The role of stress and fertility is unclear, and it’s important to remember that stress itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allows us to move faster, think clearer and is essentially a life-preserving response to external stimulus. Life without stress would be unusual indeed as even positive experiences and happiness will elicit a type of stress response in the body – most profoundly the release of the hormone cortisol. This hormone, released by the adrenal glands has a cascade of effects in the body, including but not limited to the following:
Cortisol stimulates gastric-acid secretion. (heartburn, digestive disruption)
Cortisol acts as a diuretic and so affects our water and electrolyte levels. (dehydration)
Cortisol and the stress response have known deleterious effects on the immune system. (sickness, inflammation)
High levels of perceived stress and increases in cortisol have been found to lengthen wound healing time in healthy, male adults. (inflammation, immune response, healing)
Cortisol has been shown to down regulate the synthesis of collagen, an important component of connect tissue in the body. (healing, inflammation)
Cortisol reduces bone formation and so long term can be a contributing factor to osteoporosis. (aging, weakness)
As you can see, the health ramifications of an extended or intense stress response in the body are many and varied, and because it often plays a contributing role with all health issues, developing strategies to alleviate stress is essential. Acupuncture, meditation, exercise, time with good friends, building positive hobbies and pastimes are all important in managing our body’s response to stressful stimulus.
From a Chinese medicine perspective stress frequently manifests as the pattern Liver Qi Invading the Spleen, with symptoms including irritability and abdominal distention and pain with digestive issues. This is a basic pattern and people will often present with further underlying issues that should be investigated and treated accordingly.
How can acupuncture and Chinese medicine help?
1. Acupuncture can help to calm the mind and improve sleep quality
2. Reduce the stress response in the body and calm adrenal activity
3. Shift thought processes and alleviate a tendency towards rumination and circular thinking
4. Alleviate secondary stress symptoms such as insomnia, digestive disruptions, skin breakouts, etc.
Acupressure For daily Home Application:
Acupressure is a useful and accessible way to treat yourself at home or on the go. Apply pressure on the point with middle finger or thumbs, moving in a circular motion for about 1 minute 3 or 4 times a day on both sides. If you find that your fingers are getting weak or sore, you can substitute a golf ball, pencil eraser or other object.
YinTang “Hall of Impression”
Located between the eyebrows, this point is commonly used in clinic. It is traditionally used to calm the spirit and treat insomnia, anxiety or agitation. It also alleviates pain from frontal headaches as well as clearing the nose and relieving sinus pain.
Take home tips:
1. Nurture good habits that can improve how your body manages stress such as meditation, dancing, music, exercise or creative endeavours.
2. Get regular acupuncture treatments.
3. Consider counselling or life-coaching as an option.
4. Sometimes the more difficult decisions to make are the right ones. If there is an overarching or substantial stressor in your life – for example your job, a toxic relationship or a difficult living situation – it could be worthwhile to make changes happen and move on.