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Healing yourself with the relaxation response

relaxation response

Relaxation is key to reduce stress and improve immunity

The world is experiencing an unprecedented increase in stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since stress has been shown to weaken immunity, it is important now more than ever to find ways to manage stress. Because of the pandemic, I have temporarily stopped practicing acupuncture in my office as I transition to telemedicine. I am eager and excited to share ways that people can work on managing stress and building immunity from their own homes, like learning to practice the “relaxation response”.

 

The “relaxation response” is an amazing practice that can be done anywhere. I first heard about this term in a TedX talk given by Dr. Lissa Rankin called “Is there scientific proof we can heal ourselves?”. In her talk, Dr. Rankin gives numerous examples of the power of the mind and its ability to heal the body, including the relaxation response. Dr Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind / body medicine, created the relaxation response term and practice. The relaxation response counters the fight-or-flight stress response that is activated quite frequently in our modern lives.

 

The relaxation response works by slowing down the rate of breathing, reducing blood pressure, and relaxing muscles. And, there is no one right or perfect way to practice this. Rather, there are many possibilities that people can consider based on what works best for them. As I studied the relaxation response, I realized that this is one of the many benefits that an acupuncture treatment can bring to patients.

 

How to practice the relaxation response at home

Dr. Benson has created a simple, nine-minute Youtube video where he guides you through the relaxation response process. Click here to watch “Relaxation Response: Dr. Herbert Benson Teaches you the Basics” on Youtube. Dr. Benson states that only two things are necessary to practice the relaxation response:

  1. A repeated word (like “peace”, “love”, or “calm”), sound, prayer, phrase, or movement
  2. Disregard other thoughts when they enter your mind and come back to the repetition

You can sit or lie down in a comfortable position to practice. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. It’s helpful if you can focus your breathing in your lower abdomen, though this isn’t necessary. Repeatedly say your word, sound, prayer, or phrase on your exhalation. If other thoughts come into your mind, Dr. Benson advises you to tell yourself “oh well”. Then, bring yourself back to the repetition and continue. Dr. Benson recommends daily practice for 10-15 minutes. Finish your practice, and take your time getting up and returning to your day.

 

If you think that this sounds a lot like meditation, you’re right! This is a powerful form of meditation. If the recommended daily 10-15-minute practice feels too long for you, start slowly. Even as little as one minute can be beneficial. Take your time, and gradually build up to a longer practice. Ultimately, having a regular daily practice of at least 10 minutes will be very effective at building immunity and countering daily stress.

 

Additional ways to practice the relaxation response

One great option to practice the relaxation response is through guided visualization. This can bring the same benefits as the meditation described earlier, but it may feel more doable because all you have to do is sit or lie down in a quiet place and listen to someone else speak. One of my favorite creators of guided visualization tools is Belleruth Naparstek. She has made over one hundred recordings available on iTunes as well as in CD format. Topics range from Immunity to Insomnia & Restful Sleep, Stress, Grief, and Anger & Forgiveness as well as number of condition-specific titles like Headaches, Menopause, and Cancer.

 

Another favorite is the 21-day medication experience collections created by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. Many of these collections are offered for free. Each daily audio program starts out with an inspirational message from Oprah. Deepak follows Oprah with his own words of wisdom. Deepak then suggests a meditation phrase and guides the listener in a 10-minute meditation. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oprah and Deepak created a series called “Hope in Uncertain Times” which is available for free until May 15th, 2020. After that, it will be available for purchase. The programs last for 21 days because it has been shown that it can take 21 days to create a new habit. I have followed several of these 21-day meditation experiences, and I have purchased some of them. I will often restart a program from day one to start a new 21-day cycle of meditation.

 

Physical options

While I am a huge proponent of stillness, I also love to experience movement in a meditative form. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Benson states that movement can also elicit the relaxation response. What’s important is having a way to break the train of daily thoughts and stressors. This can be accomplished through repetitive exercise where you become immersed in the movement. Examples include yoga, tai chi, qigong, running, rowing, or even knitting or playing a musical instrument.

 

Overall, what’s most important is that you find what works for you and commit to a regular daily practice. I think you’ll be thrilled with the benefits you experience!

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Acupuncture during the COVID-19 pandemic

Acupuncture COVID-19

Acupuncture and important COVID-19 safety updates

This blog post shares how our acupuncture office visits have been updated to best serve you and your safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. In these challenging times, we know that now more than ever people are needing help easing their body, mind, spirit back into balance. We’re here for you!

 

We are thrilled to share that we are re-opening the HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine office in Lumina Station in a phase-in fashion in early June. Telehealth appointments are still available for those who prefer to continue treatment at home. Click this link to learn more about Telehealth appointments.

 

We are following the CDC, OSHA, and Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM) infection control requirements and advisories.

 

Appointments will be scheduled to allow for spacing, cleaning, and a comfortable healing environment.

 

New patients

We are pleased to welcome new patients to our practice. New patients can click this link to learn what an acupuncture treatment is like. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we will conduct the initial interview over the phone or through our HIPAA-compliant Telehealth platform, and then patients will come into the office for their treatment.

 

Acupuncture COVID-19 form

We have a new Acupuncture COVID-19 Informed Consent to Treat form. We will email the form to you through Docusign so you can review and sign it before your appointment.

 

Masks

Masks are required for everyone, and you must be wearing a face mask before you enter the treatment room. Ericca will be wearing a medical procedure mask. Patients are welcome to wear cloth or homemade masks.

 

Arriving for your appointment

Please arrive no earlier than 5 minutes before your scheduled appointment or wait in your car or outside until your appointment time. Anyone accompanying you will need to wait outside or in the car.

 

When you arrive, we will meet you at the door and take your temperature and provide you with hand sanitizer. There will be no waiting in the waiting room.

 

In the treatment room

When you enter the treatment room, you’ll place your personal belongings on a hook and / or shelf and go directly to the treatment table and sit or lie down.

 

The treatment table will continue to have sheets for you to lie on and to cover yourself. If you enjoy being cozy during your treatment, you are welcome to bring your own blanket.

 

EPA-approved disinfection

The treatment room is cleaned thoroughly between patients, with sheets changed and surfaces cleaned with an EPA-approved botanical disinfectant.

 

Medical-grade air filtration

We have upgraded our air purifier to a new medical-grade filtration H13 true HEPA system that removes 99.97% of particles down to 0.1 microns. For reference, the average size of the SARS CoV-2 particle which causes COVID-19 is about 0.125 microns.

 

Intake and treatment procedure updates

Ericca will sit 6 feet away from you during the intake and discuss how you’re doing and your treatment goals. The intake can also be done over the phone while you’re sitting in your car if you prefer.

 

We will send instructions on how to take a picture of your tongue with your cell phone prior to your appointment.

 

Ericca will be within 6 feet of you for a limited time when she feels your pulses and also during your acupuncture treatment.

 

Contactless payment

We will be using contactless payment and will ask for your credit card information when booking your appointment. Your card will not be charged until after your appointment. We will still accept checks, and if you prefer to pay with cash please bring exact change.

 

Important notes

We ask that you please reschedule your appointment if you have any sign of a respiratory disease such as fever or cough, or even a common cold. If you are unsure about whether to come in, please let us know and we can assess and decide together.

 

While we cannot provide a 100% risk-free guarantee, we hope that the procedures we have put in place that follow the CDC, OSHA and CCAOM requirements and guidelines will help you feel safe.

 

Thank you!

Supporting your health and well-being is our top priority and we are honored to be a part of your path. Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you in the office or in a Telehealth session!

 

-Ericca

 

Have questions or want to schedule? Please and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960. I’d love to hear from you!

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. HAVEN now offers Telehealth in North Carolina. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

 

How Acupuncture and Ear Seeds help PTSD

PTSD treatment acupuncture ear seeds

PTSD treatment with acupuncture and ear seeds

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a condition that can occur after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Triggers can cause the event to be relived. This can create intense emotional and / or physical reactions that can be debilitating. Many people who have PTSD experience anxiety, fear, anger, agitation, difficulty concentrating and / or sleeping. In other words, PTSD can have a profound impact on body, mind and spirit. Acupuncture and ear seeds can be an effective treatment for PTSD.

One of the best treatments I’ve found for PTSD involves auriculotherapy, or ear acupuncture. The external ear contains a microcosm of the body, and all of the parts of the body can be accessed through acupuncture points on the ear. There are six specific points that were researched and tested by a team of doctors that have proven to be beneficial when using auriculotherapy to treat PTSD. The points are as follows: hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, point zero, and shen men. The majority of these points directly affect specific parts of the brain.

 

Acupuncture points can help balance and heal the brain and help PTSD

The hypothalamus point balances the autonomic nervous system and calms the overexcited sympathetic nervous system. The amygdala point is also referred to as the “irritability point” and calms the emotions. The hippocampus point helps with memories, specifically, the ability to distinguish old memories from current events. The prefrontal cortex helps you take “right action” on thoughts. Point zero, which is located at the center of the ear, helps bring the body, mind and spirit to homeostasis or balance. Finally, shen men is a point that calms stress, anxiety, and pain.

While these six points can be stimulated with acupuncture needles during an acupuncture treatment, I prefer to apply ear seeds to these points. I am a huge fan of ear seeds. I love that they give the patient something physical to work with after they leave my office. Ear seeds are literally just that – seeds that applied to the ear. The type of ear seeds that I use most contain small black seeds from the vaccaria plant. These seeds are the perfect shape and size to activate acupuncture points on the ear. The seeds are held to the points with small squares of adhesive tape and look like tiny Band-Aids. They also come in different finishes like Swarovski crystal if you want some sparkle in your ears.

 

How ear seeds work and help PTSD

Ear seeds stimulate acupuncture points by exerting a gentle pressure from the adhesive tape. They can also be pressed with the fingers to provide stronger stimulation as needed. For example, if you are wearing ear seeds and you start to experience anxiety, you can press on the ear seeds with your fingers to get some quick relief. Ear seeds can be worn in the shower and left in place for up to five days in a row.

It’s important to work with your doctor to make sure that you have the proper diagnosis and treatment options for PTSD, and acupuncture and ear seeds can be a great addition to your toolkit.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she treats patients with PTSD with acupuncture and ear seeds in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

What is Facial Gua Sha?

facial gua sha wilmington nc

Facial gua sha in Wilmington, NC

Facial gua sha is a natural, non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical treatment for renewing the face. It has been used for centuries to increase facial health and beauty and has even been referred to as a non-surgical face-lift. People who are afraid of needles are happy to learn that this is a treatment that does not involve needles. The treatment is called “gua sha” because the word “gua” refers to the stroking motion that is applied to the face, and “sha” refers to the appearance of pink in the skin that results from the stroking motion. When gua sha is performed on the face during a facial gua sha treatment, it is done so very gently with the intention of improving circulation and lifting tissues.

In a facial gua sha treatment, a hydrating spray and nourishing oil are applied into the face and décolletage, and a delicate smooth jade tool is used to massage the face. The jade tool gently smooths, invigorates, and sculpts the skin and underlying tissues. Facial gua sha lifts and sculpts the face and neck and focuses on key areas including the brow, eyelids, cheeks, and jowls, often revealing a brighter, toned and lifted complexion and a more clearly defined jaw line. Gua sha can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, sagging, and dullness, as well as darkness and puffiness under the eyes. Results can also include a reduction in sinus congestion, jaw tension, and headaches.

 

What I love about facial gua sha

I love facial Gua sha, and what I notice immediately after a treatment is the resulting glow. One of the biggest areas of improvement I’ve seen in my own complexion is in the evenness of my facial features. One of my eyebrows is lower than the other, and I find that by doubling the amount of massage strokes made to lift the lower eyebrow I can achieve symmetry between my two eyebrows. When I work around the area of my mouth, I’m pleased to see that my lips get lifted so they are more in the shape of a smile than a frown. I also love how gentle and relaxing the overall massage is. It’s definitely a treat!

What’s amazing to me is that results are typically seen after just one session. It’s important to keep reminding the muscles to stay lifted and create new habits, so weekly maintenance for a period of 8 – 10 weeks is recommended for lasting results. After that, maintenance treatments can be spread out more. This technique is gentle enough that it can also be performed daily if desired, and in my practice, I offer a take-home kit with instructions for people who want to continue the maintenance on their own at home.

 

Who should try facial gua sha

Facial gua sha can benefit almost anyone. It’s also important to know that Facial Gua Sha is not recommended for everyone. For example, it’s not a good fit those who are pregnant or have: conjunctivitis, a contagious skin condition, skin irritation other than acne, any growth or injury to facial skin, any blood vessel disorder, blood disease or history of blood clots. It’s a good rule of thumb to wait at least 10 weeks after chemical or surgical treatments the on face and neck and 3 months after Botox or fillers.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she practices facial gua sha in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

What to Expect During an Acupuncture Treatment

acupuncture treatment wilmington nc

Acupuncture treatment at HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

Many people are curious about what an acupuncture treatment is like and feel more comfortable when they know what to expect beforehand. This blog shares what it’s like to receive an acupuncture treatment at HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC.

Medical history and goal setting

The majority of the initial visit is actually spent talking. We’ll go through your health history. This includes what medications and supplements you are taking, and previous and current conditions. We’ll discuss your goals for the treatment. I often ask people to imagine that I have a magic wand. With this wand, I can grant them wishes that would improve the quality of their life. I ask them to share their top three wishes. I ask this because people are not usually aware of the wide range of areas that acupuncture can positively affect. Often people will bring up something that they think would be impossible to help. They might mention things like PMS or hot flashes, difficulty concentrating, or constipation. They are thrilled to learn that we can work on those areas.

Pulse reading

After our discussion is complete, I will check your pulses. The pulses are felt on the wrist just as a western medical practitioner would take pulses. In Chinese Medicine, we feel the pulses on both wrists, and we actually feel or “listen” to the pulses in twelve different positions. The twelve different positions correspond to the twelve different organ systems in the body. The way the pulse feels gives insight into how that particular organ system is functioning.

Tongue diagnosis

After the pulse taking, I’ll examine your tongue. I’ll ask you to stick out your tongue at me (yes, you read that correctly!). I’ll look at the size, shape, color, and qualities of the coating on the tongue. The major organs are also represented on the tongue. Looking at the tongue gives additional insight into how the organs are processing energy.

How big are those acupuncture needles?!

Next, I’ll show what the acupuncture needles look like. They come in sterile, single use sealed packages. They are safely disposed of after use. People are often surprised to see how tiny the needles are. They are generally about the width of a human hair. Depending upon the size of the acupuncture needle, anywhere from 20 – 40 acupuncture needles can actually fit inside a standard hypodermic needle used to draw blood or administer medicine. We’ll also discuss if other modalities are to be used. For example you are afraid of needles or you think needles might be too intense for you or your child, we might use ear seeds, moxa, or tuning forks instead of acupuncture needles. You can check out the Services page for a description of all modalities offered in addition to acupuncture needles.

Getting comfortable and preparing for treatment

At this point, I will leave the treatment room and let you get comfortable on the treatment table. You can snuggle up in blankets and enjoy the table warmer if you like. I then analyze the information we discussed and design a treatment plan to help restore the proper balance of energy in your body and address your concerns. Every person is unique and receives a treatment customized specifically to their needs.

After I finish my treatment plan, I’ll wash my hands, knock on the treatment room door, and then enter the treatment room to start the treatment. I’ll explain the various types of sensations you might feel during the treatment. I will ask for feedback on how you are doing. When you’re ready, I’ll leave the treatment room and let you relax comfortably for a specified period of time. This is about 20 minutes on average. Don’t be surprised if you are so relaxed that you fall asleep! After the treatment, I’ll recommend a follow-up plan and answer any questions. I love questions, and I love it when people get involved and invested in their treatment and health.

If you have questions, please reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960. I’d love to hear from you!

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.