Looking for natural anxiety relief? You’re not alone. Over 40 million people in the United States struggle with managing anxiety and the symptoms of anxiety daily – and it’s on the rise.
Thankfully, many people have found a holistic solution in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. In fact, at Wellnest Denver, we help our Denver neighbors find long term natural anxiety relief on a daily basis. We’ve seen how life-changing acupuncture can be, but don’t just take our word for it! Research shows that acupuncture is one of the most effective natural solutions for anxiety and stress.
Read on to learn why acupuncture helps us stay on top of our mental health and how it might help you overcome anxiety, too.
5 Science-Backed Reasons Acupuncture Offers Powerful Natural Anxiety Relief
Whether you try acupuncture as a stand-alone anxiety solution or use it alongside other doctor-recommended methods for anxiety relief, acupuncture can help you take a big step towards an anxiety-free life. Here are five evidence-based ways acupuncture can help you manage your anxiety:
1. Acupuncture calms the nervous system.
When we experience anxiety, it’s often because we’re stuck in what is called sympathetic mode. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is in charge of your “fight-flight-or-freeze” response and releases cortisol in response to stress. In contrast, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) brings your body back home to a state of calm and restoration (this is also called “rest and digest” mode).
Thankfully, acupuncture excels at regulating the nervous system and bringing us back to balance. Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to help the body calm down after a state of stress. Physically, this causes blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels to drop back down to healthy levels. These cues signal to the body and mind to relax and those feelings of anxiety diminish.
2. Acupuncture releases calming neurotransmitters and hormones that calm the mind.
Acupuncture is known for its pain-relieving and stress-relieving capabilities, and science is now showing us how. As it turns out, a lot of acupuncture’s physical effects stem from the regulation of hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemical messengers in the brain that control how we think and feel. Here are a few examples:
- Acupuncture releases endorphins : Endorphins are analgesics, meaning they diminish our perception of pain, while also acting as sedatives. This hormone is normally a result of laughter, exercise, listening to music, or eating foods (like chocolate!). An acupuncture treatment releases these feel-good chemicals, which is why so many people report feeling calm, happy, relieved, or simply “better” after their acupuncture visits.
- Acupuncture boosts serotonin: Serotonin is a key hormone for mood balance as it stimulates feelings of happiness and overall well-being. This hormone is released naturally when we spend time in nature, exercising, or doing a favorite hobby. Unfortunately, high stress levels and certain lifestyle factors can reduce serotonin, and studies show that those with chronic anxiety have lower than average levels of this mood-boosting chemical.
While medications like SSRIs are often used to improve serotonin levels, acupuncture can do it naturally. Research suggests that acupuncture can effectively boost our body’s natural serotonin to improve mood and reduce anxiety levels.
- Acupuncture increases dopamine availability: Dopamine is another feel-good neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. When we struggle with anxiety or depression, there is often an imbalance in the body’s dopamine levels. While acupuncture does not specifically increase dopamine levels, it can increase the ability of dopamine to be absorbed in the brain’s synapses. This means that the body can make better use of the dopamine that is available and reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
3. Acupuncture balances HRV (heart rate variability) to relieve feelings of panic and stress.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is one of the ways our bodies can cope with stress. Our hearts don’t beat at a consistent rate all the time — they change and adapt to the stressors that they’re presented with. In essence, HRV is the time between our heartbeats. The higher the time between the beats, the healthier. This shows that your heart can work less and still produce the same results.
One of the most common symptoms of anxiety is an increase in heart rate or heart palpitations (irregular or fluttering beats). A racing heart is both a symptom and a cause of anxiety, as it signals to your brain that you are under stress. To keep HRV under control, acupuncture helps to lower heart rate, prevent palpitations, and reduce feelings of panic and anxiety. This helps us manage anxiety in the moment, as well as in the long run, as keeping HRV under control can prevent panic attacks in the future.
4. Acupuncture improves sleep and restores emotional balance.
Sleep is not just a way to unwind at the end of a long day – it is crucial for our health and wellbeing. Without adequate sleep, our bodies don’t have the necessary energy to function. Our brains become tired, overwhelmed, burnt out, and anxious. We feel less resilient against everyday stressors and even small inconveniences can become major issues.
To manage anxiety holistically, we need to address sleep. The good news is that acupuncture is one of the most effective therapies to help improve sleep quality. Studies show that acupuncture works by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system to encourage rest. It also helps to stimulate our nighttime melatonin, an essential hormone for a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Acupuncture can also reduce insomnia and ruminating thoughts through muscle relaxation. When we are anxious, our muscles tense and tighten – even without us knowing it. These tense muscles then signal to the brain that we are under stress, which continues the mind-body anxiety cycle and prevents restful sleep. Acupuncture interferes and stops the cycle by releasing muscle tension and promoting deep relaxation. With adequate sleep and stronger resilience against stress, we can face the day with more confidence and less anxiety.
5. Acupuncture improves general mood and sense of wellbeing.
One of the most common “side-effects” of acupuncture is improved mood and a better sense of wellbeing, even if you don’t struggle with anxiety. There are several reasons why acupuncture makes us simply feel better. As we discussed before, acupuncture causes a release of endorphins which has an immediate effect on our sense of wellbeing. Acupuncture also helps to relieve the physical symptoms that can trigger anxiety, like pain, muscle tension, racing heart, and nausea.
From the Chinese medicine point of view, these positive effects boil down to one key function: acupuncture helps to reestablish a healthy flow of qi and blood. It’s no coincidence that acupuncture is also performed on the battlefield. When qi and blood flow becomes blocked, stuck, or drained, we feel it physically and emotionally. We may experience pain, irritability, frustration, sadness, fatigue, confusion, worry, and anxiety. When qi and blood are flowing smoothly, however, we feel healthy. We have control over our thoughts and emotions and we are easily capable of overcoming any stressor that comes our way.
Wellnest Denver’s Natural Anxiety Relief Techniques
At Wellnest Denver, acupuncture is our not-so-secret weapon against anxiety, panic attacks, and stress. But, acupuncture is just one way we help our patients live calm, free lives without the constant worry and symptoms of anxiety.
Here are a few of the lifestyle recommendations we make to all our Wellnest Denver patients who seek freedom from anxiety. Try them out yourself, or visit us for a more tailored approach to your anxiety relief treatment plan.
- Move your body once a day. Exercise is another proven method to reduce anxiety and depression.
- Swap caffeine and alcohol for better pick-me-ups and calm-me-downs. Adaptogenic herbal coffees, matcha, and healthy mocktails allow you to enjoy your favorite treats, without the anxious side effects.
- Don’t skip meals, but do skip sugar. Anxiety worsens with unstable blood sugar levels and high sugar intake as cortisol and adrenaline skyrocket. Snack healthy with foods packed with antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats.
- Invest in “adult nap time.” (ie. Daily rest breaks and weekly acupuncture!)
- Start a meditation practice – even if you don’t “get it.” Many people avoid meditation because they don’t think they’re good at it. But, the whole point of meditation is to learn and grow. Start with a free, guided app like Insight Timer to give it a go.
Find Natural Anxiety Relief at Wellnest Denver
Acupuncture helps you regain your balance – both physically and mentally. But regular acupuncture sessions offer something even deeper: a better understanding of yourself.
Wellnest Denver acupuncture sessions guide you through understanding your body’s unique response to stress, your anxiety triggers, and how to work through anxiety rather than against it. We’ll use the power of acupuncture as a catalyst for change and growth, then support your journey with a tailored plan, lifestyle tips, and resources to master your mental health.
Wellnest Denver offers comprehensive holistic anxiety treatments for anyone who wants to live a life free from the chains of anxiety. Book your visit today or contact us to learn more about how acupuncture can help!