Anxious and stressed-out? Stress Relief Tea is here!

Do you feel stressed-out or anxious?  Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?  Are you depressed or just not feeling quite like your usual self? Do you have PMS, cramping or irregular periods? If you answered “yes” to any of these then Stress Relief Tea would be a great herbal formula for you!

Stress Relief Tea is based on the herbal formula Xiao Yao San. Xiao Yao San has been used for over 900 years in China to address issues such as these. With our modern American lifestyle stress, anxiety, depression and sleep issues are at an all time high making Stress Relief Tea sweet relief indeed!

Stress Relief Tea works by acting on the stress pathways in the body. As Americans, we often sit all day at a desk but our bodies are meant to be active. Physical activity keeps the qi flowing which wicks away stress and dampness. Sitting all day and having generally high stress lifestyles we build up excess stress (i.e. cortisol) and that stress wreaks havoc on our bodies and disrupts normal happy hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin. Stress Relief Tea helps the liver to regulate cortisol levels in the body, which in turn helps to balance the other happy hormones while reducing the negative effects of cortisol on the body. Curious about how excess cortisol impacts the body? Here is a great (and very accessible) overview on how chronic stress affects your brain: https://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-stress-affects-your-brain-madhumita-murgia

So what else makes Stress Relief Tea so special (besides the fact that it tastes great AND it addresses the most common complaints I see in my Decatur GA acupuncture clinic)? For one the actual herbs used. This isn’t your leafy green tea here - IT’S FULL OF ROOTS. These herbs are so dense with healing plant compounds that you can brew the tea bags up to three times for maximum potency! This stuff is no joke - the earth these herbs grow in makes earthworms that are up to 12 inches long.  It is sulfur & sulfite free, sugar free, gluten free, caffeine free. The herbs are tested to make sure that you are only getting the purist stuff. Stress Relief Tea has no caffeine or added sugars. It's chock full of powerful phyto-compounds that heal from the inside out.

If you are ready for some stress relief give me a call at 404-695-0905 and we’ll get you started!  

Love and the Heart in Chinese Medicine

In this, the month of love, I want to take time to explore the meaning of the Heart in Chinese Medicine and how I treat the Heart in my Decatur acupuncture practice. According to Chinese Medicine all organs have a function or responsibility. These functions may be physical, emotional or spiritual. The Heart has a special place in Chinese Medicine as it is considered the Emperor (or Empress as the case may be) and rules all the other organs.

The Heart is also houses the Shen. The Shen is a complex concept in Chinese Medicine but generally encompasses the Spirit/Mind and covers all mental and spiritual functions. When the Shen is strong you have strong mental functions like the ability to think sharply, strong intellect, good long-term memory and quality sleep. Shen is also our vital life force and zest for life, the sparkle and shine in our eyes. When you look into the eyes of someone suffering from depression or great sadness their eyes often have a dullness or lack of focus. Shen is our ability to love ourselves and others, to trust, to have self-confidence and to have direction and purpose in life. Lastly Shen is our connection with Source/the Divine/God

There is a powerful connection between the Shen and Blood. According to Chinese Medicine, Blood grounds the Shen so that when Blood is sufficient mental faculties are strong and a person is happy and peaceful. When Blood is deficient we may see a mental restlessness, excessive dreaming, dream-disturbed sleep or insomnia, anxiety and depression.

According to Chinese Medicine each organ has an associated emotion and joy is the emotion of the Heart. Both lack of joy and excessive joy (i.e. over excitement) can injure the Heart and, in the other direction, a Heart disharmony can produce a lack of joy or elation. I see this strong mind-body connection daily in my practice.

Broken heart syndrome has been well documented by Western medicine. Broken heart syndrome symptoms mimic those of a heart attack however there is typically nothing structurally wrong with the heart; the apex of the heart balloons outward. Broken heart syndrome is called this because the incident often happens after a shock, a sudden death of a loved one or after ongoing intense emotional stress.

Clearly our Shen has a tremendous impact on our health and is one of the first things I take into account in my treatment approach.  Harmonizing the spirit is a goal in just about all treatments as stress impacts our Shen and most of us experience stress. This is why, at least in part, most people leave their acupuncture appointment with me blissed out and relaxed. Does your Heart need some love? Does your Spirit need lifting? Do you just need all those frayed edges smoothed out? Time to schedule an acupuncture treatment for your Heart!

 

7 Self-Care Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Regardless of what winter holidays you celebrate and whether you love them or hate them they can be stressful. It’s barely December and patients are already coming in feeling overextended, over sugared, and stressed out. If you want to move through this season with more grace, ease and actual joy you may need to reprioritize self-care toward the top of your holiday to-do list. You will actually get more done if you are not running around like a stressed out manic elf. Enlist a friend or family member as a collaborator in this novel self-care scheme. You can encourage each other and hold each other accountable.  And heck, go get massages together while you are at it!

Self-care help for the holidays:

Add 30 minutes of sleep. Most of my patients don’t get enough sleep as it is and I get that big-eyed look of “you have got to be kidding me” when I suggest this. However sleep plays an important role in emotional processing and how we respond to everyday stressors. Simply starting your bedtime routine 30-60 minutes earlier can have a significant effect on your stress resiliency. Humor me and try it for 2 weeks.

Support your nervous system with herbs. There is a whole class of herbs called “nervines” that help smooth out the rough edges.  Consider trying skullcap, lemon balm, chamomile or tulsi. You can find these as teas, tinctures and capsules in many independent health food stores or places like Whole Foods and Sprouts.

Eat mindfully. I’m not saying you can’t eat Aunt Sally’s Christmas cookies but check-in with yourself before reaching for that third delicious cookie. Are you eating because Uncle Joe is talking politics? Are you really hungry? Will this make you feel good or crash out and hour later?  Is the short term pleasure worth it to feel crappy later? Mindfulness allows you to make conscious choices rather than engage in mindless consumption.

Go for a walk. Exercise, especially outdoors, will clear your mind and rev up your energy. From an acupuncture perspective, too much sitting injures the Earth phase, which affects our digestion, energy level, and even makes us more likely to gain weight. So get out and go for a hike!

Focus on gratitude. Researchers have discovered that gratitude boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine…the same neurotransmitter that the antidepressant Wellbutrin increases. Prozac works on the neurotransmitter serotonin…so does gratitude! According to neuroscience researcher Alex Korb (author of The Upward Spiral) you don’t even have to find something to be grateful for, the process of searching for it is sufficient! Take in a daily dose of gratitude and watch the inner shift take place.

Breathe. When we feel stressed out our breath automatically becomes more shallow and rapid. Shallow breathing tells the body to remain in a state of fight-or-flight. By breathing slow, deep, easy, and gentle, we rein in the stress response, protect the adrenals from exhaustion, and activate the self-healing (parasympathetic) mode. Try this breathing exercise: close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose, hold it for a few moments and release your breath slowly through your mouth. Repeat a few times. Open your eyes and check in with how you are feeling. 

Get acupuncture. Of course I am going to include this! Acupuncture is a powerful reset for your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (that whole fight-or-flight response responsible for the release of cortisol and adrenaline).  Most patients leave my clinic feels deeply relaxed.  Over a course of treatments this deep relaxation extends into a shift in how the body actually responds to stress. Now that’s relief! Acupuncture also works to resolve stress related illnesses such as sleep disturbances, digestive upsets, anxiety, depression, weight gain, headaches and more. 

Need some holiday stress relief? Schedule an appointment today!

Acupuncture Brings Hope for Healing Depression

Depression is the thief of joy.  It can make formerly happy people feel like nothing is good in their world and they have no energy to do anything about that.  I have had patients tell me they are too depressed to cry, that they just feel empty.  If you feel this way you are far from alone. 

In 2014 15.7 million adults in the US had at least one major depressive episode (1). The good news is that acupuncture can relieve depression.  In fact several studies have showed that acupuncture was as effective as anti-depressant medication (2). 

Depression is something I commonly treat in my clinic.  With a background in clinical social work it is a ‘language’ that I speak and understand.  Some people want to get off of anti-depressants because of the side-effects, some don’t want to go on medication, and some just want to feel better while taking the medication.  The bottom line is they all want to feel better: more joyful, lighter and happier. 

Sometimes depression is not even the reason why people come in for acupuncture.  They may come in for physical pain not knowing that acupuncture can relieve their feelings of hopelessness and grief stemming from the chronic pain. 

In Chinese Medicine there is not one “kind” of depression.  One person may be experiencing a lack of drive and enthusiasm in life.  In essence they have lost their joie de vivre, or joy of life, and they just don’t have the momentum to make lasting changes.  Another person may present with a lack of ideas, life dreams, hopes, inspiration or direction.  And another person is filled with angst, despair and an overwhelming sadness.  And still another broods and get stuck in their thinking…of the same thing over and over.  Lastly, some people who have a lot of anger or frustration have an underlying depression.  In psychiatry these would all be treated as depression with one anti-depressant drug or another.  While there can certainly be overlap I find that many people fall into one pattern or another.  Chinese Medicine treats each person’s unique presentation to resolve the root cause of depression, not just put a band-aid on the symptoms.  

If someone you know is experiencing depression and longing to return to joy please share this post with them.  If YOU are experiencing depression book an appointment today and rediscover your lightness of being. 

 

 

1.     Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50). Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/

2.     Wei Bo, Xu Yi, Clinical observations on acupuncture treatment for depression, Journal of Jinan University (Natural Science & Medicine Edition), 2013, 34(6).

Are you addicted to stress?

In my acupuncture practice I treat a lot of people who are busy.  Acupuncture makes them feel better so they make time for treatments but they are busy busy busy.  Their jobs keep them very busy.  9 to 5?  Try 9 to midnight.  They are answering emails, texts and calls at all hours.  “Off work” never happens.  They are passionate about what they do, very driven and very accomplished.  I love working with these smart, purpose-driven folks. 

Work is just one component of their busy lives.  They may be raising kids, taking care of grandkids, taking care of aging parents…or all three!  They may work until 5, have family time until 10 and then work another few hours.  Weekends are a juggling act trying to meet multiple needs and commitments. 

Sound familiar?  It is normative in our society and I often hear people voice guilt if they don’t maintain this level of busyness.  It’s not ‘wrong’ to be fully committed to your career and to your family.  However I do think they we can become addicted to stress. 

I used to do this.  I thought that I could only be creative or productive under deadline so I would wait until the last minute to write a paper or report, review a proposal, etc.  Under the threat of deadline the stress kicked in and I got it done…along with missed sleep, irritability and digestive issues. 

When we are stressed cortisol and adrenaline flood our body giving our brains and muscles and added boost.  We feel focused and purposeful.  This is great when we are getting up to give a speech or are racing to catch a train to the airport.  Things to awry when this never gets turned off and chronic stress has cortisol and adrenaline dripping into our systems constantly.  Chronic stress causes an array of physical and emotional problems such as depression, weight gain, heart disease, muscle aches and insomnia.  We are exhausted and can become addicted to the rush of stress induced cortisol and adrenaline. 

You can ditch the cycle of stress response and you’ll be more productive, healthy and balanced.  Acupuncture can reset your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (e.g. the flight or fight response) giving you space to cultivate new, healthier, habits.  You’ll feel better, look better and perform better.  Ready for a new stress-free you? 

Amp Up Your Well-Being With Gratitude

This blog post has nothing to do with acupuncture...but it does cover something that I talk with my patients about and that I practice daily.  Gratitude.  It is part of a holistic approach to great well-being.  Many of my patients come in because they are stressed out, anxious, depressed, irritable or have just lost their zest for life.  Acupuncture gets them back on the road to more peace and joy.  Practicing gratitude amplifies and sustains the effects of the acupuncture treatments. 

Did you know there is a science behind gratitude as an essential part of happiness?  Researchers have discovered that gratitude boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine…the same neurotransmitter that the antidepressant Wellbutrin increases.  Prozac works on the neurotransmitter serotonin…so does gratitude!  According to neuroscience researcher Alex Korb (author of The Upward Spiral) you don’t even have to find something to be grateful for, the process of searching for it is sufficient!  Take in a daily dose of gratitude and watch the inner shift take place.    

So, how can you cultivate gratitude on a daily basis?  Here are a few ideas to try out.  Add your own ideas in the comment section!

Some ways to practice gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily or weekly lists.  Daily is better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
  • Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.
  • Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
  • When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.

So don’t wait for Thanksgiving, start giving thanks today.  For gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time. That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a gift. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture...Part 1

In my Decatur acupuncture clinic I get asked these questions all of the time.  Since they crop up frequently I think it means that they are great questions!  So, if you are new to acupuncture and have wondered about these things then this post is for you!  Or perhaps you have been seeing me and just have not asked your burning question…then this post is for you too! 

1. Does it hurt?  This has to be the top question and for good reason!  Who wants to do something that hurts?   Acupuncture should not be painful (and this goes for cupping and gua sha as well).  You may feel a momentary sharpness, a zing or some achiness with some points but that should be gone before you can even tell me about it.  I have many patients that don’t feel any of the needles and a few that are more sensitive but still don’t find the process painful.  I have had people come see me after receiving “dry needling” from a physical therapist because it was so painful. I can make their pain go away without actually causing them pain in the process.  A win-win. 

2. Are the needles sterile?  Yes, acupuncture needles are sterile, single-use, medical devices.  After one use they are placed in a sharps container and disposed of as medical waste.  All acupuncturists are required to have certification in clean needle technique.   

3. What should I do or not do after an acupuncture treatment?  In general you want to take it easy for a few hours after a treatment.  You don’t have to go home and curl up on the couch (but by all means do so if you want!) but just go easy for a few hours.  Give your body what it wants.  Drink water, move gently, eat lightly.  Don’t do a big workout or hop in a sauna or hit the bar.  Just let your body integrate the treatment and go for a run or do that ashtanga yoga class tomorrow. 

4.  How many treatments will I need?  The number of acupuncture treatments depends upon you and how long your have been experiencing your problem.  If it is something that has been going on for years it will likely take more treatments than something that happened last weekend.  For example, if you wrenched your back last weekend we can probably get your back to pain-free and fully functioning in a couple of treatments.  If you have been experiencing back pain for the last year that will take more then a couple of treatments to resolve.  You will likely feel relief in the first one to two sessions but to fully resolve any long standing issue you will need to correct the underlying problem.  Think of it like taking antibiotics.  You start to feel better in the first couple of days but you need to complete the course of medication or your risk a relapse. 

5.  What conditions does acupuncture treat?  Just about anything!  In the era of super specialized medicine this sounds crazy to some people.  Because acupuncture focuses on re-establishing health rather than chasing symptoms it can resolve a wide range of issues.  Check out this page for a list of conditions I commonly treat: http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/conditions/

6.  How can acupuncture treat issues like anxiety and depression?  Many people think acupuncture is just for physical pain.  While it is fantastic at resolving physical pain it is equally powerful for resolving emotional pain.  Chinese Medicine is holistic, meaning it treats the mind, body and spirit.  The mind, body and spirit are inseparable and emotions can impact the health of the physical body and visa versa.  Think about the last time you experienced a loss or heartbreak, it probably took a physical toll as well as an emotional toll.  With the heaviness in your chest you may have felt like your heart was physically breaking.  The emotions are just a more ethereal aspect of our body.  My background is in social work and I bring a particular expertise in treating psychological issues.  Here are some related blog posts you might enjoy: http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/blog/brokenopen and http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/blog/relieveanxietytwithacupuncture .

Have a burning question I missed?  Please write it the comment section and I’ll do a part 2 blog post!

Broken or Broken Open?

We all have had or will have experiences that break us, at least a little.  Heartbreak.  The loss of a loved one.  Illness.  We can allow these experiences to be a stopping point and get stuck there or be a learning point and a catalyst for growth. 

When we are deep in the pain it can be hard to see the learning, the opportunity for growth and change.  Sometimes we get stuck there for years.  We may yearn for the past or spend our time fantasizing about the future.  Either way we are not able to fully live in the present.  We may allow ourselves to get so bound up by heartbreak we cannot open to new love.  Or maybe we are paralyzed by the fear that what killed our mother/father will befall us as well. 

What on earth does all of this have to do with acupuncture?  Acupuncture can have a powerful effect on an emotional and spiritual level.  According to Daoist traditions different acupuncture points and channel systems influence the psyche on a deep level.  If you are stuck in emotional pain acupuncture can help open you up to a new way of seeing, instigating a shift in perspective that allows you to become unstuck.  A shift from being broken to be broken open.  As the great Sufi mystic Rumi said “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”  When you are broken open you can heal, you can grow, you can gain a level of insight that may have previously been unavailable. 

If you are ready to move from feeling broken to the experience of being broken open give me a call today!

P.S. Thanks to Reverend David Ault (www.davidault.com) for the inspiration for this blog post!

Relieve Your Anxiety With Acupuncture

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at different times.  We may become anxious before a test, when faced with a problem at work or driving on 285 in rush hour.   However, for some people, anxiety occurs with such frequency and/or intensity that it interferes with their daily well-being.  

People experience anxiety differently but common symptoms include feelings of panic, fear, or general unease; difficulty sleeping; heart palpitations; racing thoughts; inability to be still; muscle tension; nausea; dizziness and dry mouth.  In my experience, it is common for people who experience anxiety to also ruminate.  They may get stuck reliving a specific conversation or interaction or have mental arguments with another person.  They worry about everyday life situations with no obvious reason for worry.  All of this is exhausting and they long for peace. The good news is that acupuncture is extremely effective in relieving anxiety and there are no negative side effects.  In a recent study of the effect of acupuncture on Generalized Anxiety Disorder researchers note that “a number of Meta analysis and system evaluations point out that acupuncture treatment has more advantages than drugs in the treatment of anxiety disorders….”.

In my clinic in Dunwoody, Georgia I treat anxiety frequently.  Unlike pharmaceuticals, patients often experience a reduction in anxiety in one treatment with continued and sustained improvement with follow-up treatments.  Patients have told me that they feel like their old self again; that they feel positive and full of energy.  Other patients have found a sense of peace and self-love they never experienced before.  My favorite thing is to see patients bouncing in the door with a new sense of lightness and joy. 

In addition to acupuncture I recommend specific lifestyle changes to my patients.  Taiji, Qigong and yoga all enhance a mind-body connection and can help quiet the mind.  By studying some form of meditation patients learn to control and relax the mind.  One quick, in the moment, breathing exercise you can try is to close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose, hold it for a few moments and release your breath slowly through your mouth.  Repeat a few times.  Open your eyes and check in with how you are feeling. 

Ready to experience a renewed sense of peace and lightness?  Give me a call at 404.695.0905 to schedule your first appointment! 

Be Fearless: An Antidote to Stress

Be fearless.  This one [not small but life changing] act is a major antidote to stress.  So much of our stress comes from fear:  fear of making the wrong decision, fear of disappointing others, fear of failing. 

Be fearless.  Pick a path and follow it with all your heart.  Change your mind.  Pick a new path and follow that one with all your heart.  I’m not saying to be rash or impetuous, although sometimes those things can be good too.  You can carefully consider your path…the danger is when we never move beyond careful consideration.  We can spend years carefully considering career changes or letting go of unfulfilling relationships (trust me on this one, I have firsthand experience).  Heck, I know someone who spent a year considering a hairstyle change!  When was the last time you were fearless? 

In Chinese Medicine we say that fear descends Qi.  In my experience, fear in the form of chronic anxiety also causes Qi to rise and results in heart palpitations, insomnia or racing thoughts.  In Chinese Medicine fear is the province of the Kidneys and a sudden fright can impact the Kidneys.  We see this in our Western understanding of the body as well.  When we experience fear the adrenal glands (which sit on top of the kidneys) secrete cortisol, a steroid hormone that, among other things, causes your heart rate to increase.  More insidious is chronic anxiety, which, in Chinese Medicine is often a disconnection between the Heart and the Kidneys.  

So, how can you become more fearless? 

·      Meditate.  A host of studies have demonstrated that meditation reduces the body’s release of the stress hormone cortisol.  More importantly though, meditation gives us the opportunity to stop running away, to sit with how we are feeling and let it go.  So often we are afraid to feel our fear so we disconnect and distract ourselves.  Most people find that their resistance to feeling caused more stress and anxiety than just sitting with the feelings.  Even meditating 10 minutes a day can have a positive impact on your life.  Start today.  You don’t need fancy cushions and chimes.  Just sit in the quiet for 10 minutes and pay attention to your breath.  That’s it. 

·      Start small.  You don’t have to move across the country or quit your job.  Although you could do that if your heart is calling you to do this very thing!  Pick one fearless act to do today.  Tell your real deal feelings to someone you trust.  Sign up for that weekend retreat your braver self fantasized about doing.  Say no.  Say yes.  Do one fearless act each day.  It gets easier.

·      Get acupuncture!  If you are stuck in fear, in indecision, or in a near constant state of low-grade anxiety acupuncture can unstick you.  It is quite amazing actually.  Like a car stuck in overdrive, our bodies can get stuck in fear and our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) never turns off resulting in chronically high levels of cortisol.  Acupuncture works to return the body to its natural state of balance (sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems working together).  You’ll feel less anxious, less fearful, and less stressed.  Sound good?  Call 404.695.0905 today to schedule a free consultation! 

What act of fearlessness are you going to do today?