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When Stress Is The Diagnosis

Over the years, I've seen many patients come for treatment who have been to numerous doctors who cannot figure out why the patient is experiencing symptoms. Their blood work and tests all have normal results, yet the patient doesn't feel well. In some cases, these patients eventually do receive a diagnosis from a Western doctor or a treatment strategy that resolves the symptoms even without a diagnosis. However, there are some cases where symptoms persist and doctors can't explain why except to say the symptoms are due to stress.

Sometimes, patients are relieved to receive a diagnosis of stress because they haven't been diagnosed with a challenging disease and they feel they can find ways to reduce the effects of stress. In other cases, patients struggle to accept that stress is causing their symptoms. The truth is stress can cause a number of symptoms, including pain, palpitations, insomnia, high blood pressure, dizziness, headache, digestive issues, muscle tension, and a weak immune system (frequently getting colds for example). Any one of these symptoms that persists can lead a patient to seek a Western diagnosis, and ultimately being diagnosed with stress can be surprising.

Sometimes it's difficult to reduce the number of demands we have at one time. It's difficult juggling work and family, especially when significant unexpected events arise. Though an obvious solution to stress relief might be to work less and find someone else to take care of the things that are difficult, that's often not a feasible solution. What can make things easier is incorporating these things regularly:

1. Mindfulness. Mindfulness has been shown to not only significantly reduce the effects of stress but also decrease anxiety. Spending a minimum of 10 minutes every morning practicing mindfulness techniques can help set you up for an easier day. To learn how to practice mindfulness, join me in one of my classes or sign up for my winter series.

2. Acupuncture. The more stress one endures, the more likely their nervous system will create a pattern of chronic stress response. Acupuncture is a great tool for resetting the nervous system. Acupuncture is also wonderful for treating all of the symptoms of stress. Sometimes during high stress periods, it is worth taking the time to have treatment once or twice per week.

3. Gratitude. Practicing gratitude has been shown to ease the effects of stress. It's easy to practice gratitude. Simply think of or write down 5 things for which you are grateful. These things can be simple, such as the water pressure in your shower, or more complex, such as the friendship you've been developing with your neighbor.

4. Nature. Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce anxiety. Even when the weather is unfavorable, it's worth bundling up and going outside for 15-20 minutes. Take a walk in your neighborhood. Notice the trees and the shrubs. Notice the birds. Obviously, if there's a storm, wait until it is safe to venture out.

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