This past year has been hugely difficult for so many reasons. For some, the stress of not seeing loved ones or worrying about them has been overwhelming. For others, the loss of work or financial instability has led to anxiety about how they will pay the bills. For some, this period has allowed them to slow down, reconnect with themselves, their kids, their animals and their homes, and has been a sort of respite from the day-to-day rat race. For others, especially those with school-aged children, juggling their children’s mental health, education and their own work and sanity has proved nearly impossible.
How can some of the principles of acupuncture and holistic wellness help as we attempt to transition back to a semi-normal life? What lessons can we extract from our time in semi or complete isolation from our regular routines? And what about those who would prefer NOT to go back to “normal”? How can they move forward?
The most important lesson we can learn from the pandemic is that there is no “normal”. “Normal” is whatever we want it to be. Did you find you enjoyed being home more? Maybe there are ways you can make that happen on a more permanent basis, by working remotely or cutting back hours. Did you find it enjoyable to spend more time with your family? Try and find ways to incorporate more family time into your week, even if that means just cooking a meal together on Sundays and playing a board game.
Is your anxiety greater than it was when the pandemic began? Or less? For many people, returning to their routine can be a relief. But for others, it can be a source of anxiety. And much as they wish the pandemic never happened, there were aspects of the slowing down and the staying home that…they actually appreciated.
Try and pinpoint exactly what is causing your anxiety: is it because you actually hate your job? Is it because you’ve enjoyed being home more and the idea of being in the office for “regular hours” again is unpleasant? Is it because you’ve seen that what you accepted as normal and neccesary might be something you can change? Once you’ve pinpointed the source of your anxiety, try and write down a few ideas of how you might change what you considered to be “normal”.
On a more practical level, I have some suggestions to help manage your anxiety right here and right now:
Tapping (also known as Emotional Freedom Technique): this is a technique rooted in Chinese medical channel theory, using acupuncture points to help release tension and retrain the brain to think about stressful things in a different way. I find it extremely useful when my mind is trapped in a negative loop; it helps break through that repetitiveness and allow me to see the situation is a new, more helpful, light. My favorite Youtube channel is Brad Yates’; he has many videos to guide you through every conceivable worry or fear you might have. Visit his channel here.
Acupuncture (you knew I was going to suggest this one, didnt you?) Certain acupuncture points are very useful for calming down an over-anxious mind and body. When I am suffering from a period of anxiety, I needle the following points daily: Heart 7, Heart 8, Du 20, Du24, and Kd 3. PC4 is a good addition if you fear social interaction or social anxiety. Add Stomach 36 if you have low energy and depression. If you feel anger, irritability either towards yourself or other, the Four Gates (Liver 3 and LI4) is a staple. GB25 along the side of the body helps release built up tension and worry that might manifest as an outwardly aggressive demeanor.
George Soulie de Mourant, one of my favorite teachers, wrote that if you have “fear as though you were going to be captured” needle GB24 and Kd1…I’ve never had a patient explain their anxiety in this way, but if you have felt this way I’d love to hear from you and try this combo out!
Tuning Fork Therapy (Sound Therapy): This is a modality I have begun incorporating into some of my sessions only in the past year, after a fantastic experience I had with tuning forks. By using different tuning forks on different points of the body, it almost felt like my body was “rebalancing” itself. After the session, I felt calm, peaceful and confident.
Exercise: You’ve heard it a million times, but exercise is the absolute best thing you can do right now to alleviate anxiety. A brisk walk outside, a swim in the ocean, a yoga class (I like Yoga with Adriene on Youtube) or a jog. If you are a member of a gym, lift some weights–they’re under-rated as a way of managing anxiety.
Crafts: Finding a craft you enjoy can help get your mind out of the spiral of never-ending circular thoughts, and lead you to a place of calm. Some crafts that my patients and I enjoy are knitting, crochet, paint by numbers or diamond painting, gardening (either indoors in pots or outdoors), doodling or zentangling and cross-stitch. Find a craft or hobby that allows you to “let go of the demon mind” and become completely absorbed.
I hope this has proved useful to those of you experiencing anxiety, and please reach out to me at 772-266-8165 if you’re interested in acupuncture and related treatments.