Treating Stress, Anxiety, and Depression with Acupuncture

Forest of Feelings (Figure out what what you’re feeling)

Positive Vibes Only? Definitely not. Negative emotions are natural and can signal a need to change our relationships, environment, or behavior. It’s when negative emotions become chronic and feel like they arise without cause, that you turn to guiding practitioners like therapists and acupuncturists who can help you figure out what forest of feelings you've wandered into and how you can find your way back out again.

Whether your depression, anxiety, and stress are chronic or not, tamping down negative feelings or denying them in favor of only positive feelings is neither realistic nor helpful. What is helpful and what acupuncture helps facilitate is giving all your feelings a space and distance from yourself to be acknowledged, fully felt, and then allowed to pass. That can be an extended grieving period and or as short as a few minutes to recognize that you're getting frustrated and need to breathe deeper and take a walk.

Understanding what you're feeling, giving that feeling space, and then letting it go is essential in our modern world. With these skills, you can begin to move past the thicket of a bad stretch. And when you have one bad day, you'll realize that's part of being human, not a sign that you're broken.

Negative emotions are natural and can signal a need to change our relationships, environment, or behavior.

A First Step

Simply being aware of what it is that you're feeling is a good first step. Rather than putting a label on it (I have depression, I'm an angry person, that's just who I am), try, "What is this that I'm feeling? Am I angry right now? Is it sadness and frustration at the same time?" Then you can take a step back and say, "that sadness and frustration are not who I am. I am not a sad and frustrated person. I just feel those things right now and there's got to be a reason for it."

Next, ideally with the help of a guide, you can put on your detective hat and figure out why those feelings are coming up so the signal doesn't keep coming regularly while you don't understand what it's trying to tell you (a real recipe for frustration).

Acupuncture and Therapy Work Well Together

I am not a therapist. What I am is an acupuncturist and Japanese medicine practitioner.

I recommend that my patients who find themselves in these patterns for longer periods of time or with frequency see a good therapist. Many of you often are in therapy already when you seek my care. Acupuncture works really well in combination with therapy, especially talk (cognitive behavior therapy and other methods) and somatic therapies. The way I tend to explain it is that acupuncture helps you become more centered and clear – more aware of what it is that you're feeling so you can express it in therapy and to yourself.

What acupuncture helps facilitate is giving all your feelings a space and distance from yourself to be acknowledged, fully felt, and then allowed to pass.

Acupuncture also helps protect against those feelings settling in and becoming something more (pain, stiffness, adrenal fatigue, cardiopulmonary symptoms, etc). Plus, we can treat the already existing symptomatic expression of your anxiety, depression, and/or stress, whether physical (like headaches, insomnia, and palpitations) or mental/emotional (like a racing or foggy mental state).

Japanese and Chinese medicine look at our emotions as expressions of imbalance in the relationships of our different systems (sometimes called channels, meridians, or organs). So the questions above are the same sorts of diagnostic questions I ask in the office to figure out what channels are out of harmony. That information allows us to help them back into their proper relationship so you feel more centered, grounded, balanced, and clear. And this also gives you the opportunity to make small or large changes that might put you in a healthier space and thus treat that signal/feeling at the root of its expression.
 

What kind of treatments do you offer?

Acupuncture: Gentle correction of the relationships of your physical and energetic body. Using the traditional functions of the points and channels plus modern understandings of physiology, acupuncture helps to regulate the nervous system so that the parasympathetic (rest, digest, heal) outweighs the sympathetic (fight, flight, freeze). Patients report feeling more at ease, rested, calm, and grounded after treatment. Many patients fall asleep on the table during in-office treatment and often sleep better at home as well.

Acupressure: Earseeds and self-massage as coping mechanisms between treatments and as regular care for treatment and prevention of symptoms. These methods are often subtle enough to be performed in the workplace or social gatherings without attracting attention.

Qigong: Breathing exercises and gentle movements. Ranging from short and sweet visualizations and meditative practices to healing sounds and simple movements that target the organ systems and channels that are out of balance. Most of the movements can be done while seated or standing and we can adapt them for your body's range of motion.

Herbal Medicine: Personalized prescriptions for herbal formulas and supplements for symptomatic and deep cause treatment. Protect your system against physical effects of emotions on the body (adrenal fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations) and amplify the benefits of treatment. Taking a herbal formula regularly can decrease the frequency of recommended in-office visits.

Moxa/ Moxibustion: Depending on the causes and symptoms of your emotional patterns, this herbal heat therapy can be very helpful to increase motivation, combat fatigue, and reawaken interest in activities. Patients have described it as feeling like painful or tight spots are melting or unwinding, that they can breathe deeper, and that they feel more awake. If applicable, I instruct my patients on how to do moxibustion safely at home as well as perform moxibustion in the clinic with you.

Essential Oils: Recommendations for home care to combine with acupressure points. Especially helpful for travel and nighttime symptoms.

How long does treatment take? When will I be better?

My treatment plans are personalized for each patient. I see people at various stages of their emotional journeys. Some people come in soon after a crisis (important to note that I am not a substitute for emergency services such as hotlines or the ER - please see information below if you are in crisis). But the short and honest answer is it depends on you - where you are in your relationship to your emotional health and how much farther you have to go to come to terms with what balance is going to look like for you.

Acupuncture is not here to "fix" you. It's medicine, not magic. I often tell patients when they praise my touch that I'm just getting stuff out of the way so your body can do the work it is already trying to do. Our bodies want to get back to homeostasis. Balance.

You are doing the work and the work can take some time. But it's a lot easier when you surround yourself with experts who can guide and support you, and that's where I see myself on your team.

If you are in crisis

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

If your depression is leading to suicidal thoughts, please call the National Hopeline to connect with a treatment center in your area. Includes live chat feature for anyone who doesn't want to or is unable to call. This hotline can dispatch emergency services to you if needed.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Another resource for anyone dealing with suicidal or other harmful thoughts is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They also offer a chat service1-800-799-4889.

Acupuncture is not an emergency service. When you need the tools I can provide and a new member of your cheering squad, please be in touch. You are worthwhile and cared for.

Additional resources

Looking for a good therapist? Psychology Today offers a robust search tool to find therapists, support groups, and treatment centers in your area, including ones who may be in network with your insurance plan.

Concerned about affording therapy? Need low cost options either with or without insurance? Psych Central has a great list of ways to get help when money or insurance is an issue.

About Shawna

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist whose areas of specialty include promoting women’s health, fertility, and breaking the cycles of stress, anxiety, and depression. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients both in her private practice in San Francisco and in a collaborative practice in Temescal, Oakland. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, read her blog A Cuppa Qi and make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com.

Photo: Death to the Stock Photo

Japanese Meridian Therapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Classical and Clinical Comparison

Japanese Meridian Therapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Classical and Clinical Comparison

A Note From Shawna

This paper was originally titled, "Classic Texts: The Foundation of Japanese Meridian Therapy Assessed Clinically in Comparison to Traditional Chinese Medicine." I wrote it during the final years of my masters program in acupuncture at AIMC Berkeley for a course on classical texts.

This paper presumes knowledge of the medicine so is most appropriate for other practitioners, but as patients often ask about Japanese vs Chinese medicine, a general audience might find it interesting to skim. I'm happy to discuss any questions you may have after reading.

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How can Japanese Meridian Therapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine have come from the same classic texts and yet come to such different conclusions for diagnosis and treatment? This is the question I chose to consider by delving into Chapters Sixty-Nine and Seventy-Five of the Nan Jing, considered the foundation of Japanese Meridian Therapy.

Meridian Therapy was founded in the 1930s out of a desire to “reexamine the classics and to clinically test the knowledge gained therein in order to extract the truth” (Kuwahara, xvii). The principle methods of Japanese Meridian Therapy (JMT or MT) are to palpate and assess the meridians, using the pulse for both diagnosis and continual assessment of the progress of treatment, and to use the meridians in this way to understand the balance of deficiency and excess caused by pathogens, the seven emotions, and the fundamental interaction of the meridians and organs to themselves and each other (the Five Phases). This is fairly different from Eight Principle and Zang Fu Diagnosis as interpreted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In the TCM approach, we utilize the four diagnostic methods (asking, looking, listening, and palpating), base our diagnosis on the collection of symptoms and signs based on the chief complaint, and identify a specific pattern based on the organs, yin/yang, and body elements (like blood, body fluids, and qi) in disharmony, all of which determines the course of treatment. Depending on the TCM practitioner, palpation may be used to refine the choice of points (this is common at least in the case of choosing local ashi points) or at the extreme they may only use the trusted points in texts from Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion (CAM). I admit this is a gross simplification of the vast differences within the practices of TCM and JMT respectively, but seeing from the extremes can help to highlight the differences between the disciplines.

2018 Thumbtack Top Pro

I'm proud to announce that I have been named a 2018 Top Pro by Thumbtack, a site that helps customers find the right local professionals for their needs.

To the patients who found me through Thumbtack and shared their experiences: thank you so much. Only 4% of Thumbtack's professionals are named Top Pro and I'm honored to be recognized for the level of service I strive to provide.

I joined Thumbtack soon after starting my practice in 2016 and have met many of you through your inquiries. I appreciate that the brief form allows you to provide information specific to the service you're seeking. In acupuncture's case, this includes your key symptoms, days and times that you'd like to come in for an appointment, how far you're willing to travel, and whether you're new to alternative medicine or have experienced it before. Thumbtack has streamlined the process over the past year, quickly matching you with the best acupuncturist for you in your local area.

There are so many amazing acupuncturists in the Bay Area so it can be challenging to decide on the right provider for you. I'm happy that this is a homegrown tool for patients to make that important decision.

ABOUT SHAWNA

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist whose areas of specialty include promoting women’s health and fertility and breaking the cycles of stress, anxiety, and depression. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients both in her private practice in San Francisco and in a collaborative practice in Temescal, Oakland. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, read her blog A Cuppa Qi and make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com.

Love and Luck

Two beautiful and unexpected things happened this weekend. I had recently lost my pocket tiger's eye and I found the perfect replacement. And I thought I'd have a hard timing finding the moon plant I had in my college dorm room for four years, but it presented itself precisely when I needed some greenery in the office!

I don't know a lot about stones, but I'm just starting to dip a toe in (with a hefty dose of skepticism). At any rate, I started carrying the tiger's eye last year because it was smooth and I've always liked tiger's eye and it was nice to have something to run my fingers over when I got anxious. Anyway, I lost it, probably in someone's car, and I was uncharacteristically ok with it (I normally hate losing things), but my friend had just come back from the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show and generously opened her wealth of stones to me to choose a new pocket stone. I've had carnelian on the mind a lot lately because I thought getting an orange crystal to put inside my orange lightsaber would be fun and nerdy (in Star Wars lore, kaiburr crystals are force-attuned and integral to a working lightsaber). I have a friend in my lightsaber group who has a purple crystal in his purple saber and I love the idea. So she not only gave me a beautiful carnelian pocket stone, but two carnelian beads to put in my saber.

It turns out carnelian is linked to fertility (perfect for our women's health focused clinic) and also balances energy levels, stimulates the appetite, and brightens outlook. It's also a little good luck charm. I'm happy to bring that energy into our work together!

Then yesterday I was walking through a neighborhood I don't get to frequent often enough and there was a giant pilea peperomioides in the window! I knew this plant as a moon plant in college and evidently that's only one of hundreds of names this little plant has. It's from the Yunnan province of China (unlike the other plant often called a money tree, Pachira aquatica, which is actually native to South and Central America) and is also thought to bring good luck. Once it gets large and strong enough, it starts to create baby plants that you can separate out and plant separately. Over four years in college I gave several baby moon plants away to friends and was very sad to have to eventually leave mine with a friend's parents before moving back West.

I'm happy to have the perfect plant friend cheering up the new office. I already spy a few baby moon plants that should be ready to go home with a lucky patient at my next open house!

ABOUT SHAWNA

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist whose areas of specialty include promoting women’s health and fertility and breaking the cycles of stress, anxiety, and depression. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients both in her private practice in San Francisco and in a collaborative practice in Temescal, Oakland. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, read her blog A Cuppa Qi and make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com.

Why Is There Green Plastic in My Sushi?

Ever pull out that piece of green plastic from your sushi and think, "why is this always here?"

The plastic clearly isn't useful and it's not meant to look like a child's drawing of a grassy lawn. It's meant to represent the perilla or shiso leaf, which should be included with your raw fish for far more than aesthetic purposes.

 Silly grocery store sushi, the shiso (perilla) leaf was meant to eat, not just for decoration!  Photo: Pixabay

Silly grocery store sushi, the shiso (perilla) leaf was meant to eat, not just for decoration!
Photo: Pixabay

Just in case there's anything wrong with the raw fish, both perilla and ginger are traditionally included with your meal. Taking bites of these combat the effects of bad fish on your system:

Perilla leaf is known as shiso in Japanese and zi su ye in Chinese. It is an aromatic and warm herb that disperses cold and promotes sweating (helpful for the immune system), circulates qi and harmonizes the middle (digestion), detoxifies food poisoning from fish, and calms a restless fetus. So it's a lovely herb for morning sickness or nausea or vomiting with a cold (especially the kind that has chills, coughing, and clear or white phlegm).

 Wasabi and pickled ginger still come with most sushi  Photo: Pixabay

Wasabi and pickled ginger still come with most sushi
Photo: Pixabay

Ginger, shoga in Japanese, sheng jiang in Chinese, is also spicy and slightly warm. It has very similar effects to shiso, but a stronger warming effect to stop vomiting and coughing and ginger resolves toxicity or overdose of a wide variety of herbs and foods. If they were only going to leave one herb on the plate, I'm glad it's ginger. But that doesn't mean shiso doesn't deserve to be there too!

So you should eat both ginger and the perilla leaf for their health benefits as well as for their lovely spicy taste! I do see shiso at quality sushi restaurants, but honestly we should be getting shiso in our grocery store sushi of all places!

found this interesting? Related posts on a cuppa qi:

Why is Chicken Soup Good for a Cold?

How to Survive and Thrive in the First Trimester

ABOUT SHAWNA

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California-licensed and nationally-certified acupuncturist whose areas of specialty include promoting women’s health and fertility and breaking the cycles of stress, anxiety, and depression. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients both in her private practice in San Francisco and in a collaborative practice in Temescal, Oakland. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, read her blog A Cuppa Qi and make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com.

Header Photo by Jonathan Forage on Unsplash