Stress is a condition that I treat all of the time.
Work, school, running your own business, raising a family, and sitting in traffic are just some of the many reasons that people in America have to be stressed out today. Many people continue to work through their stress without a second thought, thinking that it will eventually go away. Did you know that this could be negatively affecting your health in the long run?
Stress directly affects your nervous system.
Your autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. Only one can typically be in charge of regulating the body at a time. Both are equally important to your health and survival because they promote homeostasis, but if they are out of balance with each other, problems can arise.
Your sympathetic nervous system becomes active in stressful situations, or while you're exercising. It's responsible for the "fight or flight mode" and the biological responses that your body has which are vital to your survival. When your sympathetic nervous system is activated, your body secretes hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones cause several things to happen within your body, including constricting blood vessels and causing more blood to move into the heart, lungs and skeletal muscles. This is great for exercise, or if you're running away from a dangerous situation because it will help your body perform really well, but what if you're just sitting at your desk or in traffic? They're not really as helpful, right?
The parasympathetic nervous system is just as important as the sympathetic nervous system, but for very different reasons. The parasympathetic nervous system is largely responsible for the relaxation and maintenance functions in your body. During this state, you secrete acetylcholine, or ACh, for brevity's sake. ACh triggers muscarinic receptors that bring your body back down from the sympathetic state's high alert and allow your body to restore certain processes and repair the body. ACh causes the heart rate to slow to normal, relaxes blood vessels, increases intestinal motility and salive production, and allows for sexual arousal. It also becomes more concerned with repairing cellular and structural damage.
When your body enters the parasympathetic state, it recognizes that it's safe and that it's time to relax and repair.
From the viewpoint of an acupuncturist, being healthy means that your body, especially your nervous system in this case, is in balance. If you think about it, you usually have a pretty good idea of what it feels like to feel good and healthy. When you begin to feel out of balance, or out of whack, your body is likely spending too much time in the sympathetic state and not enough time in the parasympathetic state. If left untreated, you could even begin to notice that your prolonged stress, and consequently, prolonged sympathetic nervous system activation has brought on more tangible, physical imbalances like insomnia, anxiety, weight gain, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, irregular periods, and so many more.
Acupuncture can help!
Acupuncture is an excellent tool to help you manage your stress! Acupuncture can help your body to exit your stressed state more easily and quickly by balancing your body's nervous system, and over time, retrain your body to enter the relax and repair state more regularly. It can also help you to more readily handle the stressors that you're currently experiencing by helping you to see things from a refreshed perspective. Entering into a more relaxed parasympathetic state can help you to think about things more rationally and logically because you're not thinking about how to save your life by eliminating the threat as quickly as possible.
When you visit Flourish Acupuncture and Wellness for a treatment, we look at your body as a whole to see how your stress has caused your body to lose its balance and create a treatment plan that's tailored specifically for you.