Western Medicine and Stress

     Stress is the body's reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked, and stress-related tension builds.

     In response to stress, human body reacts with certain biochemical reactions. Stress activates the sympathetic branch of the autonomous nervous system and the release of stress hormones including adrenaline/epinephrine, and cortisol.

     Sympathetic nervous output tends to divert bloodflow to the large muscles—the body 'thinks' it has to run away from something or fight something: the so-called “fight or flight” response and blood flows correspondingly less to the digestive system and other organs that are not immediately needed for a response to the stimulus. We all recognise the effects: dry mouth, motor agitation, sweating, pallor, enlarged pupils, and insomnia. Our modern lifestyle tends to cause continual sympathetic nervous system activation with very little opportunity for the parasympathetic (also called 'vegetative') nervous system to activate.

     When the parasympathetic system is active, the bowel and other non-muscle organs receive good blood-flow, the pupils constrict, and the glands all function well and secrete their various compounds. Absence of the autonomic parasympathetic activation leads to poor digestion and probably also to poor healing and organ function.

     Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress -- a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, panic attacks, dermatological and digestive disorders, chest pain, and problems sleeping, depression, poor concentration and memory loss. There is even evidence that chronic stress can lead to such long-term health problems as hair loss, strokes, asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

     Studies indicate, that seventy-five to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Stress

     According to Oriental tradition of medicine, overthinking, worrying too much, getting angry, frightened or frustrated over significant periods of time might lead to disruption in a smooth flow of vital energy, or Qi. When Qi stagnates, blood and other body fluids lack the energy to move, hence organs and systems stop functioning properly, causing wide range of health problems.

     TCM techniques can remove blockages and promote a smooth flow of Qi, allow it to circulate freely in the body. It can induce a relaxation response, which decreases the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases energy and tissue regeneration, and reduces stress. One feels more relaxed, and digestion improves. As tension is relieved, so are headaches. Instead of being tense and angry, one remains calm, tempers stay even, and blood pressure can even decrease.

     TCM will not, of course, change the circumstances of a person's life. But it can relieve feelings of anxiety or depression. As the heavy feelings of stress are relieved, a person feels more energized, has more confidence in his ability to cope with the negative aspects of life and make necessary changes. This in turn can eliminate dependence on sleeping pills, tranquilizers and antidepressants.