One of the elderly Chinese Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine who taught me explained that when he was a young man his patients lived in the country and had simple uncomplicated lives. Their ailments were largely termed ‘external’ conditions. That is, they were brought on by exposure to the elements, hard physical work and poor diet.

His contemporaries who had fled China to live and practice in Taiwan had noticed that with rapid industrialization and urban living their patients had mainly ‘internal’ conditions. That is, ailments which were due to too much thinking (i.e. not enough physical activity), stress and worry.

What is stress?

Many patients have described receiving Acupuncture treatment as an effective way of giving themselves a lifeline out of the cycle of stress and illness.

Treatment is likely to be combined with simple lifestyle changes. That way you learn how to manage your own stress, often using the early symptoms as an ‘early-warning’ signal to make adjustments before illness develops.

Stress has many definitions. They all seem to gel around the idea thatstress is caused by having to respond to change – any change, good or bad; how we see that change seems to be crucial in how we respond to it. So, one event (giving your first speech or diving off a high board) could be stressful, exhilarating, a ‘buzz’ for one person and terrifying, awful, torture for another.

For both people the physiological responses will have kicked in – emptying of  bladder and bowels, dry mouth, raised blood pressure, clearer vision and hearing, shunting blood from the gut to the muscles to fight or run away etc.  The physiological response is the same; it’s hard wired. But the meaning I give to the experience dictates whether it was a ‘good’ stress or a ‘bad’ stress.

If you wish to learn more about the physiological basis of stress I suggest you start with this Wikipedia article:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stress_(medicine) and if you want to learn more about Hans Selye and the birth of studies into stress click here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Selye

There is mounting evidence that we need an amount of ‘good’ stress in our lives and you can read more about this below in the section Why is Stress Good For Me? ‘Bad’ stress only has a detrimental effect when it’s ongoing and I lack the means to either change myself or to change the stressor. This will eventually have an health impact on me in certain predictable ways. To learn more about the unhealthy effects of chronic, long-standing stress read How Can Stress Harm Me? below.

Can Stress Be Good For Me?

Stress may actually be correlated with longevity—if a person doesn’t view it as a negative. People who reported having high levels of stress and who believed stress had a large impact on their health had a whopping 43% increased risk of death. On the other hand, those that experienced a lot of stress but did not perceive its effects as negative were amongst the least likely to die as compared to all other participants in the study. Further reading: Check out this paper, “Does the perception that stress affects health matter?” And these two similar studies back up the idea: (1) “Increased risk of coronary heart disease among individuals reporting adverse impact of stress on their health: the Whitehall II prospective cohort study” (2) “Meta-analysis of perceived stress and its association with incident coronary heart disease.”

A possible antidote to negative effects of stress – giving to others. Every major stress event increased an individual’s risk of death by 30%. But, overall, this increase was erased for those who reported high rates of helping others, even if they additionally dealt with a lot of stress. The evidence suggests that giving to others significantly reduces stress-induced mortality. Further reading: “Giving to others and the association between stress and mortality”

Moderate stress can lead to cell growth in the brain’s learning centres. Immobilized rats showed an increased level of the stress hormone corticosterone (the rat equivalent of cortisol in humans) as well as an increased growth of neural stem cells in their hippocampus, an important learning centre of the brain. As compared to the control group, these rats had similar results on the fear extinction memory test given two days after the initial stressor, but showed significant improvement on the test after two weeks. The authors put fourth that these newly proliferated cells, after taking multiple days to integrate to fullest capacity, helped in learning at this improved level. Overall, it suggests that moderate levels of stress enhanced neural function and learning. Further reading: “Acute stress enhances adult rate hippocampal neurogenesis and activation of newborn neurons via secreted astrocytic FGF2”

Stress can summon helper hormones to vulnerable areas. Further reading: Read the study, “Stress-induced redistribution of immune cells–from barracks to boulevards to battlefields: a tale of three hormones.” And watch the TEDx Talk from the lead author called “The positive effects of stress.”

Stress can induce both good and bad habits. When willpower is depleted, people often return to their habits regardless of its effect on reaching a goal. Importantly, however, the action that became repeated for each individual could be either harmful or helpful –it simply depended on whether it sincerely is a natural tendency. This suggests that breaking a bad habit is most successful when more willpower is maintained, but that times of less control may not be so bad if there are some good habits to fall back on. Further reading: “How do people adhere to goals when willpower is low? The profits (and pitfalls) of strong habits

A stress-is-enhancing mindset may have lasting effects. In the first study, not only were many people influenced by the message of the videos. Those that viewed the video that approached stress as enhancing reported better work performance as well as less psychological complications. As for the students, those who naturally saw stress as helpful had a more moderate cortisol response upon hearing about the speech possibility — and they were more likely to request feedback.Further reading: “Rethinking stress: the role of mindsets in determining the stress response”

The above information has been taken from the following article which I strongly recommend you read!http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2013/04/16/researchers-find-out-why-some-stress-is-good-for-you/

Click here to watch a 15 min Ted talk on the positive impact of stress in our lives:

http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend.htm

Depression

Depression is more complex. Some people have a kind of depression which seems to be quite unrelated to external events in their life; it’s as if a black cloud is overhead. Then one day it just seems to go of its own accord. This kind of depression is probably chemically or hormonally driven in the patient’s brain. Medication (drugs from your doctor) can help some people, and some people respond to acupuncture very well – but not all. So, it’s important to explain this at the outset.

Reactive depression is believed to be the result of one or more negative events in the patient’s life. This can often be helped with a combination of acupuncture and NLP (a kind of therapeutic conversation which can provide a different way of seeing things, and help some people to move on) also known as ‘brief therapy’.

The Harmful Side Of Stress

Research is showing that stress is a major factor in most disease processes and chronic health conditions. If you have a lot of stress over a long period of time you are more likely to get cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, allergies, digestive problems, reproductive problems, respiratory problems, sore muscles, headaches, and on and on. More specifically chronic stress is linked to chronic inflammation and this seems to be the key to why stress is linked to so many disease processes – inflammation!

This is why I believe acupuncture seems to be able to help with so many varied chronic conditions and why lifestyle changes can also exert a positive impact on regulating chronic, low grade inflammation.

If you want to read more about the emerging research on stress, inflammation and disease click here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546.htm

http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/9/1/32

How I Can Be Helped For Stress?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a syndrome characterized by anxiety following exposure to extreme traumatic events such as threat of personal death, personal injury, or death of loved ones.

The reaction that occurs shortly after the trauma is called acute stress disorder but if one has a delayed or recurring response it is characterized as PTSD. Common symptoms of PTSD include:

– Detachment
– Loss of emotional response
– Unable to recall aspects of trauma
– Recurrence of trauma in thoughts, dreams, flashbacks
– Exaggerated startle response

Recently, the Pentagon has been investigating the beneficial effects of acupuncture for PTSD on soldiers affected with this condition.

As per findings from recent trials, it has been found that combat veterans were relieved of their symptoms and experienced reduced depression, as well as pain. The improvements due to acupuncture were also found to be very rapid and significant.

Studies like those conducted by Dr. Hollifield at Department of Psychiatry in University of New Mexico, show that acupuncture can be used successfully as natural treatment for PTSD symptoms like depression, anxiety, insomnia as well as pain originating from psychosomatic disorders.

References

Hollifield M, Sinclair-Lian N, Warner TD, Hammerschlag R. Acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled pilot trial. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2007 Jun;195(6):504-13.

Pease M, Sollom R, Wayne P.  Acupuncture for refugees with posttraumatic stress disorder: initial experiences establishing a community clinic. Explore (NY). 2009 Jan-Feb;5(1):51-4.

What I Can Do About Depression 

Treatment is likely to be combined with simple lifestyle changes. The range of lifestyle changes is far ranging as people are individuals with their own weaknesses, strengths and tolerances. So change can only be relevant when it’s specific to that individual. Common changes are around nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise, conflict, patterns of thinking and behaviour, posture, ergonomics.

The purpose of making lifestyle changes is to learn how to manage your own stress, often using the early symptoms as an ‘early-warning’ signal to make adjustments before illness develops.

Many patients have described receiving Acupuncture treatment as an effective way of giving themselves a lifeline out of the cycle of stress and illness. Similarly, osteopathic treatment can relieve chronic tension and muscle imbalances which have been around for a long time. Coping with chronic pain is a well recognised cause of unhealthy stress giving rise to further chronic pain and tiredness which becomes a vicious cycle. NLP can provide powerful tools for thinking and feeling differently when our habitual patterns (of thinking and feeling) are causing distress.

You Are Not Alone – The Cost Of Stress In Britain Today:

Today in Britain it is reckoned that more than 13 million working days are lost each year due to stress; and it affects 1 in 5 employees (20%), at a cost of £3.8 billion pounds [Health & Safety Executive 2003].

Stress increases absenteeism from work. It lowers concentration and reduces productivity in all employment spheres. Doctors recognise that stress is major contributor to illness. It can predispose us to illness and aggravate conditions that are otherwise under control.