Sometimes we all need a “vice” that can take us down a notch, back to an ordinary, relatively stress-free life. Working in the hot seat of a regulatory role in a major investment bank can at times feel suffocating – trying to understand complex, esoteric financial transactions whilst at the same time balancing the need to protect the bank. When the regulators themselves come knocking at your door as it recently happened to me, you know the pressure levels start rising. With so much at stake, it can begin to feel a bit confronting.
Yet stress is part and parcel of it, like in many other jobs, whether it be doctors and nurses or air traffic controllers – the stress can be enormous. But what compounds the situation is a trigger point. Something which when pressed, sets off a chain reaction of bodily sensations and emotions, often unpleasant for its duration. Last week was one of those moments for me. My body was in the flight-and-fight mode, with the foot firmly on the accelerator pedal – It was time for some help.
Whilst my resilience is strong (I could not do my job otherwise), there are times when we all need a magic weapon. Something that we can rely upon to do the job, and fast.
For me, this rapid relief comes in the form of acupuncture. Most people associate this ancient practice with pain relief, fertility issues, digestive complaints and other ailments. However, the practice of acupuncture has a remarkable effect upon relieving stress and anxiety. The effect of placing needles in certain acupuncture points in the body, especially across the forehead and in between the eyes has a strong tranquillising effect, without causing any drowsiness.
I liken this effect to gently deflating an over-inflated tyre that is bursting at the seams as if it were ‘puncturing’ the body to gently reduce levels of stress and anxiety. Such effect is very subtle, but also highly effective.
For those who have never experienced acupuncture, it goes something like this: you lie on a massage table and the practitioner places needles along certain ‘meridian’ lines. A short but sharp prick is felt as each needle enters the body. Most needles cause a mere sensation, some may momentarily mildly hurt, but overall the practice is non-invasive and the body gets used to the feeling of the placement of each needle.
After a short period of time, the effect of the acupuncture starts to take over. A warming sensation may be observed throughout the body, as you start to feel more relaxed. At this point, deep sleep may occur. It is here I believe that acupuncture is at its most effective – for when we deeply rest, the body heals itself.
After half an hour or so, you will start to rise back into waking consciousness. Shortly after, your practitioner will enter the room and remove the needles from your body. The body clock has been reset and it’s time to get on with your busy life again.
Whilst this experience may be unique to me, I believe that with the right practitioner, the healing effects of acupuncture are available to everybody.
A lot of the theory about acupuncture is the ‘chi’, the invisible flow of energy running through the body that gets ‘stuck’ from time to time, resulting in stagnation and disease. So the theory goes. Yogis know this too and call it prana. Free the energy and our life force is free again.
Whilst the more pseudo-science sceptics will challenge all this with the usual mantra of ‘evidence-based’ medicine, quite frankly I don’t really care – judging how smoothly the rest of the week went after I ‘depressurised’, I’m in no mood to start debating such theories. It works, and that’s enough for me.
The combination of stress and anxiety can be devastating in the workplace and can result in severe mental distress. Depression, even mental breakdowns can happen. Fortunately, many large institutions are very aware of this issue today and will support an affected individual. What affects me from time to time is probably what happens to a lot of ordinary people, however it is how we cope that makes the difference.
For me, acupuncture is the Jack of Spades, my Joker which I pull out when it all gets too much. I encourage more stressed-out City folks to be curious and give acupuncture a go as a simple weapon in one’s arsenal to lead a cool and collected working life. In today’s stressed-out, 24/7 connected world, we need all the tips and all the help we can get.
ps my acupuncturist is Dr Yan Li who has been practising acupuncture for over 25 years. She has a practice in the City of London as well as in St John’s Wood and Kensington. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or for more details, at www.acupuncture-drli.co.uk.