It is so interesting to me what causes people to finally decide it’s time to try acupuncture. You would think that things like back pain, headaches, and maybe some digestive issues would top the list of reasons, and for the most part they do. However, there is a fair percentage of people who finally succumb to the needles because it’s messing with their golf game or ruining their tennis serve. There is also a number of people who seek out acupuncture because they’re stressed and irritable and it’s impacting their personal relationships.
Certainly there is an air of desperation with many people who come to acupuncture for the first time. However, those irritable folks are interesting because their symptoms are affecting not only them, but also their loved ones. The typical scenario is that their life is stressful; they may be in a crappy job, their kids are sick, co-workers are annoying, they’re caring for aging parents, or a similar situation. They’ve tried to cope as best they can, but somewhere along the line, the stress takes its toll, and coping becomes harder and harder to do. They’re short with their partners, snap at their kids, and are impatient even standing in line at the bank.
What’s happening here? Well, in Chinese medicine, stress ties you up in knots. You feel like you have no control over the situation, your digestion begins to suffer, good sleep gets harder to come by, and you feel…overwhelmed and on edge. A frequent by-product of stress in Chinese medicine is heat. Sometimes you actually feel hot and even thirsty, but sometimes that heat just speeds things up. You may become restless, your mind races, and you feel impatient because the world isn’t moving as fast as you are. That heat and impatience translates into irritability–the voice inside you that bites your kid’s head off and snaps at your co-workers.
And yes, acupuncture can help slow things down, clear the heat, and relive your irritability. While it may seem odd that a session on the acupuncture table could do all that, there is actually an explanation from the Western scientific world. Acupuncture changes the chemistry in your brain–in a good way. It increases the circulation of endorphins and other neurotransmitters that actually calm you down. In addition, acupuncture slows down your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight or flight response that kicks in when you are stressed or feel threatened.
So, if your life is stressful to the point of making you irritable, you have some choices. You can keep it up and try to cope, you can try to change the situation, or you can do something about how you feel. The people I see in my acupuncture clinic have decided that their loved ones trump everything else, and they do something about it. What about you?