Summer is just about over, school is back and session, and dare I say… the holidays are just around the corner. These are just a few aspects of everyday living that may provoke stress in many people. Stress is an inescapable aspect of life, and something that in moderate doses can actually be very useful. For many people, however, the stresses of daily life become too big and all consuming. Tasks that used to seem small can suddenly feel impossible.
Stress and It’s Role in the Body
Chronic stress has a profound and often long lasting effect on the body, in large part because of a hugely important hormone called Cortical. Cortisol has become known as the “stress hormone” because when someone is feeling stress, the body produces this hormone in the adrenal glands, it gets pumped through our bloodstream, and our body enters a (usually temporary) “fight or flight” mode, a sympathetic response of the nervous system. This kind of stress is useful for urgent situations that require quick action, like running from a tiger or escaping from a burning building. It’s a brilliant mechanism of the body that helps keep us safe and alert when necessary.
A common pattern for modern living, however, is that folks get “stuck” in this fight or flight mode. They become so stressed out in their day to day that their bodies are constantly over-producing Cortisol, making it difficult to unwind, relax and recover. Sometimes referred to as “adrenal fatigue” this pattern can have many longstanding effects on the body.
Over time this can result in a variety of health conditions ranging from:
- Chronic anxiety
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Difficulty losing weight
- Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Chronic illness
- Lowered immunity
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty getting pregnant
Tired and Wired Syndrome
I have come to describe this stress pattern as “Tired and Wired Syndrome” because folks often become so exhausted by the chronic stress, and yet their adrenal response is so out of balance that they just cannot relax. When stress and anxiety get to this point, usually some kind of intervention is required to help rebalance the body’s endocrine (hormone) system.
Fortunately there are a variety of tools in Chinese Medicine that can help manage stress and anxiety levels.
Acupuncture is a wonderful tool for helping to rebalance the body and manage stress because it engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system, mentioned above. The parasympathetic nervous system is what helps us rest, recover, digest our food well and unwind.
Beyond acupuncture, there are many herbs, supplements and lifestyle changes that can help restore adrenal health, support healthy cortisol levels and an appropriate insulin response to cortisol, thus reversing the “tired and wired” syndrome.
I encourage you to pause for a few minutes today and evaluate your stress levels. Are you handling stress well, or are you heading towards feeling “tired and wired”? If it’s the latter, take steps now to support yourself in staying balanced and healthy, all year long.
Yours in good health,
Merritt Jones, LAc, MS, CNC