Planning, cooking, shopping, the family – it can add up to stressful change and upcoming holiday season for many people. A time for joyful celebration can quickly become overwhelming. At least, that’s how it used to be…
These days, knowing we won’t be planning, shopping or seeing the family for Thanksgiving and/or the holidays this year can also add to stress, albeit a different type of stress. Oh, if only to have it back the way it was pre-Covid! We’d take that former holiday pressure in a heartbeat.
As the pandemic drags on, we are beyond tired and are worn down by the isolation and zooming. We are looking for ways to reset, to get a boost of energy. According to Ann Masten, a psychologist and Regents Professor of child development at the University of Minnesota who studies resilience, she says, “you can’t count on surging all the time, you’re going to be depleted.” She continues explaining that, “‘surge capacity’ refers to the mental and physical resources that humans draw on to survive acutely stressful situations, like natural disasters. This surge capacity works well in short-term emergencies, but to manage the drawn-out, indefinite span of a pandemic, renewing these protective systems is critical for well-being. We all have to be aware of how depleted we are and what the signs of depletion are—it may be tiredness, trouble sleeping or a low mood—and then you need to focus on whatever you need to do to replenish.”
Stress can reduce our ability to cope emotionally, but it can also be experienced or “carried” in our physical body. Chronic stress produces excess cortisol and adrenalin in the body, which has a negative physical effect. Cortisol creates worry or fear and vigilance, which produces anxiety. Adrenalin, or the “fight or flight” hormone, physically prepares the body to react to a threat. Overproduction of these hormones will often interfere with the body’s ability to react to stress. Over time, these stress reactions can reduce our immune system, be experienced as pain in our body, prevent our ability to sleep well and can lead to unhealthy eating patterns. These are all symptoms of being out of balance and can lead to illness if left untreated.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is an effective way to bring the body back into balance. It can help give you an emotional and physical reboot. Acupuncture is a more than 2,000-year-old Chinese system of healing that places very fine needles in strategic areas of the body to promote healing of its unhealthy parts. The flow of Qi (pronounced CHI) and blood through established channels or meridians in the body are stimulated by placing small needles in specific areas to bring more Qi and blood to the painful areas. Qi is not definable in western medical terminology. It signifies movement or energy. The reason for most ailments is some kind of blockage within the meridians of the body; the system is gridlocked. Stimulating the Qi and blood opens avenues to allow the body to heal itself. It is a form of medicine that gently nudges the body to work in the way it naturally knows how to, but due to life circumstances, has been thrown out of sync. When the gridlock is removed, the emotional and/or physical discomforts melt away, leaving you more relaxed, rejuvenated and in less pain.
Some suggestions to manage stress in addition to the gift of acupuncture are experimenting with new recipes that are warm and nourishing. Cooked, warm foods provide a sense of calm and allow us to slow down and remember we have much for which to be grateful. It’s also helpful to get at least 15 minutes of fresh air a day to help clear the mind. Fresh air during the winter months can be more of a challenge, so try to charge your batteries now to build your emotional and physical reserves for winter. Studies show that maintaining a regular practice of exercise helps lift depression. Gentle and regular movement keeps the blood pumping and gets your feel-good endorphins flowing.
As we enter the holiday season and the onset of colder weather, give yourself or a loved one the gift of acupuncture. It’s a great way to calm the spirit and bring the body back into balance. Sometimes, that’s all you need to jump start your motivation and lift your spirits. Wishing you all a healthy and peaceful holiday season!