THE BENEFITS OF ACUPUNCTURE FOR CHRONIC STRESS AND BURNOUT
The treatment relaxes and revitalizes the central nervous system; treats the tisular and organic disorders and secondary diseases; relaxes the muscular system, restores the physical and emotional balance of the body.
Used to describe the symptoms of physical and emotional over-strain, the term of burnout syndrome refers especially to the consequences of professional overload. If in the past it was the harsh working conditions that overworked a person (overcrowded, ill-ventilated and poorly-lit rooms; very low or very high temperatures; rude tools and equipment, etc., nowadays it is too heavy an amount of activities and responsibilities, prolonged working hours, less time of rest, relaxation and recreation; less time spent with family and friends, professional demands exceeding the employee’s training, very high standards of productivity and efficiency, etc., that does it. One other aspect that must be taken into consideration is the personal perception of the situations that we deal with on daily basis. A stress factor may be positive or negative. It is our mind that gives these factors an emotional charge, matching information from the environment with former experiences and with our present emotional state. Therefore, tasks and events in our professional or private life may bear a positive charge for some people or a negative one for others.
In time, professional pressure erodes the individual’s emotional and physical resources and gives birth to:
chronic fatigue, asthenia;
nervousness, altered disposition, anxiety, depression;
emotional distress, apathy or indifference;
depersonalization and deterioration of interrelationships, dependence on people around;
diminished self confidence; negative self appraisal and self criticism;
poorer professional and personal performance;
attention, concentration and memory disorders; also disorders of information actualization;
muscular and articular tension;
headaches and cephalalgia;
loss of appetite and digestive disorders;
disorders of sexual dynamics.
It is believed from a medical point of view that, if prolonged, a state of professional over-strain will trigger a number of specific reactions in the body. They damage the organic, metabolic, immune and cardiovascular activity. Consequently, a good ground is created for the onset of a number of more serious diseases.
In the traditional medicine, treatment of burnout syndrome is centered upon relaxation and tension release of the central nervous system; reconstruction of the hypo oxygenated or poorly vascularised cerebral areas; relieving the osteoarticular and muscular system of stress; dealing with the tisular and the organic disorders; balancing metabolism and immunity; improving concentration and memory; restoring the physical and emotional balance. Acupuncture procedures and medicinal herb extracts tonify the thesaurus organs and the cerebral areas, regulating their activity: lungs, to improve cell oxygenation; kidneys, to revitalize the body; liver and spleen-pancreas, to purify and to detoxify the body, but also to manage a better absorption of the food nutrients.
The physician-patient dialogue is centered upon the professional and personal reevaluation; reorganization of the emotional and affective life and upon stress relieving. Consequently, the intellectual and emotional resources will be reactivated and the patient will get reintegrated into his professional and familial environment.
Depending on the particular features of each body under treatment, the treatment protocols are individualized, so as to cope with all the necessities of a patient and so as to treat all the associated diseases, which may be cardiovascular, digestive, of the spinal column or ophthalmic.
Cardiac Diseases and Hypertension
Stress and physical and/or intellectual stress; anxiety and nervousness; discontentment caused by career accumulate a nervous tension with bad consequences upon the cardiovascular system, especially upon artery tension. Hypertension is betrayed by profuse perspiration, palpitation, tachycardia, headaches, fatigue, vertigoes, insomnia, tinnitus, pressure in the temples and on the nape, blurred vision, numbness in the arms, etc. Should artery tension show high values over a long period of time, and tension fits are also recorded, there is risk of myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accident, retina hemorrhages, or of other, more complex, diseases (myocardial infarction).
Disorders of the Digestive Tube
Digestive disorders occur mainly because, in the absence of regular meal hours, foods are quickly ingested; people eat foods with low nutritional value or fast foods. Excess of coffee, instant coffee, and fizzy juices upset the gastric balance. As symptoms, the following can be mentioned: bloating, nausea, burning esophagus, pains of the xiphoid process, soft stools or constipation, slow digestive transit. Digestive discomfort upsets emotional processes. Therefore concentration and memory are diminished and so are body’s resistance and endurance. Immunity is affected, too, taking into account that a balanced intestinal flora helps maintain a strong immunity. Unless the alimentary habits are corrected, there is threat of more serious diseases, such as: gastro duodenal ulcer, gastritis, hepatic and pancreatic (pancreatitis) diseases, biliary dyskinesia, biliary calculus, obesity, etc. Intestinal transit, hepatic and pancreatic functions are restored with the help of a diet with detoxifying and revitalizing effects; also by stimulating the energy centers that regulate the recovery of the intestinal flora; also by administering medicinal herb products with detoxifying, antispastic and cicatrizing action; protective of the digestive tube; antiseptic and anti-fungal action; regulatory of the intestinal transit; hepatic stimulatory and protective; with cholagogic action (it helps evacuating bile into duodenum).
Disorders of the Spinal Column
Scoliosis, kyphosis, inflammation of the vertebral discs, of ligaments and paravertebral muscles are pathologic manifestations caused by a bad body posture, which is maintained for a long time during work. Spinal column disorders must be treated without delay, especially because of the negative impact they have upon the entire body. There are many nerve centers in the spinal column. Therefore, any vertebral displacement will affect their activity and, consequently, the activity of the innervated organs.
Cerebral circulation will also suffer (because of a damaged spinal column: spondylosis, dischopathy): poor cerebral oxygenation, concentration and memory disorders, vertigo, headaches, vision disorders, etc.
Treatment of the spinal column disorders involves acupuncture and osteoarticular manipulation, but also medicinal herb products that optimize cerebral oxygenation by stimulating blood circulation; they also fortify muscles by restoring muscle tone.
Work at computer for more than eight hours a day, without a break at every hour; reading of official documents without a pause and working rooms without natural light or poorly lit strain eye muscles. The accumulated eye tension will travel to the optic nerves’ ramifications, posing the threat of irreversible lesions. Vision grows poor because of overstrain, and an extra effort is required to fulfill professional duties. Eye tension will be restored, too, within physiological limits with the help of certain medicinal herb extracts, which restore local metabolism, tonify and fortify eye muscles, but also by acupuncture procedures with similar action. All these therapies will recover the elasticity of the eye muscles and they will restore the circuit of ocular humors.
Physical signs and symptoms of stress:
• Frequent illness or colds
• Chest Pain
• Heart Palpitations
• High Blood Pressure
• Digestive Issues
• Lack of Sexual Drive
• Eating too much or too little
• Alcohol or Drug Abuse
Emotional signs and symptoms of stress:
• Lack of Focus
• Getting Angered or Irritated Easily
• Worry or Feeling Anxious
• Feeling insecure
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Inability to process information
• Feeling helpless
Workplace Stress and Burnout
Stress is the emotional and physical strain that is derived from our reactions to pressure. Burnout on the other hand is chronic stress that arises due to being overworked. It has similar symptoms to stress including chronic fatigue, weakened immune system, headaches, muscle aches, anger, irritability and sleeping difficulty. Each individual responds to stress and its stressors in different ways.
When we feel stressed, our body releases chemicals into our blood stream which at times can have a positive effect giving more strength and energy. At other times, depending on the situation, it can instead cause us to feel sad or depressed.
While it is normal to get stressed at work, constant stress is detrimental and negates productivity, affects us and the people around us negatively including mentally, emotionally and physically. Some indicators include lack of sleep, apathy towards personal commitments, tiredness, anxiety, worry, panic due to uncompleted timelines, work life imbalance, fear, bad relationships at work, decreasing memory and the increasing consumption of alcohol as a coping mechanism. There is less laughter and joy in life, lower levels of adequacy and self esteem.
Oddly stress has benefits because without it we would not be energised enough to meet deadlines or finish what we started. It is only when we have an element of control that stress is beneficial. It is out of control stress leads to both poor physical and mental performance and even premature death. Workplace bullying and harassment are important factors that add to stress.
Economic factors may also lead to workplace stress and include:
* Pressure from the ability of investors to withdraw their money from company stocks.
* The lack of or ineffective trade and professional unions in the workplace.
* Excessive or ruthless competition versus cooperation between organisations on a global scale.
* The willingness of organisations to make workers redundant during changing business environments.
Stress breaks down and causes the death of cells. If our diet is adequate, repair of cells is quick and illness only occurs when reconstruction does not keep pace with destruction. Disease results as our immune system declines due to the effects of stress. This in turn carries with it other numerous stresses such as poor appetite and digestion, nausea, vomiting, fever, pain, diarrhea, dehydration, loss of excessive nutrients via urine, etc. Our nutritional needs are dramatically increased at a time when there is appetite loss and thus our body does not have the nutrients it needs to repair it because of the damage done by stress.
In the first two stages of stress, it is a constant cycle of damage and repair. In the third state, illness occurs when repair fails. Prolonged stress causes the thymus and lymph glands to shrivel as their proteins are destroyed. Proteins from the blood plasma, liver, kidneys and other body parts are then used. Stomach ulcers may develop not only due to the increased production of hydrochloric acid but also due to loss of proteins from the stomach walls. Other problems include the weakening of the bones as calcium is cannibalised and increased blood pressure.
During times of stress, it is very important to look after our health. One way is to eat a lot of protein during this period as it prevents harm to the tissues. Other foods that can help include citrus foods, sweet potatoes, dried apricots, turkey, spinach, fish, avocadoes, green vegetables and fruit. The vitamin C, beta-carotene, fibre, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium and monosaturated fats all help the body replenish lost nutrients and cope with stress.
The eating of small meals to keep up energy levels and maximise concentration is advocated. Alcohol and nicotine should be avoided as they only offer short-term relief and increase long term anxiety levels.
Another way to cope with stress is to include exercise in your daily regimen. Exercise not only releases endorphins, the “happy” chemical but also relaxes the mind and energises the body thereby increasing productivity in the workplace. Sleep is also important for the stressed as a relaxed body is able to manage stress better and maintain its emotional balance.
Schedule quality time for yourself and engage in fun activities, relax and enjoy yourself. It can be anything as long as it makes you happy relieving you of stress and tension. Deep breathing, meditation and positive visualisation are also known to help get rid of stress.
As most overwork is self-imposed, learning to say no is an important part in managing stress as it is a multitude of minor tasks that build up and overwhelm. Asking for assistance from colleagues or speaking with management for “work arounds” would help. It is also important to communicate, prioritise and take necessary breaks.
Long working days are often a sign of poor management skills. Often it stems from the inability to delegate or is an obsessive need to prove our ability and worth. Delegation gives subordinates the freedom to work without the constant supervision, refer to their supervisor and enables the manager to focus on more important issues. It also allows staff to take on more responsibility and thus prove themselves. It is always better if the reward for success is higher than the punishment for failure!
Balancing home, family and work life is already hard enough so asking for help from family members is wise. Counselling, therapy, massages and body based therapies e.g. myotherapy, etc are also good in assisting in coping with stress.
The allocation of time for reflection and creative thought enables the mind to rest. Avoid becoming too obsessed with time and constant clock-watching as it creates tension without improving performance.
The building of flexibility into a work schedules often assists, for example working for longer or shorter periods as the occasion demands. In Germany, increased production and reduced absenteeism have resulted with the introduction of staggered work times.
Control frequent interruptions during the day that produce stress. The allocation of time to prevent being disturbed and allow the focus and concentration on completing tasks creatively is important.
Reflection on how by doing everything, others are not enabled to do their jobs because they know it will be done for them is another point to bear in mind. Instead take a step back and think on how to solve the problem at hand rather than jumping into it blindly and then becoming overwhelmed.
Where you are a business owner or supervisor, be aware of employee needs to avoid their burn out. It costs the organisation a lot of money to lose a good and responsible employee and the price of retraining, hiring and finding someone motivated, efficient and committed is high. Using good communication techniques, wellness programs and taking care of employees, prevents the loss of the organisation’s best workers. Happy employees are more productive and a pleasure to work with. It is important to note that it is usually the best workers who usually burnout first.
Other options to prevent stress at work include:
* Ensuring that workloads are in line with employee capability and resources.
* Incorporating meaning, stimulation and opportunities for employees to use their skills in their positions.
* Defining employee roles and responsibilities clearly.
* Providing opportunities for employees to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs.
* Reducing uncertainty regarding career development and future employment prospects.
* Providing opportunities for positive social interaction amongst employees.
* Establishing work schedules that are compatible with demands and responsibilities outside the job.
* Eradicating racial, gender, religious and linguistic discrimination in the workplace.
* Using consultants to provide objective solutions to persistent problems.
* Creating transparency within the organisation.
* Allowing for a participative style of leadership that involves as many employees as possible to resolve stress producing problems.