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Stress Management: A Civic Duty?

January 3, 2017


I’m seeing a lot of patients lately with “post-election stress disorder.” Some voted for President Trump, others for Secretary Clinton, even others for 3rd party candidates. Despite their political differences, they are all suffering feelings of disconnection, malaise, and worry. In their different ways, they are concerned for America and equally vested in the continuing success of our republic.

Acupuncture, meditation, and herbal medicinal products are all safe and proven effective ways to work with stress. Most of my patients report immediate stress relief, in varying degrees, after only one treatment. But as they return to our very toxic political environment, the longer-term effects can dissipate quickly.

I’ve been offering two pieces of advice to all of my “political refugee” patients, drawing on our common ground as Americans.

The first is a gentle reminder of who we are. Ultimately, we are Americans first and political partisans second. Typically, our experience with stress is of being closed-in, crushed, and confined. Opening up space is part of good acupuncture and traditional medicine.

When I coach patients to think about how we are united, I help them to open space for themselves, to reaffirm who we really are. So I’m telling patients, “The first name of the nation is still ‘United.’ And if we can’t get the united part right, we don’t ever get to the ‘America’ part. Let’s work for a more united America together.”

The second bit of advice I’ve been offering to my patients deals with their deep sense of disconnect—from our political system, from our elected officials, and most of all from one another. As with the feeling of being confined, this sense of disconnection, of disorientation is common to stress. Patients describe feeling out of control, even worthlessness. Worse still, disconnect causes us to neglect our actual accomplishments. We fail to nourish our inherent dignity. We no longer feel like we are our own friends.

Reorienting our efforts at the local level guarantees success in the sense that we are working with our own neighbors, for the benefit of our homes, neighborhoods, and towns. My advice is a little unusual. “Forget Washington, DC. It’s unlikely you can change anything there. Focus on what you can influence: your neighborhood, your workplace, your schools, and your family. Direct your best efforts into your community. Bring your life back to the eye contact zone. You’ll feel grounded. You’ll be effective. And your results are immediate—even if you don’t get exactly what you want.”

Whether stress runs you down or runs you over, never underestimate how toxic it is. In my own view, I think stress may be the only disease there is, manifesting under hundreds of different names. Acupuncture, meditation, and traditional medicine work well to help manage stress, without side effects. For you, your family, your neighborhood. That makes smart stress management with acupuncture, meditation, and herbal medicinal care good for America, too.

Paul Shinkle, L.Ac. MSOM is the executive director of Enerqi Center for Acupuncture and Traditional Medicine, in West Allis. 

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