Acupuncture wisdom? It’s really about self-care. There are many simple practices that, when done regularly, can drastically improve a person’s symptoms and overall quality of life. If only we remembered to do them, right?!?
Here’s a list of our favorites, written down in one place to help you remember. Acupuncturists from around the country have created this list, each one of us responding to the question: “what is one thing you wish all of your patients did to be healthier?”
Here are the top 12 do-it-yourself health tips we hope you remember.
Self Care Tip #1: Connect with people
Gururas’s first clinical supervisor (there were 12 in all!) ended up being one of her favorites. His name was Richard Mandell (check out October 2017 magazine article about Richard). One of Richard’s jobs at the time was to oversee a free clinic — part stop-smoking/detox NADA clinic, part acupuncture student-staffed clinic at Boston’s Dimmock Community Health Center. Dimmock looked like this …Richard was always quotable. In one of his regular, clear-eyed moments of wisdom he said, “I have come to believe that people need connection more than anything else.”
“We acupuncturists use needles as a starting point, but it is our relationship with patients—the conversations, the gentle touch—that is most important. Isolation, and holding independence as the ultimate goal, separates us from healing potential.
Connection in the simplest sense can begin with an acknowledgment of its importance. Helping others, greeting a homeless person, looking people in the eye, recognizing the good in each moment… These things increase our potential to heal ourselves and others.”
Building connection is also why community acupuncture is so very effective.
Self Care Tip #2: Breathe deeply into your belly
Breathing is essential and it boosts our energy levels.
Corvalis, Oregon-based acupuncturist Brodie Welch says, “When we feel stress, the breath automatically becomes shallow and quick.” Shallow, tense breathing tells the body to stay in a state of fight-or-flight. “By inviting our breath to be slow, deep, easy, and gentle, we rein in the stress response, protect the adrenals from exhaustion, and activate self-healing.”
A daily breathing practice can be as simple as 3 minutes a day, or 10 breaths every hour. It’s a fast way to re-pattern strengthen our nervous system and de-escalate stress.
“While you’re breathing deeply, it’s helpful to focus on your belly,” adds San Francisco acupuncturist Jeremy Rothenberg.
“People can coax their own bodies into relaxation by focusing on deep belly breathing,” Jeremy says. “There are so many parasympathetic nerve endings in the belly, that deep breathing can shift the body into rest-and-digest mode. It’s like doing acupuncture on yourself.”
Self Care Tip #3: Movement
“If only all of my patients would take the time to exercise every day,” says acupuncturist Lara Ferguson Diaz, from Asheville, North Carolina.
“I’m not talking about running a marathon. There’s nothing quite as simple yet profoundly helpful as a daily brisk walk in the park, or dancing with your kid in the living room. Our bodies are not designed to be static. They are designed to be in fairly constant motion except while sleeping or resting.
“From an acupuncture perspective, too much sitting injures the Spleen, which affects digestion, energy level, and even makes us more likely to gain weight. Blood and qi stagnation, the most common cause of pain that I see in my clinic, also occur when people have sedentary lifestyles.
“Daily exercise will make you happier, less stressed, and better equipped to handle life. So, go take a hike!”
Self Care Tip #4: Rest & meditate
“I wish all of my patients would engage in a meditation practice,” says Brooklyn, New York acupuncturist Melanie Severo.
“So many of the issues that hold us back in our lives can be transformed through the simple act of awareness, and a meditation practice can be the doorway to heightened presence in all of our activities.”
Self Care Tip #5: Use a dry skin brush
Dry skin brushing takes just minutes a day but can make a big difference in how someone feels and looks,” says San Diego-based acupuncturist Justin Burkett.
“Using a natural-fiber, stiff-bristled, sisal body brush on dry skin before or after a shower is a great way to stimulate the skin, the lymphatic system, and the acupuncture meridian system. At the same time, it increases peripheral circulation and boosts immune function, which gives a healthy glow to the skin.
“People can stimulate acupuncture points all over the body, on a daily basis, using a dry skin brush.”
Self Care Tip #6: Stretch before bed
“Stretching in the evening is just as important as in the morning, which is when most people think about doing it,” says Laurel, Maryland acupuncturist Allison Vaccaro.
“Like acupuncture, stretching helps break up stagnation and encourages movement throughout the channels. Stretching in the evening helps loosen the muscles that haven’t been used during the day. Many people spend their evenings sitting on the couch watching TV. Some hit the gym first thing in the morning, then sit at a desk all day. These routines prime the body for stiffness and can produce pain at night and upon waking.
“Patients of mine who follow my advice to stretch at night report better sleep quality, and less pain and stiffness in the morning.”
Self Care Tip #7: Get to bed by 11 pm
“I encourage all of my patients to go to bed at 11 pm so that they are sleeping soundly by 1 am,” says Susan Wadden, an acupuncturist in Shoreline, Washington.
“Each organ system in acupuncture has an assigned two-hour time frame. One o’clock in the morning is when when the Liver time cycle begins. Between 1 and 3 am is the optimal time for the Liver to cleanse itself. This cleansing, which plays a big role in whether we feel rested when we wake up, happens most efficiently when a person is in a deep state of sleep.”
Self Care Tip #8: Find a spiritual practice
“I wish everyone would find a spiritual outlet to address their concerns, stress, and grief,” says Kari-Ann Hubbard, an acupuncturist in Tempe, Arizona.
“These natural emotions can consume us and, from an acupuncture perspective, stagnate our qi and blood. This on its own can cause pain and other ailments, and it sets the stage for future imbalances.
“A spiritual practice can be anything from journaling to prayer to meditation. Whatever works for you.”
Self Care Tip #9: Choose tea
“I wish more of my patients would drink warm herbal teas instead of cold soft drinks and diet sodas,” says acupuncturist Lindsay Long, of Maple Grove, Minnesota.
“The phosphoric acid in colas can be harmful to bone health, and it can soften tooth enamel. According to acupuncture dietary theory, warm drinks are most supportive to the digestive system, and the bitter flavor of tea clears excess heat and dries dampness from the body.”
Self Care Tip #10: Stop waiting for perfect
“Stop waiting for the perfect time to engage in perfect behavior,” says Wayland, Massachusetts acupuncturist Marisa Fanelli.
“Many of my patients consider anything less than a dramatic life change to be a failure. So, they wait until the perfect time to start eating the perfect diet. Or they wait until the perfect time to start working out again, since anything less than seven days a week at the gym is a failure.
“This kind of all-or-nothing thinking leads to being perpetually stuck. In acupuncture-speak, we call this stagnation. Remember that even small steps forward are beneficial—and far easier to maintain in the long run.”
Self Care Tip #11: Engage in conscious eating
“I wish all of my patients practiced conscious eating,” says Kathleen Port, an acupuncturist in Los Angeles.
“This means being sensitive to portion size but also the quality of food and eating habits—for example, not eating in the car or late at night, or not eating highly processed foods.
“When we don’t bring consciousness to our eating habits, our Spleen and Stomach systems can become easily overwhelmed. When this happens, digestion slows down and cannot convert food into qi and blood. Qi and blood deficiencies give rise to a variety of issues, including poor sleep, poor digestion, menstrual dysfunction, infertility, and mood disorders.”
Self Care Tip #12: Listen to your body
“When we are in a state of balance, our bodies stay healthy on their own, without much effort on our part,” says acupuncturist Michelle McGlade, from Mendota Heights, Minnesota.
“When we are out of balance, our bodies signal alarms. These alarms can show up as fatigue, pain, or depression, to name just a few.
“If everyone listened for these signals and took action when they happened—for example, made a diet change or started going to bed earlier—we’d all be much better off. When we take care of ourselves, we are better able to take care of the people we love.”
Bonus tip for pets: Change up the food
“On behalf of my dog patients, I wish their owners would follow my nutritional recommendations,” says pet acupuncturist Jeanie Mossa Kraft, of Falls Church, Virginia.
“Dogs’ acupuncture treatments are enhanced by a healthy diet that does not include wheat, gluten, soy, or corn. Wheat and gluten exacerbate pain, especially arthritic pain—what we call bi syndrome in acupuncture. Soy and corn can make allergies worse in pets.
“I beg the owners, ‘If you do nothing else, please change the dog’s food!’ If only dogs could talk!”
Source: the Actuake Blog