Life Transition, Stress, and Self-Care
Humans tend to be creatures of habit, so change—even good change—can be stressful. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is a list of over 40 life events or transitions that can cause stress, which eventually leads to illness. Many stressful life events on the scale come as no surprise—death of a loved one, divorce, financial difficulties. However, happy events and significant life transitions can be just as stressful. These include marriage, outstanding personal achievement, vacations, and Christmas. Holmes and Rahe found that a person with a score of 150 or higher in the span of a year has a 50% chance of becoming sick; and with a score of over 300, a person’s risk of developing an illness jumps to over 90%.
Physically, stress can cause a person to experience high blood pressure, muscle tension, digestive problems, heart disease and chronic pain. Emotionally, a person may feel anxious, angry or depressed, or have difficulty concentrating or sleeping. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of visits to primary care doctors are the result of chronic, unmanaged stress.
So how can we better handle life transitions and stress so that we stay healthy and well?
Though we can’t control everything that happens to us, we can choose how we respond to and cope with stress. Maintaining consistent self-care habits is essential. During times of change and stress, we often get out of our healthy routines, putting our own needs last. However, eating well, staying active, getting enough sleep and reaching out for support can keep our bodies and minds functioning well.
People are often surprised to hear that acupuncture can help with stress management, but it is in fact a powerful tool for alleviating the emotional and physical impact of stress. In my years of practice, I have noticed that underlying stress is a factor for almost every single patient. Most people report feeling more energized and relaxed after a treatment.
Shifting perspective can also make a difference in the way that you navigate unexpected transitions. When life changes, even for the better, it is not the outcome that causes stress—it is our perception of it. Albert Einstein said that “within chaos lies opportunity.” Unexpected and planned life transitions teach us and help us to grow. There is often a bigger picture that we can’t see yet!
Maura Schuster Roble, L.OM
Licensed Practitioner or Oriental Medicine