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It’s the most wonderful time of the year– or is it?

Between crowded shopping centers, calendars overloaded with social engagements, and closing out the year at work, many of us feel more stressed during the holiday season than we do any other time of the year. That’s because our responsibilities don’t go away as soon as the decorations come out of the box–our to-do lists actually increase, plus the pressure is on to make everything wonderful for those around us. If this sounds to you like the “perfect storm” of stress, you’re not alone.

But guess what: It doesn’t have to be this way. Acupuncture can help.

Remember when you were a kid and the holidays were magical? You might not be able to turn back time, but you can take action to reduce the stress and anxiety in your day-to-day life and focus on what’s important. And if it feels like you just can’t make time in your busy schedule to work on battling stress, listen up–it’s more important than you might think.

If you’ve heard the phrase before that “stress is a killer,” it’s not an exaggeration. While stress has a biological purpose–it’s a warning symbol that something isn’t right and needs to be changed–it’s vitally important to manage the level of stress hormones in your body at any one time. The causes of stress are almost too many to name–but there are a few concrete things you can do to manage the causes and symptoms of stress in your life.

First, take stock of your unique situation.

What is causing you stress? Is it your place of work? Your relationships? Your health? Something else? If you can easily make a change to reduce the amount of stress in your life, take the time to do so. If it’s something that can’t be changed in the near future, keep reading.

Don’t forget to do a self-check for symptoms of stress.

When you’re busy, you might not even realize you’re experiencing stress. Symptoms like headaches, stomach pain, sleeplessness, trouble focusing, depression, anger, and appetite changes can all be signals that you’re stressed out–even if you don’t know it.

Set aside “you” time–even if it’s only 15 minutes–to work on your stress.

Working on your stress is fun work, so treat it like a privilege, not a chore! Even a small amount of daily time spent doing yoga, tai chi, or meditation can make a world of difference. Slowly increase the amount of time you can devote to mindfulness until you feel that your stress has subsided.

Book an acupuncture appointment right away.

In addition to a daily stress-busting practice, acupuncture can dramatically reduce your stress–and fast! That’s why we always recommend that people come in for an appointment as soon as they feel the holiday stress creeping up. Acupuncture works so quickly and efficiently at relieving stress that it makes it far easier for patients to maintain a lower-stress lifestyle in between appointments.

That’s because acupuncture unblocks the qi, or vital energy, that circulates throughout our bodies. When qi is blocked, it manifests as physical (or even emotional) pain. Through the insertion of hair-thin needles, acupuncture unblocks the energy so it can flow freely and healthily throughout the body. Western medicine has discovered that acupuncture is as effective for stress as many pharmaceutical treatments.

So this year, don’t let the holidays make you feel frazzled. Get the help that you need and enjoy the happiest holiday season you’ve had in years!