By Natasha Kubis,
Most clients that end up on my treatment table for acupuncture are dealing with some level of stress and its unhealthy impact. Often, “stress” is not listed as their chief complaint, but symptoms like insomnia, body tension, upset stomach, feelings of anxiety, or depression, are of primary concern. In fact, I have never performed a session that did not include acupuncture points for calming the mind. With the average American working 44 hours per week, it can be said that we live in a homo industrious landscape. Chronic stress can result from the challenge of balancing our work and home life, as well as our relationships with family and friends. Prioritizing our own self care rarely makes the cut. This imbalance is a major trigger for ongoing stress accumulation in the body, which can cause or exacerbate serious health problems, including psychological disorders, sleep issues, digestive conditions, a weakened immune system, and cardiovascular issues.
The stress response in the body is meant to be an innate survival tactic, reserved for dangerous situations. This response allows the body to prepare to face a threat or flee to safety. In these situations, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, and your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity—all functions aimed at survival and in response to stress. In our modern, workaholic society, long-term stress is all too common for most individuals, and as we try to keep up with daily demands, the body never receives a clear signal to return to normal and relaxed functioning.
I experienced the impact of chronic stress firsthand while living in NYC. During that time, I was averaging 40 clients a week as a solo practitioner, while traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan to my home visits and offices. I would leave my apartment at 7:30am and get home by 10pm, eating most of my meals on the subway, or inhaling them as I was briskly walking (which probably looked more like jogging to non-New Yorkers) between appointments. My mind and body felt like they were always running, similar to the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I was so burnt out from all that rushing around that I would fall into bed from exhaustion only to find myself lying wide awake and unable to sleep at night. It got to the point where feeling both tired and wired was my “normal” state, and I learned to function on 0-4 hours of sleep. I was treating people to help them decompress from their stress, and at the same time, I was running on empty. My insomnia worsened, as did my anxiety, heart palpitations, stomach pains, joint pains, and then voila . . . autoimmune issues came to the surface, and I was down for the count. My body was yelling at me to stop and pay attention to what it needed. My focus was always on the needs of my clients, my family, my business, and my friends. I had reached a moment in my life where I had no other choice but to include myself on my own priority list, and take care of my body and mind in order to continue to be of service to my community. For me, those changes involved moving to a more peaceful living environment, incorporating more yoga into my week, using talk therapy as a place to vent, ensuring that I stopped work by 6pm to create a healthy work schedule, carving out time for a proper meal, creating healthy boundaries, and working on improving my sleep patterns. Doing these things not only made me feel better and alleviated most of my symptoms; it also reenergized me, and made me a better support to the people in my life.
August is National Wellness Month and a good reminder to take time each day to nurture our mental and physical well being in order to be the best versions of ourselves. Research has shown that self care can help manage stress and promote happiness. Here are 31 ideas to consider as wellness exercises for the month of August. It is good practice to help you incorporate self care into your daily life, all year. After all, we should be climbing the mountain of life with ease, not carrying its weight on our shoulders.
31 Days of Wellness
• Be grateful. Think of everything beautiful in your life, and say
• Take 10 minutes to stretch when you wake up, and then again before bed.
• Go outside for a walk or a hike for 10 minutes, or an entire afternoon.
• Make a pot of tea with your favorite flowers like dried roses, lavender, chamomile, or chrysanthemum and inhale the fragrant aromas while you sip it.
• Have some time alone, even if it is just 10 minutes.
• Drink a full 8 glasses of water.
• Meditate for 20 minutes.
• Turn off social media for the day and be present.
• Take a luxurious bath with Epsom salts and bath oils.
• Give yourself a foot massage before bed.
• Experiment with a new workout.
• Organize your calendar, and carve out time for your needs too.
• Turn on music and dance around your house.
• Spend an hour with a novel.
• Cook up a veggie-filled soup and freeze leftovers, so you have meals ahead.
• Make a healthy smoothie with veggies, fruits, and protein (I like
a scoop of almond butter).
• Give your mind a workout with a crossword puzzle or a fun game (Scrabble is my personal fave).
• Spend some time journaling your thoughts, writing a poem, or short story.
• Get in bed without your phone by 9 p.m. and sleep well.
• Go a whole day without foods that have added sugar.
• Spend 20 minutes with a heating pad on your neck, shoulders, or back.
• Spend 10 minutes with deep, focused breathing.
• Try drawing, coloring, or painting with relaxing music.
• Add a green veggie to every meal or snack.
• Have a meal, tea, or a glass of wine with a friend.
• Try to focus on one thing at a time. Be present in the moment.
• Try a yoga class or any class of your choice.
• Treat yourself to fresh flowers.
• Clean out and organize a closet or a room.
• Take yourself on a picnic with a view.
• Find a beautiful spot to watch the sunrise or sunset.
Natasha Kubis is a licensed acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher.
For more information, visit acuwellhealth.com