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  • Writer's picturePatrick Allen

Stressing Out!

Stayton Acupuncture and Wellness Blog

We all experience a certain amount of stress in our daily lives but each individual has a different reaction to it. Our response to it is based on our person experiences, coping mechanisms, and our nervous systems ability to keep up with the stimulation. When we feel stress, our body produces a series of chemicals reactions to increase certain bodily functions to stay alert and awake. This process is know as the “fight or flight” response. This process occurs when our nervous system perceives danger to increase our ability to flee. Modern life is some hectic that many people live in this constant state of high alert. We drive cars, drink coffee, exercise, pick up the kids, make dinner, maintain an online persona, watch the news tend to the house, maintain relationships, etc. Overstimulation for a long period of time, mixed with genetics, leads to chronic anxiety. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is defined as, “a disorder characterized by excessive or unrealistic anxiety about two or more aspects of life (work, social relationships, financial matters, etc.), often accompanied by symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, or dizziness.” I think this describes a lot of us! I would say stress and anxiety are probably the most common symptoms among the 1000s of patients I’ve treated over the last 8 years. I believe I have a good approach to managing anxiety and would like to share my suggestions in the following list:

1. Take a deep breath!

I know this sounds simple but it can make a world of difference. When we get tense, we naturally hold our breath. This can trigger the “fight or flight” response and actually make us feel worse because our body thinks we are in danger! Research shows meditation can have a profound effect on anxiety levels and can increase general wellbeing. Meditation can be as simple as deliberate, or conscious breathing. Conscious breathing slows down out heart rate and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of our nervous system in change of resting, digesting, and relaxing). It’s as simple as slowly inhaling for a count of 5 and releasing it while counting to 5. Repeating this 5-10 times can make a big difference in how you feel and can help to curb anxiousness. A Google search will produce 1000s of pages with specific breathing techniques or exercises. Find one that works for you and use it when you are feeling stressed.

One of my favorite meditation techniques is called box breathing, or a 4-sided breath. This simple breathing pattern helps to break momentum when you're feeling anxiety or stress. Set a timer for 5 minutes and following these steps:

1. Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose to the count of 4

2. Gently hold your breath to the count of 4

3. Start to slowly exhale for 4 seconds

4. Hold the breath out to the count of 4

Repeat this process until the end of the timer. Try to focus on the breathing and avoid the stressful topic. When you realize you started “thinking” again (and you most certainly will), return to the breathing pattern. Meditation isn’t about stopping all thought; it’s about activating non-stressful thought.

2. Supplements/ Herbal Medicine

There are numerous dietary supplements with claims to help promote relaxation and curb anxiety. I have worked with hundreds of patients and these seem to be the most effective according to my clinical experience (This is only a recommendation and you should consult your doctor specifically before adding any supplements to you regime):

L-Theanine: This naturally occurring amino acid is found in green and black tea. The human body does not produce this compound so it isn’t readily available when we experience stress. This supplements claims to increase seratonin and dopamine levels, which help to promote positive mood and calm. The supplement form does not contain any caffeine so you can take it day or night. 400-600 mg is a hearty dose to help increase neurotransmitter production. I recommend this to my patients in Stayton, Oregon on a daily basis.

Holy Basil: This Ayurvedic herb is classified as an adaptogen, a category of supplements that help your body deal with stress and promotes mental calm. According to a study in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Holy Basil contains anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties. The study claims 500 mg a day have comparable effect to diazepam (Xanax) and antidepressant drugs. Holy Basil is also consumed in tea form and can be consumed daily to help combat stress.

Albizzia: Albizzia is the bark of the mimosa tree and is called He Huan Pi in Chinese Medicine. This herb is nicknamed “happiness bark” for its mood elevating properties. According to the Classical texts, this herb helps to quiet the “shen” (spirit), relieves mental stress and depression, and promotes happiness. I always prescribe this in tincture form and have the patient carry it around with them. I instruct them to use this during times of stress or depression. Add one dropper to a glass of water and consume. You can also consume daily to promote happiness!

3. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the most effective forms of treatment to combat anxiety! Acupuncture has been proven to promote parasympathetic calm and decrease heart rate. It helps to train the body to stay in a more relaxed state with continued treatment. Acupuncture helps to release different neurotransmitters to promote a sense of wellbeing and relaxation. When a patient comes in for anxiety management, we set up an initial treatment plan. We would need to perform a regular series of treatments to begin training the body to relax. I generally suggest 1-2 sessions a week for 4 weeks to begin depending on the severity of symptoms. We would also enact certain lifestyle changes to enhance the treatments. We reassess after 1 month and then modify accordingly. Once the symptoms are under control, most patient continue bi-weekly or monthly treatments to prolong improvement.

4. Talk Therapy

Talk therapy and establishing healthy mental coping mechanisms is an imperative part of anxiety treatment and one should definitely establish a relationship with a counselor or therapist. Other lifestyle modifications such as diet changes and starting an exercise routine also have a huge impact on anxiety levels and overall wellbeing.

I’ve found meditative breathing, supplementation, and acupuncture treatments to be extremely effective in managing anxiety and stress levels. Obviously we are always going to have some sort of stress in our lives. It is the way of the world and being a human being. However, there are ways to handle this stress to make it more manageable.

If you have any specific questions or would like to schedule an acupuncture session in Stayton, Oregon, feel free to reach out: or (503) 404-4044

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