Stress can affect your physical and mental health, especially when you are under a great deal of stress for a long time. Here's why and how an acupuncturist can help if stress is affecting your health.
Homeostasis & Allostasis
Homeostasis is your body's ability to balance itself to maintain stability. Allostasis is how your body regains homeostasis through its response to stressors. Essentially, allostasis is the process of achieving homeostasis, which is controlled by the nervous system. When something abnormal happens, a nervous system response is triggered to (hopefully) bring the body back to a normal functioning range or a balanced state.
For example, in regard to stress, worrying about something can bring on symptoms of stress, such as nausea, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing, when the process of allostasis triggers your sympathetic nervous system to release various hormones and neurotransmitters in an attempt to bring your body back to a healthy balance.
Allostatic Load & Stress
When your body repeatedly responds with allostasis over a long period of time in attempts to achieve homeostasis, the stress builds up and results in what is called an allostatic load. An allostatic load is the toll that allostasis takes on the body. The chronic exposure of your various organs to the chemical messengers that are produced when your body attempts to achieve a balance puts undue and abnormal stress on those organs. This leaves you more prone to illness. For example, stress-induced high blood pressure can eventually lead to plaque buildup in your arteries.
Balance & Acupuncture
In Chinese medicine, it's believed that human bodies have a vital energy or life-force called qi (pronounced "chee"). When qi is out of balance, it can cause a wide range of physical and mental health conditions. Sound a bit familiar? Sometimes your body has a difficult time balancing qi, and sometimes there is a qi deficiency.
Achieving a balanced and efficient qi (homeostasis) is the main theory behind acupuncture.
Acupuncture can decrease the stress response and allostatic load by focusing on the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body's involuntary response to stress, which varies from person to person depending on several factors, including medical history, mental health, and personal history as well as genetics. Therefore, to help your acupuncturist provide you with the best treatments possible to reduce your allostatic load and improve your homeostasis, explain your stress symptoms with as much detail as possible.