TREATING CHRONIC STRESS
Healthy Living Blog By Dr. Rachelle DAOM, L,Ac
In this modern world we live in, stress levels are at an all time high. There are constant expectations to perform optimally at work while juggling both personal life, family, and of course finances. Then add all the outside influences in the mix and it can be a crazy cocktail for anyone of us. There is tremendous burden on both the mind and body to continuously function in an elevated and alarmed state of being when stressors become too big and our reservoirs too small. This brings me back to the early days when a great sage always referred to ourselves as a simple plum seed lying on the ground outside a window with a shadowing large tree above. Nothing more. Nothing less. We exist and we are supposed to exist in harmony with ourselves, others, and nature. I often think of this scenario when I find my mind boggled with many distractions and too many deadlines approaching. Our bodies and mind were meant to relax and seek rest when needed.
Over time, if this rest does not take place then the mind and body lose the ability to fully relax. The adrenal glands are affected and the chemicals in the body start to produce inflammatory factors. This state of being leads to many detrimental consequences and may cause dysfunction and disharmony in the brain and body. Feelings and emotions become more affected. There can be signs of elevated blood pressure, arrhythmias, stiff muscles, and gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome. Chronic stress over time by increasing inflammation in the body can increase risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) or even atherosclerosis. We know through much research that chronic stress weakens the immune system. Inflammatory cytokines are increased over time and both systemically and negatively affecting both mind and body.
Eastern Medicine treats chronic stress by first calming the shen or mind. The liver is vastly affected by stress so regulating the liver energy is a priority. If liver stagnation from chronic stress exists over a long duration then liver fire results. These symptoms usually display with signs of outbursts of anger, excess thirst, irritability, and even dream disturbed sleep. The practitioner will also notice a red tongue with yellow coating. Chronic disorders of any kind eventually lead to deficiencies in the body. Eventually, blood, energy, or even organ deficiency will occur. To rectify these issues, specific yuan source acupoints are used to nourish these deficiencies. Often herbal prescription formulas are prescribed and are greatly beneficial in restoring health.
Eastern Medicine uses sedative and hypnotic techniques to treat insomnia or antidepressants to lift emotions. There is also an anxiolytic effect to reduce both stress and anxiety. Alleviating tension and stiffness by relaxing overall muscles is also a major factor in treatment. In the clinic, some of the more common scenarios are chronic anxiety, or stress, and/or depression. Insomnia is also very commonly seen when the patient is under much stress and unable to clear one’s mind. The mind may tend to ruminate or repeat thoughts and worries. Insomnia can be either difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Chronic insomnia associated with stress and anxiety can be treated. It generally takes a few treatments to fully nourish the underlying deficiencies and restore normal sleep patterns.
Shenmen is an auricular (ear) acupoint often referred to as neurogate or life gate which plays a significant role in treatment. Shenmen is used to regulate the cerebral cortex of the brain whether to induce or inhibit response. It has sedative, analgesic, and even an antiallergy effect. It is often used for neuropsychiatric disorders. This includes hysteria, psychosis, or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A diet high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins B and E is much recommended due to the risk of depletion with chronic stress. Foods which are helpful for restoring balance and calming the mind include foods rich in essential fatty acids, many fruits and vegetables, brown rice, dried fruit, figs, garlic, green leafy vegetables, soy, and yogurt. Avoid foods high in tyramine especially before bedtime. Tyramine increases the release of norepinephrine which is a brain stimulant. These foods consist of bacon, cheese, chocolate, eggplant, sugar, ham, sausage, spinach, and tomatoes. Other stimulants to avoid include coffee, cola, and even spicy foods. Artificial coloring in foods and drinks can also play a part in insomnia and should be avoided. For mild insomnia, mom’s traditional warm milk and honey with a dash of nutmeg can aid in sleep.
The importance of shifting thoughts and perspectives in a more positive way beginning with small changes is so vital to restore balance to life. Regular exercise, proper sleep, and overall rest is much needed for optimal mind and body efficiency. Certain exercises like tai chi chuan, qi gong, yoga, breathing practices, and elongated stretches are all restorative ways to enhance relaxation. Being in bed by 10am is good practice due to the yin changing to yang in the 11pm to 1am and at this time it is essential healing sleep. If chronic stress has gotten the best of you, please call today to schedule your holistic health appointment. Have a board certified Eastern Medicine physician fully assess and treat you. The journey is yours for the taking! 772-626-6419