The Dallas Acupuncture Blog
Holistic, Alternative, and Traditional Chinese Medicine in Dallas
Holiday Stress and Depression: Take Charge!

Acupuncture for Holiday Stress and Depression by David Brochstein, L.Ac., O.M.D.

The holidays and acupuncture may seem to be an unlikely juxtaposition, but there are several reasons why acupuncture has more in common with the holidays than you might think:

1. stress
2. anxiety
3. depression

The Mayo Clinic states that relationships, finances, and physical demands are the three categories of stress that most affect individuals and families around the holidays. The Clinic suggests the following 10 tips to help manage stress better:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videotapes.
  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression too.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

If you have tried to manage or prevent your own stress, but find that your mind and body still need help processing all of the increased demands you face…. acupuncture can help you.

According to the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the emotions are regulated by a body process called Liver Qi. Qi is the life-force energy that circulates within our body. (The closest thing that Western science has identified to Qi is described by quantum physics, and this is a very complicated discussion!) Qi can become blocked or stagnate. The smooth-flow of your bodily processes is compromised when qi stagnates. Strong negative emotions cause liver qi to stagnate, and when this happens you can become stressed, anxious, depressed, lethargic, fearful or angry.

Once your body has entered a negative emotional state the qi of other organs becomes affected. You may then experience secondary problems with your digestion, menses, energy, sleep, focus, or exacerbated pain symptoms such as backaches or head aches.

Western medicine typically treats stress by blocking neurochemical factors. This means that a person taking these medications will continue to experience stressful circumstances, but your mind is no long aware or responsive to the stress. This type of treatment can divorce the mind and body, it can reduce our responsiveness to our environment: work, family, friends, self-care.

Traditional Chinese Medicine instead seeks to soothe to blocked qi so that your mind is naturally freed, you are able to see your circumstances more clearly, and respond to stressors in your environment instead of reacting or avoiding them! Take charge of your life this holiday season.


  1. Pert C, Dreher H, Ruff M. The psychosomatic network: foundations of mind-body medicine. Alternative Therapies July 1998;4(4):30-41.
  2. Pert C. Molecules of Emotion. Simon & Schuster, 1999; ISBN: 0684846349.

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