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Is it Stress, or is it Anxiety?

We’ve all dealt with stress. And in the past year, probably much more than before. And for those of you who have had anxiety for a while, this past year may have really ramped up the anxiety levels. But what’s the difference between the two?

Stress is the body’s reaction to a difficult situation. This could be anything from an argument with a family member, to a work situation. The body’s physical reaction to this can give us symptoms like stomach discomfort, headaches/migraines, irritability or anger, lack of focus, and fatigue.

Anxiety is defined by persistent worries that don’t go away even after a stressor is no longer present, and may in fact kick in when there is no stressor at all. The symptoms of anxiety are wide ranging, and have sent many to the emergency room thinking they may be having a heart attack. Symptoms can include chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, racing thoughts, insomnia, stomach pain, digestive problems, irritability, lack of focus and fatigue.

If you’re experiencing either of these and you’re having problems managing them, acupuncture is a great option, especially if you find yourself self-medicating (alcohol, food, drugs, etc), or trying to find ways to manage the issue without medication. The majority of people with anxiety actually respond quickly to acupuncture treatment! Acupuncture can help your body moderate your emotions, calm the racing thoughts, help you sleep at night, ease breathing, reduce physical pains, and give you a sense of peace and calm. At first you may notice the results of the treatment only last a few hours or a day or two, but after consistent and regular treatment the length of time you feel the reduced anxiety will get longer, and the amount of relief will get greater. And this response is similar for those trying to better manage their body’s reaction to chronic stress.

The beautiful thing about this treatment is that it works wonderfully alongside therapy and/or medication. For those of you on medication for anxiety, you may have noticed that it works quite well, but there are still flare ups of anxiety, or remaining lower levels of anxiety that you would like to eliminate. Acupuncture may be the key to reducing that remaining level of anxiety you are still experiencing.

If your therapist is providing you with tools and techniques to help yourself better manage your anxiety or stress levels, but your anxiety/stress level is so high you can’t focus enough to practice those techniques then it’s difficult to use them. But with acupuncture helping to bring those levels down a bit, it becomes easier to practice those tools/techniques when your anxiety level is lower, so that when you really need them you already know what to do.

Meanwhile, here’s a good grounding technique to help you out when you feel your anxiety level peaking. It’s a way to distract your mind and get it back into the present moment.

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