Anxiety, Stress & Depression Treatment In Swansea
Our current “always on” society gives us little time to just escape and “be”. Even a quiet walk in the country or by the sea can be interrupted by Facebook updates and text messages. This downtime is important for our health and creativity. Studies have shown that the unconscious mind is better at problem solving than the conscious mind.
Our brains also need downtime to process the thoughts and emotions from the day. Depriving ourselves of this downtime can lead to stress and anxiety as we struggle to cope with the demands of a hectic daily life.
- Did you know?
Research from University of York found acupuncture better than standard NHS treatment for depression. It faired even better when paired with talking therapies such as counselling or psychology.
Historically stress is a short term response to a potential life threatening situation. In hunter-gatherer days this may have included being attacked by wild animals. In small doses and in the right situation stress is useful. Blood pressure rises as blood and oxygen are sent to the muscles and brain to improve function. The process of digestion and saliva production are shut down. After all who needs to digest food when your very survival is threatened?
These are useful responses to a short term threat.
And indeed small doses of short term stress have been shown to boost the immune system. It mildly stresses our body which adapts and becomes stronger as a result.
Chronic stress, however, is a destructive force. Stress raises cortisol a hormone that raises blood sugar levels and cuts off functions that are not needed in a fight or flight situation – digestion, immunity & repair. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to understand the damage to your health resulting from high blood sugar levels and poorly functioning immune and digestive system.
One of the UK’s leading doctors has recognised this, warning that stress from overwork represents a ticking mental health time-bomb.
The Link Between Overwork and Mental Health Problems
One of the UK’s top doctors claimed that overwork is leading to an increase in mental health problems. Professor John Aston claimed that the high pressure, high stress lives that we lead is damaging to our health and relationships. Many of todays illnesses such as anxiety and depression can be triggered by the stress induced from overworking.
Ashton called for the introduction of a four day working week. Whilst many may welcome the idea, the practicalities of loosing 20% of your income may not be so welcome. So whats the solution?
Insulate Yourself From Stress
One of the key factors on how much a stressful event affects you, so stresses you out, is both its magnitude (how important it is to you) and duration.
Another key component is the control you have over the stressful event. If you predict its coming and prepare for it, it tends to have less of an impact on your health. If however you feel powerless the stressful event can feel bigger and have more of an impact on you.
Some stressful events just can’t be avoided, so how do we minimise them?
Stressful events tend to be easier to cope when we have our emotional needs met and when we have effective coping mechanisms in place.
Ensure Your Emotional Needs Are Met
- Have control over your day to day living and ultimate destiny. As much as possible the more you control your life the happier you will be.
- Connect emotionally to others. Its important to be able to share your troubles with friendly ears. Its equally important that these friendly ears are more focused on listening rather than dispensing advice. Unsolicited advice can often be perceived as criticism.
- Play a part in the community. Isolation in general is not good for either psychological or physical health. The paradox being that often when stressed, depressed or anxious you just don’t want to go out and see people. Any road to recovery will involve pushing through this barrier and connecting.
- Privacy. Whilst connection to others is very important, the ability to find some “me” time is essential for relaxation and processing emotions and thoughts. Just make sure you don’t spend too much time on your own. That time can be mis-spent in self-reflection and brooding.
- Sense of Status and Competence. Feeling good at your job or respected and accepted within your peer group. If your job isn’t your thing indulge a hobby or interest that gives you that sense of competence; be that fitness, baking or DIY.
- Meaning & Purpose. I think perhaps this should be number 1. A strong sense of purpose can render all other emotional needs void. A prime example of this is Nelson Mandella, locked away on Robben Island for years for his anti-apartheid beliefs.Whilst others may have crumbled from the extreme stress of hard manual labour and isolation, his beliefs and sense of purpose kept him going. Its a hard hypothesis to prove as its difficult to accurately measure resolve, but from my clinical experience patients that believe they can get better and take control of their health care often have the best outcomes.
Adopt Useful Coping Mechanisms
Assuming you have your emotional needs met to some degree its then important you have some coping mechanisms. These are little things you do to avoid a stressful situation from overpowering you and knocking you down emotionally. Here are some suggestions.
Its useful to choose a few of these and make sure you’re practicing them regularly when the stress hits.
- Get a dog. Touching and stroking a pet lowers stress levels by raising oxytocin. Walking them gives you important exercise and forms stress-lowering social ties as you meet people when you’re out and about.
- Exercise. Exercising releases feel-good endorphins. Its important to remain mindful that all exercise is not created equal. Teresa Liu- Ambrose at the University of British Colombia has unearthed some exciting new findings. I’ll briefly summarise them here. Aerobic exercise can help enlarge the hippocampus, improve memory and fight against Alzheimer’s. Weight lifting releases a molecule (IGF1) that improves executive function processes such as planning and problem solving. Yoga reduces stress by shrinking the amygdala – the primitive part of the brain responsible for processing fear and anxiety (according to a study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital).Got an injury that prevents exercise – try walking. Walking releases feel good dopamine and pain killing endocannabinoids. One caveat. You’ll only be rewarded if the walk involves some level of exploration, absorbing your senses.
- The Breath. How often have you fully focused on your breath? Could you tell me how far down towards your lungs you are aware of your breath? What does the temperature of the air feel like when you inhale? And the exhale? Where precisely expands and contracts in your body when you inhale and exhale? Abdomen? Upper chest? shoulders?If you can’t answer these questions spend a couple of minutes absorbed in your breath. It’s keeping you alive after all.
- Breathing (during an anxiety attack). Stressed and anxious people often breathe quickly and bring in too much oxygen. This over-oxygenation sucks out precious carbon dioxide from your lungs. Contrary to popular belief carbon dioxide is not the enemy. You need a certain amount of it to get oxygen into tissues. If you’re suffering a panic attack or feel like you’re hyper-ventilating try the following to get some of that carbon dioxide back:Breathe in for 3 seconds and out for 6. If 6 is too much reduce the exhale to 4. The important thing here is to not to increase the panic level. Breathe into a paper bag. If you’re sure you have a healthy heart – run up and down some steps several times. Why? You’re experiencing a fight or flight response. By running you’re putting the nervous energy to its intended use.
- Prioritise: Often stress can come from a feeling of being overwhelmed by the number of tasks you have to do. Write a list and prioritise the tasks, then tick them off as you go. Remember you can only control things you have control over so some tasks may not be achievable. Make the list achievable.
- Talk: Talking your problem through with a friend can be very useful. Be sure that you choose your friend wisely. Unsolicited advice is often perceived as criticism.
- Smile & Be Thankful. Studies have shown that smiling reduces your likelihood of feeling down. Feeling glum? Try this novel experiment:Place a pencil in your mouth making sure its lengthwise so the ends are touching each corner of your mouth. Now don’t let the pencil touch your mouth at all. This forces a smile which can trick your brain into feeling happy. Now write down three things that you’re thankful for. No matter how bad your day you can always be thankful of something – your family, partner, the food on your table, the sun, or even the rain.
Cultivate this practice and you may notice the blues slowly receding as you learn to appreciate all the often hidden positives in your life.
- Touch. A massage not only de-stresses but the “touch” element can release oxytocin to make you feel better.
- Meditate. The benefits of meditation are massive with trials showing lower rates of depression, heart disease & improved attention. Be careful though. For small minority mindfulness can unearth unwanted feelings.In this case it may be more useful to look outside your own body rather than inside. Walk somewhere familiar and try and spot as many new things about the area as you can. This forces you to open your eyes and connect with the present moment.
How Does Acupuncture make you feel better?
As an acupuncturist I look at my patients as a whole. I look at all aspects of patients health to ascertain why you may be feeling anxious or depressed. One person’s anxiety may manifest very differently to anothers. One persons depression or low mood may be triggered by very different stimulus to anthers. As an acupuncturist I treat my patients as individuals meaning that it is very rare for any person to have the same treatment plan as another. Its this individual treatment, rather than one size fits all treatment that can lead to significant improvements in health.
How Does Acupuncture Work For Stress?
Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically benefit anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety by:
- Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the analytical brain, which is responsible for anxiety (Hui 2010; Hui 2009);
- Improving stress induced memory impairment (Kim 2011);
- Regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) and hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine and GABA. This alters the brains mood chemistry and helps to combat negative emotional states (Lee 2009; Cheng 2009; Zhou 2008);
- Activating the parasympathetic nervous system which combats stress-induced stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, leading to deep states of relaxation..
- Reversing pathological changes in levels of inflammatory cytokines that are associated with stress reactions (Arranz 2007);
About The Author, Acupuncturist Tim Wright, Swansea
I have a BSc Honours degree in acupuncture, a License to practice acupuncture, am a full member of the British Acupuncture Council and have a licence to practice from Swansea County Council. I trained at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine in Reading and was fortunate enough to have been supervised by some of the best acupuncturists in Europe, including Peter Mole and Angela Hicks.
If you would like to discuss more or book a treatment please contact me on 01792 366288 or email email@example.com.