic as well.
Functional medicine approaches for healing stress, anxiety and depression
- Testing neutransmitters levels such as serotonin, GABA, noradrenaline, and more
- Assessing for Pyrolle disorder, a disorder that leaves us with low vitamin B6 and zinc, and high copper – these nutrients dramatically influence the health of our neurotronsmitters
- Looking at the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and cortisol health
- Genetic testing to identify any tendencies for emotional imbalances
- Gut analysis is important since many of the neurotransmitters that are essential for mood support are produced in the gut
- Hormone balance to support health and mood
- Looking at daily stress management and providing tools that help with meditation, sleep and exercise support
Working on stress, anxiety and depression takes a team effort to serve you best. I oftentimes refer to and work with other providers such as therapists, psychiatrists, medical doctors and massage therapists.