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Combating Feelings of Holiday Stress, Anxiety and Depression with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

By: Sharon Sherman M.S., L.OM., D.OM.

While the holidays are depicted in movies as a time of idyllic serenity and joy, we have all felt the realities of holiday stress.  Financial concerns, gift giving, busy schedules, family obligations, weight gain and lack of exercise all play into the “holiday cheer”.  These pressures can affect us physically, emotionally and spiritually often leading to anxiety and depression.   Acupuncture and Chinese medicine provide a unique perspective and intervention for these common seasonal difficulties.

Anxiety comes in a wide range of manifestations, from mild worrying to more physical responses such as nausea, insomnia, shortness of breath and panic attacks.  Some anxiety is a healthy response to the stress of daily life and new situations; however, anxiety that occurs randomly or excessively is a sign to take notice.  Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help balance both the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety and help to create harmony and spaciousness.

From an acupuncture and Chinese medicine perspective, many manifestations of anxiety can be traced back to the energetic concert between the heart and kidneys.  The temperament of the heart is fiery, expansive and upward.  From a Chinese medicine standpoint, it exhibits yang characteristics.  The dynamic terrain of the kidneys are on the other end of the Chinese medicine continuum.  The kidneys’ energetic character is fluid, inward and contemplative, exhibiting a yin nature.  If there is too much fire, we may experience symptoms of anxiety and agitation of the mind.

It is estimated that 20% of the population is depressed at some point in life.  Common symptoms of depression during holiday time include a sense of apathy, cynicism or anger toward the holiday season, isolation from festivities and holiday traditions, crying spells and over-consumption of food and/or alcohol.  Depression may be compounded in some people by SAD, seasonal affective disorder  – a type of depression associated with the low light conditions experienced during the winter months.

In acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the liver’s job is to negotiate the free flow of energy in the body.  Impaired liver function can lead to inappropriate jams, limited availability of resources and sluggishness.  In acupuncture and Chinese medicine this condition is often referred to as liver depression and qi stagnation.  The “depression” is the body’s reduced ability to move its resources.  Stagnation occurs when the lack of energy to circulate needed supplies becomes obstructed.  This can cause sleep and digestive complaints, musculoskeletal pain and emotional instability.  Acupuncture and Chinese medicine offer effective strategies to remedy the depressed energy and to move the resulting stagnation, leading to better health and outlook.

While modern life has helped make so many aspects of daily living easier, many people still suffer from emotional distress especially around the Holiday season.  Subsequently, anxiety, increased stress and depression are some of the most common conditions affecting individuals during this eventful season.  Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are effective and safe tools to help smooth and balance what can be a challenging time of the year even under the best circumstances.

About the Author
Sharon Sherman is a Licensed Practitioner of Oriental Medicine (L.OM.) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania specializing in Acupuncture, Chinese Herbology and Oriental Medicine. Sharon is the founder of Empirical Point, LLC. a private Philadelphia acupuncture practice with offices in Chestnut Hill and Center City. Sharon graduated with honors and holds a Masters of Science degree in Oriental Medicine from the Tri-State College of Acupuncture in New York, NY.  Sharon is Board certified as a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine.  For more information about Sharon's practice and additional articles on Chinese medicine visit the Philadelphia Acupuncture Blog.

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