Depression and Anxiety around the Holidays

Holiday stress got you down? Acupuncture may be just what the doctor ordered

While the holidays are a time of year some people look forward to all year long, for others it can be a very difficult time. Thinking of lost loved ones, worrying about money, working overtime and keeping up with the holiday party circuit can take its toll.

It can be hard to slow down and remember to take care of yourself, but according to Chinese Medicine, winter is a time to retreat and reflect. The yin of winter is meant to balance the yang of summer. Staying home, reading a book and eating soup helps to recharge the batteries after a summer of late nights, BBQ’s and going to the beach.

Whether feelings of anxiety and depression are mild or have been with you for years, acupuncture is a gentle and effective way to alleviate those feelings and balance the mood. During a lifetime, it is estimated that 20% of the population will experience depression. Symptoms of depression during the holiday season can include lack of interest, cynicism or anger, isolation from events and traditional festivities, and over consuming holiday food and alcohol.

Sadness around the holidays can also be compounded by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the lack of daylight. Studies have shown that people living in a northern climates are deficient in vitamin D because of the limited hours of sunlight this far north of the equator. Supplementing with vitamin D during the winter months can have a mood elevating effect. Recommended daily dose for adults can be up to 4,000 IU per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. Those who are deficient in vitamin D can take higher doses than that, but it is recommended to do so under the supervision of a doctor.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine help to alleviate sadness and depression by addressing different imbalances in the body and subtle shifts in the energetics associated with different identified Chinese Medicine organs. For instance depression is usually associated with deficiency or imbalance of the lung and liver, but that’s not to say there is something physically wrong with either of those organs from a Western Medical perspective. Acupuncture simply circulates the energy, or qi of the body, to help unblock the free flow of the channels and restore proper function and feeling in the body- whether physical or emotional.

The lung controls sadness and grief, too much of it or unexpressed grief is when the organ can become unbalanced. It is in charge of taking in the new and letting go of the old, just as it functions to take in oxygen and let go of carbon dioxide. Breath exercises and meditation can all have a calming effect on the mind. Meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly for five minutes and listening and paying attention to nothing but your breathing. In. And out.

The liver’s emotion, on the other end of the spectrum is anger. Again, too much anger or unexpressed anger can be problematic. The liver is responsible for circulating the qi and blood, and is considered the “general” of the body, always trying to take command and tell others what to do. While having a leader is good, micromanaging is not. If the liver isn’t circulating enough, the qi can become stagnant and lead to that emotional ‘lump’ in your throat. If the liver is overactive, it will “over heat” and can produce symptoms of anxiety. Physical activity and exercise is a great way to stimulate the liver. As is yelling at the TV while watching a Packer game.

Whatever you choose to do, know that we are here to help. Regardless of where that journey may take you.

Happy Holidays from Milwaukee Community Acupuncture to you and your family. May we all enjoy peace on earth and peace of mind.