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Understanding Stress

We all know what it feels like to be stressed. A feeling of wearing thin, overwhelm and a sense of overdrive and exertion without the vitality to support it.

In Western Medicine, there are two fundamental states that we can be in at any given moment. Like a binary or yin yang pair, either the sympathetic nervous system or the parasympathetic nervous system are activated. The sympathetic nervous system is that which governs fight, fright, flight with the adrenalised potential to escape life threatening situations whereas the parasympathetic nervous system is what governs repair, rest, rejuvenation and calmness.

Stress is directly linked to the sympathetic nervous system and therefore whenever we are stressed, we are in a state of adrenaline where the body is not at rest but is in fact ready to out-run danger. These days stress is a common state for the average person, whether its being late for work, not finishing a job on time or having to give an important presentation. Because of this, our bodies are deprived of rest, repair and renewal, all components of the parasympathetic nervous system.

If we are to live healthily, we have to find our own ways of being more engaged in a process of calmness thereby allowing us to sink into the parasympathetic nervous system more of the time. Life is a juggling act and there will always be stresses. I think that some stress can be a good thing as it gives us momentum and teaches us about ourselves in many ways. It is unfortunately too predominant.

My personal journey in life has led to a variety of different practises and techniques to activate this system. Some are more complicated and others can be quite easy. What is difficult is finding a way to let go of the urge or need to do everything all of the time. Stepping back, releasing and finding your own space to be yourself in calmness is the key, albeit a challenging process for many.

Some techniques that I find help me to slip into a parasympathetic nervous system are meditation, walking in nature, playing. laughing, socialising and enjoying the company of friends/family. Even hobbies can activate this system for instance pottery or archery. However it is important to remember that as soon as you feel pushed or strained then you have moved more to a state of stress.

In Chinese Medicine, connecting to this state of relaxation or our foundation is very much to do with our water energy. This is our essence, who we are at a very deep level and s associated with sleep, hibernation, rest, calmness and a steady sense of direction through life without force or the necessity for speed. In short it is a feeling of being rooted and in line with who we are and where we are going.

Acupuncture can be a very helpful therapy for guiding people into this state so that they may have a stronger sense of feeling themselves more of the time. I practice from two locations including Croydon and East Grinstead. Please visit my website for more information at Elemental Acupuncture.

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