By Phil Wyzik
The needles that Janet Rounds, RN, a skillful acupuncturist, placed in my ears that day felt like quick mosquito bites. And when the ten needles were in my ears, I couldn’t even tell they were there. While it might seem odd that someone could feel relaxation with needles stuck in their body – and I wasn’t consciously trying to relax – I quickly sensed the tension in my shoulder muscles easing. Then my eyelids started to feel droopy. After ten minutes, the muscles in my upper arms felt less tight.
For me, the first brief taste of this treatment led me to join one of the staff offerings of acupuncture at Monadnock Family Services. At the end of the half hour group, my face, shoulders and arm were about as relaxed as getting out of a hot tub, without the hot tub. There’s something clearly at work with this ancient art that the Western mind doesn’t often fully appreciate.
A way to alleviate stress
A few months ago, Monadnock Family Services decided to invite some of its adult clients to try a 10-week group using acupuncture – the ancient Chinese medicine of inserting flexible needles into precise points in the body – to help deal with stress.
Janet Rounds, a certified acupuncturist who has been providing such interventions for more than ten years, worked with the clients at Monadnock Family Services during the 10-week period. And the results and changes in stress levels among our clients were striking. So much so that we decided to offer the same experience to our staff members.
The feeling of unrelenting stress is a significant threat to health. Perhaps unavoidable in our current society, stress is a total system response – physical and emotional – to things we see as negative in our lives. Left unmanaged, it shows itself in things like memory problems, concentration difficulties, moodiness, irritability, constant worrying and changes in sleep, eating or social patterns.
According to some theories, these manifestations mean that a small area of the brain, the amygdala, is stuck in high gear and can’t slow down.
Acupuncture also helpful for detox
The allure of learning this intricate form of medicine that dates back more than 1000 years was powerful for Janet during her work at the Brattleboro Retreat. There, a colleague experimented with acupuncture as a detox treatment for addiction.
The effects on the recipients were undeniable, and after an injury to her own shoulder and a trial herself, Janet was sold on the ancient technique. “It was amazing,” she recalls.
Finding the closest place to study, Janet picked up stakes and moved to Maryland for five years, jumping headlong into an Asian way of thinking about the body and its healing capacities. Trying to integrate her Western medical education into this new realm was not always easy. But now, she says both perspectives serve her well in her daily profession here in Keene.
“It’s about the body’s energies,” explains Janet. “These energetics get blocked and illnesses result. The needles channel the energy differently, sometimes lessening it, sometimes boosting it, sometimes making it move smoothly and flow in a new direction that brings about a state of health.”
Acupuncture combined with traditional therapy
At the MFS acupuncture sessions, a therapist accompanied Janet to talk to the participants about the harmful consequences of unaddressed, unrelenting stress, anxiety and other strong emotions after the experience of trauma or other life difficulties.
This “talk therapy” has proven to be a helpful addition to the acupuncture treatment going on simultaneously. In other settings, a course of acupuncture has helped people using individual psychotherapy to delve deeper into the problems keeping them in pain.
“I haven’t felt this relaxed since I was 15 years old,” remarked a 23-year-old member.
Janet’s favorite story from the MFS groups includes a shy woman who, with the needles and meditative music in the background, experienced such a feeling of physical and emotional calm, she started to cry. The new and welcoming feeling of relaxation was so refreshing it felt foreign and even a bit frightening, Janet recalls her saying. “I never cry in public,” Janet says the woman told the group, “but today I felt okay about it.”
“Intense emotions from past hardships can stay inside us,” says Janet. “They stick with us and color our perspectives. But so too does the feeling of relaxation that comes from acupuncture treatment. That also becomes part of our experience and sometimes it’s enough to make a big change in the way people are.”
Acupuncture is available as an aid to stress management from various licensed practitioners in the Monadnock region.
About Phil Wyzik
Industry: Mental Health
Occupation: Chief Executive Officer
Location: Cheshire County
Since June 2012, Phil Wyzik has been the CEO of Monadnock Family Services, the designated community mental health center in the greater Cheshire County. Prior to this, he was the President and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Connecticut. He also worked for 17 yrs as VP of Operations for West Central Behavioral Health in Lebanon. He has worked in the NH mental health system since 1991. Beginning his mental health career in 1986, he has previous professional experience as an addiction counselor, teacher, and religious education coordinator. He received his Master’s degree in 1984 from Assumption College in Worcester MA and has been a lecturer at Granite State College since 2001. He teaches online courses in health care finance, health care ethics, and quality improvement. He also volunteers at the New Hampshire Handicapped Sports Association at Mt Sunapee and teaches skiing.
The mental health side of health care is often overlooked. While that is very clear when it comes to research and treatment, it’s also true when it comes to prevention of mental health problems in the first place. This growing body of knowledge can offer many important insights into ways to keep your mental and emotional health in a positive direction.