Stress In Today’s WorldMay 02, 2022 09:52PM ● By Kat Dunbar
In today’s world, physical and emotional stress are a fact of modern life. Natural disasters, war in the Ukraine, the pandemic and general unrest are painting an uncertain picture of the future leaving many people facing higher levels of stress than normal. So, what is stress?
Stress is the body’s natural reaction to any difficulties that arise in our lives. It is actually healthy to experience some low-degree, short-term stress on occasion. However, unmanaged and chronic stress can negatively impact our health at every level. Women in particular are experiencing more stress now than ever before.
Many modern women have to balance work life with their personal life and take on numerous responsibilities between career and family. Women have multiple areas in which they “compete”: how they mother; how they look; the quality of their friendships; the quality of the work they produce. Then, they apply additional pressure onto themselves to do it all with great skill, precision and love. This balancing act can sometimes feel like there are just too many ways to fail and that is when self-doubt, low self-esteem, and self-criticism can come in. Increased blood pressure and cortisol levels, as well as lowered immune system function, can result when stress affects the body. When stressful periods are prolonged, the body can lose the ability to shut off the “fight or flight” response from the sympathetic nervous system (the alert that says something is wrong). This state of sympathetic overdrive can lead to more serious health problems such as autoimmune disorders, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction and cancer.
In addition, stress is more likely to manifest as anxiety and depression in women. Women have a unique hormonal system that can cause them to react more emotionally and to become more easily fatigued. Dealing with the ever-changing physical stressors of shifting hormones puts additional strain on a woman’s nervous system. This can cause PMS, fertility issues, and more severe menopausal symptoms.
Studies show that acupuncture and Chinese medicine can significantly help reduce stress. Acupuncture targets the nervous, immune, cardiovascular and digestive systems to naturally heal the body and improve health. Acupuncture treatment often reduces cortisol levels and brings people immediate stress relief as they leave the clinic feeling calm, relaxed, or even euphoric.
Things you can do in your daily life to manage stress:
Take time for a hobby. Whatever you enjoy – do more of that! Focus on doing something active for your mind and body. Inactive pastimes like watching television, or surfing the internet can actually increase stress overtime. Keep time spent on those passive activities to a minimum!
Find ways to relax. Learn some techniques or schedule some self-care. Yoga and meditation are examples of techniques that will help you to achieve an internal balance. Schedule yourself an acupuncture treatment, massage, or a facial to carve out some time just for you. Do not let the harried and hectic world get the better of you!
Change the way you view problems. Look for silver linings and good news; make a gratitude list. If I ask a patient to “show me your hand” they often will show me the palm side, but do not think to look at the back of their hand. In the world nothing can exist that has one side only. This is the concept of Yin and Yang; nothing is only good or only bad – both exist in everything. Learn to pay attention to both, but put emphasis on the positive.
Connect yourself to nature; unplug and connect to energy outside of yourself. Sit by a river and feel the water; walk barefoot in dirt or sand. If you are angry go out and face something – a mountain or the woods. Breathe out, remove negative energy and take in the positive. In doing this, you gain the perspective of playing a small yet vital part within the greatness of the universe.
Eat healthy, balanced meals. Your body needs good nutrition to help fight off stress. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar, or junk food. But know that it is okay to indulge from time to time!
Engage in regular physical activity, especially cardiovascular things like walking, swimming or biking. If you do this outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, it will be even more beneficial than going to a gym.
Encourage yourself to engage in social activities. Build a support system. Stress can cause depression and sadness, making people close themselves off. So push yourself to go out, keep up with activities. Talk with friends, volunteer, or join a club.
Kat Dunbar, MSOM, L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist specializing in internal medicine at New Jersey Natural Medicine located at 2424 Lamington Rd., in Bedminster.