Countless undesirable events are a part of everyday life. A flat tire on a busy roadway, short on cash before payday, an unexpectedly busy day at work, or a broken furnace in the middle of winter can create stress. There are life events that take an extra toll on one’s mind and body. The loss of a loved one, a devastating medical diagnosis, a move to a new State, or a new life event can push a person to their breaking point.
Anxiety can strike anyone at any time. Nobody is immune, and it is not something to be ashamed of. The trick with anxiety is to know when you are dealing with it, and when you have it, but are not dealing with it. That is when you have to ask for help. According to Errington-Evans (2012), “Anxiety is defined as The apprehensive anticipation of future danger or misfortune accompanied by a feeling of dysphoria or somatic symptoms of tension. The focus of anticipated danger may be internal or external.”
How does one deal with anxiety? Everyone has a different method. I find that a good first step is to take a page from the TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Phone a friend. Sometimes just talking through a problem can be immensely helpful. Holistic Therapies can be a good compliment to talking the problem through. Techniques such as acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, and meditation can be invaluable and beneficial when you’re being pushed to the limit.
Acupuncture is a clinically verified, widely used holistic practice based on the concept of Qi. Qi is a vital life force of energy flowing throughout the body along specific pathways called meridians (Pilkington, 2010). An interruption along one or more of these meridians disrupts Qi, thus resulting in illness, stress, and other detrimental effects on the body. Using a variety of methods, acupuncture aims to reduce these interruptions and restore the beneficial flow of Qi throughout the body. According to Pilkingtion (2010), “Clinical trials of acupuncture for depression first appeared in the medical literature in the mid 1980s. By the end of the 1990s, a
sufficient number of studies had been published to justify a closer analysis. In 2002, a review of clinical studies concluded that acupuncture appeared promising as a treatment for depression.” One of the studies out of China, reference in this article stated that acupuncture was found to be virtually equivalent to antidepressants in treating anxiety and depression in the study population.
Massage therapy has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of conditions. The technique of massage that helps with anxiety involves a light pressure massage. Whereas deep tissue massage is effective in relieving muscular issues, light pressure has been found to be an effective relieve for stress, a proverbial tonic for the mind. According to Billhult and Maatta, a 2007 Swedish study found that the respondents noted that the period of unconditional attention during the massage produced profound relaxation of the mind and body. This resulted in a reduction in anxiety and an increase in self-confidence after the sessions.
Yoga involves using meditation and physical poses to unite the mind, body and spirit. “Many people think that yoga is just stretching. But while stretching is certainly involved, yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility. This is done through the performance of poses or postures, each of which has specific physical benefits” (Pizer, 2014). Meditation can be defined as “being attentive to the fluctuations of your mind. Most of the time, we completely identify with our own thoughts, meaning there is no separation between the thoughts and the thinker. Meditation begins to break down this relationship” (Pizer, 2013). A study reported in the Journal of Chinese Medicine (2011) detailed the chemical changes that occur in the brain due to Yoga and Meditation. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain contributes to the regulation of neuronal activity. These are the nerve-conducting cells in the brain and spinal column. Medications are commonly prescribed to improve mood and decrease anxiety. Yoga and meditation are a natural method of increasing GABA, thus improving mood and decreasing anxiety without medications.
Not every holistic therapy will work for every person. If you are unsure of what will work for you, or if you have severe depression or thoughts of suicide, you should immediately consult your physician. For many however, acupuncture, massage, yoga and meditation can be the “magic bullet” for controlling the anxiety and stress that come from life’s extraordinary obstacles.
John Napolitano is a Registered Nurse and Licensed Massage Therapist. He is the owner of Napolitano Massage Therapy and has been practicing massage for almost 20 years. Napolitano Massage Therapy specializes in treatment of illness, injury and severe stress for both adult and pediatric clients. John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Billhult, A. & Maatta, S. (2009). Light Pressure Massage for Patients with Severe Anxiety. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 15, 96 – 101.
Errington-Evans, N. (2011). Acupuncture for Anxiety. CNS Neurosciences and Therapeutics, 18, 277 – 284.
Journal of Chinese Medicine. (2011). Yoga Boosts Anti-Anxiety Brian Chemical, Journal of Chinese Medicine, 95, p. 78.
Pilkington, K. (2010). Anxiety, Depression and Acupuncture: A Review of the Clinical Research. Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical, 157, 91 – 95.
Pizer, A. (2013). Meditation for Beginners. Retrieved from www.about.com.
Pizer, A. (2014). What is Yoga? Retrieved from www.about.com.