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Acupuncture IS Relaxing!

Most people when they think of acupuncture they think of needles and assume it must be painful. On the contrary, an acupuncture treatment is actually relaxing and calming! It may be hard to believe that being stuck with pin thin needles could create euphoria but believe it. Majority of our patients fall asleep on the treatment table and all leave their sessions feeling calm and renewed. Still having doubts acupuncture can help you without causing pain?…Read this article from a reporter about his first experience with acupuncture here.

A few excerpts: “My thoughts were stuck on the experience; I was still wondering if it provoked relaxation or if it was all in my head. I then remembered how I came into Miller’s office feeling uptight, tired and mentally rundown and how I was not feeling that way at the moment. Maybe something had happened, I thought.”

“For those who still think it is all in the mind, Miller pointed to an animal example of a prize racehorse that was experiencing paralysis in half of its vocal chords. The horse’s career was about to end, but its vocal chords improved following acupuncture treatments and the horse carried on racing.”

Wishing you were on vacation?

 Just this past week I booked a full week of vacation…..yes a FULL week of vacation! I debated for weeks whether I should take a few long weekend trips or go for a full week of relaxation. I know I am not the only one that debates this issue. On one hand, taking 2 long weekend trips seems like a great idea because when you get back to work on a Monday you don’t feel so behind or in my case feel as though I neglected my patients. On the other hand, weekend trips never really feel like a vacation because they usually leave you yearning for more. A great vacation leaves you feeling energized and refreshed but I have definitely been on some trips that have left me feeling more tired or stressed than when I left.

In Chinese medicine, one of the causes of disease is overworking, which includes not only physical labor but also working or studying long hours without enough rest. Overworking inevitably leads to higher stress which consequently results in poor sleep, weight gain, headaches and body aches. It is crucial that we all take time for ourselves each and every day to de-stress. I have blogged about stress many times as it is usually a key component of many of the symptoms I see in my office.

I have been thinking a lot about how to replicate that awesome feeling you have during a wonderful vacation; that mellowness and feeling of total unwind. Here are 6 simple things that I feel “make a vacation” and can be done at any time to either keep a vacation buzz going or help you relax if you don’t have time to take a vacation.

  1. Unplug. When Friday hits make sure to really unplug- this means the TV, internet, cell phone, ipad or anything that acts like a computer. If you are married to your Smartphone and don’t think you can really turn your phone off for a whole weekend start with just a full day. Leave your phone at home and promise yourself you won’t look at all day. The world will not stop because you didn’t answer one email.
  2. Eat outdoors. Really soak in the glorious weather and either eat at an outdoor cafe or your own backyard. Grilling out screams summer. If you decide to grill out with friends or neighbors, it makes for an easy meal with less clean up!
  3. Exercise for fun. Hike, bike, walk outside, golf, play tennis, dance, go to the pool etc. Do something that is good for your body but is also fun. Exercising doesn’t have to be in a gym and it doesn’t have to feel like a chore.
  4. Sleep more. During vacation I always look forward to sleeping in and not setting an alarm. Give yourself a day during the week or weekend to catch up on some extra sleep either with a nap or by sleeping in.
  5. Do nothing. It is okay to give yourself a day to just be lazy and relaxed. It is calming and it really helps you feel refreshed. Don’t beat yourself up for having what you might consider an “unproductive day”. One lazy day can do wonders.
  6. Spend time with those you love. Relationships are to be treasured. There is nothing better than sharing a meal, a leisure walk, or a day just hanging out with those you love. Loved ones are the reason we work so hard, so take time to appreciate each other.

Coping with Stress

I decided my next blog post should be about stress as I was feeling a lot of it this week. We all have stress but does anyone really know what to do about it? We all come to accept a certain level of stress in our everyday lives because we think it is just part of how our modern life is meant to be. In a way this is true because there will always be things in our lives we can’t change even though we wish we could. Stress is always going to be a part of our lives.

Our bodies have certain mechanisms for responding to moments of danger as a means of survival. When we are stressed, our fight or flight mechanisms kicks in so we can escape danger. The adrenal glands send out cortisol which sets up a whole chain reaction. In order to flee, our muscles need nourishment, so blood is taken away from digestion and sent to the muscles.  The muscles tense up and you get ready to run- your neck tenses, shoulder hunch up, fists clench, knees bend and your back arches like the start of a relay race. Your brain stops thinking and goes into reaction mode. Your reproductive organs stop functioning because they are not needed. This is all a very good thing if we were being chased by a mountain lion BUT what if there is no danger? Our body will tell us to run while we are sitting in traffic, fighting with our spouse, or trying to frantically finish up work before a deadline. That shot of cortisol has no outlet. All of the same physiologic things happen to our body but we don’t actually run or fight.

Over time, chronic stress begins to take a toll on our body. Ulcers, digestive problems, sexual problems, sleep problems, weight control issues, high blood pressure and anxiety are some of the many problems that come from chronic stress.  This being said, it makes it even more critical that we find ways to cope with stress. There are many choices but three basics help everyone: cardio exercise, deep breathing and relaxation.

Regular cardiovascular exercise disperses the cortisol because it gives our bodies the physical release it needs to eliminate it. Deep breathing is such an easy thing to do and really helps. Deep breathing helps release the muscle tension by moving oxygen and blood through the tissues and clearing the cortisol out.  Conscious relaxation exercises will also help calm you down. You can relax with a cup of tea, light a candle, listen to soft music, or take a bath- whatever you find helps release the tension.

If those things don’t help, it is time to seek professional help to get a handle on the stress and keep you balanced. Acupuncture treatments can help keep you centered and balanced as well as massage or supplements. Stress is always going to be a part your life but there are ways to make it a smaller part.