Nearly half of women report a rise in stress levels over the past five years. And while women and men tend to cope with stress differently, we know that chronic stress contributes to a range of health problems in both sexes, including mental health disorders, heart disease and obesity.
Integrative treatments like meditation and acupuncture can help reduce stress and related problems. These techniques are gaining mainstream acceptance as research demonstrates their positive health effects.
Managing stress calls for addressing the mind as well as the body, since both the brain and body contribute to symptoms.
Meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) are therapies proven to help manage anxiety and depression.
Meditation is an ancient practice that helps you reach a relaxed state by focusing on breathing and awareness of the body in the present.
MBSR is a program that draws on the principles of meditation to help people become more aware of how negative thoughts impact physical feelings. Research has shown that benefits of MBSR include:
- Reduced stress and worrying
- Improved memory and focus
- Fewer emotional ups and downs, and greater resilience
- Improved relationships
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy focused on pinpointing and questioning negative, often mistaken thoughts that can lead to behavioral and mental health problems, such as anxiety.
Research shows that people who receive CBT have a greater reduction in mental health symptoms as compared to people who use medication alone.
There is solid evidence that CBT, meditation and MBSR are effective.
All of these techniques are safe and have no side effects. A motivated person can practice them on their own. While integrative medicine may support traditional medicine, it is not a replacement, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice involving the use of tiny needles to stimulate the nervous and immune systems. During the procedure, a licensed acupuncturist inserts hair-thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body. Acupuncture is painless, and research shows it helps support conventional treatment for a range of problems that include stress, chronic pain and digestive disorders. Experts note that it may be particularly effective for insomnia.
While many of us think of massage as a rare, indulgent treat, studies indicate massage helps treat a variety of stress-related disorders, including anxiety and insomnia. While one treatment is good, a series of massage treatments can be even more effective.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about whether massage is right for you. It may not be appropriate for people with certain conditions, such as bleeding disorders or osteoporosis.