Stressed Out? Try Acupuncture.
A good friend of mine regularly undergoes acupuncture. She tells me that it’s not only therapeutic but relaxing to sit in a chair with needles sticking into her body.
Living in Vancouver, BC, when someone tells me she enjoys a needle in her arm, my mind doesn’t immediately think of acupuncture…
On a more serious note, the idea of adopting acupuncture as an regular, preventative therapy for healthy people hadn’t occurred to me! Moreover, I hadn’t considered that the experience itself could be pleasurable rather than painful.
My familiarity and experience with acupuncture is extremely limited.
Before recently, the only acupuncture experience I had was in childhood; my mother, avidly interested in the healing practices of the East, took my brother and I to get acupuncture treatment a few times. I believe she was hoping to cure my brother’s allergies and brought me along as the unwitting control group.
The prospect of having a stranger jab me in the back with needles was unappealing, but, after the needles were in me, it was less painful and more meditative than anticipated.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t in tune with my body at that age, so I didn’t reach a clear conclusion on how helpful or hurtful the treatment was.
I do, however, remember my brother falling asleep and snoring loudly, just minutes after the needles went in!
How bizarre that after a seemingly painful and damaging experience (poked by needles) that one should enter such a deep and relaxed slumber!
Which brings us to our main point…
Parasympathetic Activation / Stress Reduction
I don’t yet know whether acupuncture can be used as a precision tool (to heal specific organs, etc), but I am absolutely sure that it evokes a powerful parasympathetic nervous system response.
I went in for my first session since childhood recently and I wasn’t expecting my body to react so strongly and suddenly.
During the first session, I fell completely asleep within minutes. As one would expect from a nap, I awoke feeling recharged. What differentiated this from a normal nap was the incredible feeling of relaxation and well-being that had come over me.
The sensation was amazing. It felt as if my worldly concerns had melted away.
Not bad for a few needles and no drug use!
Muscular Relaxation / Athletic Recovery
During the second session, I entered a meditative state and observed my body unconsciously relaxing. I first let out some gas I had been holding onto (sorry, neighbors!) as my stomach relaxed, and then felt the muscles of my body gradually loosen up and release metabolites.
For me, this loosening and releasing process usually takes hours (often overnight), but the needles compressed the schedule to minutes! It was bizarre to watch my body rapidly move from tension to relaxation, prompted by ten small needles in the extremities of my body.
For my the third session, I had injured my back and was concerned that it would be many days before I’d be able to resume my exercise regimen.
Amazingly, I could feel the acupuncture working directly on the injury, and I was able to perform a light workout the following day!
Why This Matters
As a bit of a workaholic, I love the sensation of a cortisol high. Stress? Bring it ON! I find it a lot of fun to feel like I’m running on adrenaline. It reminds me that I’m alive!
Unfortunately, researchers are finding that chronically elevated cortisol levels have many adverse health effects, from adrenal fatigue to brain damage!
Moreover, activation of parasympathetic nervous system is vital for the development of repair and development of the body. You won’t be able to properly recover from your workouts if you’re on a cortisol high all the time.
Thus, if we want to take good care of our health for the long term, it’s important to have activities in our lives that bring us down from the cortisol high.
Comparison to Alternatives
While it’s possible that acupuncture has other effects, I’m currently viewing it primarily as a means of activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
In this regard, acupuncture is surprisingly potent.
Floating (Sensory deprivation tank): For me, acupuncture significantly outperforms floating (sensory deprivation tank). It’s possible that others may have a better experience. I know that my unnaturally-high resting body heat makes the warm water of a deprivation tank quite uncomfortable, so I do end up expending a certain amount of energy and focus managing my body temperature and comfort during the first 50-60% of a tank session.
CBD Oil: From my limited experience with CBD, my feeling is that acupuncture is slightly more effective than CBD oil.
Effectiveness aside, I prefer acupuncture because:
A. I’ve had trouble finding CBD oil that is entirely THC free. I usually end up getting high off of the trace amounts of THC due to my high level of sensitivity to the substance. No good.
B. The chemicals involved in acupuncture are all produced by one’s own body, rather than introduced from an external source. I’m also a bit concerned about what this might mean in terms of acclimating to CBD. Would I become dependent? Unsure.
I may conduct further experiments with CBD to fine-tune my feelings on the substance, but I feel no urgency to do so.
Napping: I find that napping is a bit of a crapshoot. Sometimes, a nap is exactly what I need to repair my body and to reduce my excitement level. However, if my stress levels are high, I find that it can be either A. hard to nap, or B. the nap doesn’t result in a significant parasympathetic activation, so while I may have caught some sleep, it seems that the body is still in “alert mode.”
Meditation: There may be some gurus out there who are able to achieve a parasympathetic activation on par with that on meditation, but so far I have been unable to. I find that meditation is less effective than acupuncture, CBD, and floating. It’s approximately on the order of a nap, for me.
I may spend more time fine-tuning my use of meditation for bodily recovery because I’m fascinated at exploring practical uses of the mind-body connection.
Call to Action
You likely have an acupuncture clinic nearby.
In my area (Vancouver, BC), there are dedicated acupuncture clinics and I do know of naturopathic doctors who offer the service.
Believe it or not, but I’ve bought a 1-hr acupuncture session for as cheap as $20 CAD!
There’s an organization known as POCA, which is a coalition of clinics which offer affordable acupuncture services. Jump on their site and see if there’s a clinic near you.
Please try it out and let me know what you think?
David Kay has dedicated his life to the elevation of human consciousness. He writes on software, tech entrepreneurship, and transhumanism. If you found this article helpful, join his weekly newsletter.