I think it is safe to say, we all know what it feels like; it is just the degree of severity that might differ. Anxiety is one of the most common reasons that people seek assistance through acupuncture. It can present as a feeling of being unsettled, at one end of the spectrum, to a paralysing dread at the other. In essence it is a trepidation, a state of alarm, that occurs ahead of some expected event or experience, for which we feel ill-equipped.
Anxiety might strike in a localised, heightened fashion as a ‘panic attack’, leading to nervousness, feeling ‘on edge’, heart palpitations, chest tension and/or pain, sweating, shallow and fast breathing, and shakiness. Psychologically we may feel ‘out of our depth’. Equally anxiety may entail confusion, disorientation, nervousness, dread, fear, or irritability.
Social anxiety is triggered by interpersonal contact and this is indeed prevalent amongst many of the younger generation in this day and age. Not a nice state of affairs; anxiety diminishes confidence, lowers self-esteem and eats away at our quality of life.
An approach to anxiety utilising acupuncture, massage and specific counselling
Acupuncture therapy can profoundly calm and soothe the nervous system responses to anxiety. The traditional Chinese energetic terminologies for such a treatment could include: to ‘harmonise the liver qi, tonify the heart qi or harmonise the shen’. Whilst the needles are in place, I find it very effective to massage areas around the jaw, forehead, temple, and upper shoulders to unlock and relax key upper body areas of chronic tension.
A counselling approach explores the very nature of the anxiety, knowing it occurs differently for each individual. Exploring and dismantling long-term habits of mind, to gather an understanding of how this mindset has been useful in the past but has become redundant in the present. Solution-focused brief therapy is a useful approach, as it focuses us on what to do in the present moment to move towards our preferred future, where anxiety has less influence. By also utilising mindfulness techniques, we are enabled to become more ‘present-minded’, more ‘sensory-grounded’ and therefore less vulnerable to worry and anxious thinking.
The acupuncture point ‘Yintang’, known to influence anxiety. I often find myself pressing in here, between the eyebrows, with both thumbs, when I am working at my desk. For me this is a ‘gathering’ (of concentration) and mentally relaxing point. In clinic, I needle it on every anxious person. You can gently massage here to stimulate this point.
It is useful to keep in mind that we have control only over what is occurring in the moment, so this is where we need to concentrate all our attention. Energy spent imagining what lies in the future is a waste of precious resources.
I must share a memory from when I was a lad and stayed with my grandparents on holidays. My grandfather, whom I later discovered suffered from manic-depression, had a tool shed. In a frame on the wall was a message that read-
‘Why worry? Your worst fears will never happen’.
For some reason this little gem has stayed with me for the last 55 years. So far it has proven to be accurate.
Michael is available for appointments on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Bardon Counselling and Therapies Centre. Call the Centre on 07 3368-1300, or Michael on 0411 537 394, to make an appointment and discover ways to enhance your quality of life.
Randomised controlled trial on the use of acupuncture in adults with chronic, non-responding anxiety symptoms. Acup Med. 2015 Apr;33(2):98-102.
A UK pilot study suggests that acupuncture may be a promising intervention for patients with chronic anxiety symptoms that have proven resistant to other forms of treatment. These improvements were maintained after 10 weeks of follow-up in each group
Effectiveness of Acupuncture Therapy on Stress in a Large Urban College Population. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2017 Jun;10(3):165-170.
This study indicates that acupuncture may be successful in decreasing the perception of stress in students and staff at a large urban university, and this effect persists for at least three months after the completion of treatment.
A randomised controlled trial examining the effect of acupuncture at the EX-HN3 (Yintang) point on pre-operative anxiety levels in neurosurgical patients.
Anaesthesia. 2017 Mar;72(3):335-342.
Acupuncture reduces pre-operative anxiety levels in patients awaiting neurosurgery, according to a British research team
Acupuncture and electroacupuncture for anxiety disorders: A systematic review of the clinical research.
Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2018 May;31:31-37.
A systematic review * carried out in Portugal concludes that there is good scientific evidence encouraging the use of acupuncture therapy to treat anxiety disorders.