Late Summer,  stress

Be a Warrior not a Worrier

Late Summer is all about the earth element. It’s associated with the meridians of the spleen and the stomach and the feeling of anxiety. In short, according to 5-Element Teachings, if you are experiencing anxiety then we look to the spleen and stomach meridians and try to create more balance here.

In all honesty, I am a worrier-in-recovery.  I would always visualise the worst that could happen, convincing myself that if I was prepared for that, then anything else could only be better. The anxiety would start in my stomach and creep through my whole body, leaving me in tears, not sleeping and unable to explain what was going on.

According to a 2019 study by the World Health Organisation, 301 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with anxiety disorders. With an anxiety disorder being classified as excessive fear and worry. To make matters even slightly more interesting if you also suffer from ongoing migraines, you are 4 times as likely to also have anxiety, as someone who is migraine free.

So how did I come to be a worrier-in-recovery, well it happened by accident when I was seeking a treatment for my debilitating migraines. In April this year I took a daytrip from Glasgow to London to have auricular Vagus Nerve Stimulation. Basically, I went to London to have my ears pierced.

Anyone who has experience a migraine will attest that there is NOTHING you wouldn’t do to stop the pain. I was having 3 or 4 episodes a week when I booked the appointment in London, and I figured I had nothing to lose. This was not a procedure I booked on a whim, in fact I had been researching it for over a year and had found 3 places in the UK where I could have this piercing done.

The Daith piercings I now have, stimulate the auricular (ear) branch of the Vagus Nerve, through acupuncture point 0. This point is not commonly used by acupuncturists, because the affects can only be felt while the area is being stimulated – i.e. while there’s a needle in your ear. But like any other acupuncture point, the placement is unique to the individual.

Heading along to your local piercer to have this point pierced will be a hit or miss, unless they have studied acupuncture and are trained to locate point 0. Some people have reported improvements in their migraines from regular piercings, but I wasn’t prepared to chance it.

I viewed the whole experience as a bit of an experiment, maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn’t. I didn’t expect much, but I also expected a miracle cure. Over the course of the last 4 months, my migraines have decreased from 3 or 4 a month to 1 every 2 weeks (ish.) The pain is considerably less, and I’ve been able to half the dose of my triptan medication when I need it. We calculated this is a 90% improvement in my symptoms – not bad for an ear piercing!

But the best bit comes with the other side-effects. My anxiety levels disappeared almost instantly. On the way back from London or flight was delayed for several hours. We had been up since 2.30am and it had been a very, very long day. I managed to close my eyes and have a little sleep at the airport, completely unfazed by the delayed flight, the prospect of driving home tired from Edinburgh or the amount of people gathering around me.

Over the last few months there have been plenty of other moments where I would have felt anxious, but it just didn’t happen. That Sunday night dread disappeared, and I no longer felt overly worried about what people thought of me. I began to notice that I had more time, because I wasn’t sitting around getting caught up in my thoughts and chasing the worry train.

I’ve been doing some reading, since then, about the Vagus nerve and how it can impact our anxiety levels and pain management. It’s truly fascinating stuff. But if you don’t fancy heading to London for your own pair of fancy earrings there are a few ways you can stimulate your Vagus nerve at home. I don’t promise the same results I’ve had but like everything else, a small positive step in the right direction is better than nothing. How to stimulate your Vagus Nerve

  1. Hum – humming can help to boost the Vagus nerve and send us into a relaxation state. Action – try Bhramari or Humming Bee breath.
  2. Cold Water – a splash of cold water over the face is another method of kick-starting the Vagus nerve. Action – try turning your shower to as cold as you can take it for the last 10 seconds.
  3. Breathe – diaphragmatic breathing is another super way to stimulate the Vagus nerve. Action – place one hand on the stomach and the other on the chest, feel the rise and fall of the abdomen in time with each breath.
  4. Yoga – yoga is another great way to stimulate the Vagus nerve as it incorporates mindful movement and attention to the breath. Action – try a yin yoga class focused on switching off. Try this 30-minute Yin Yoga video to stimulate the vagus nerve and encourage deeper relaxation.

If you are interested in learning more about the Daith piercings for migraines then please contact Richard Soper at Daith Piercings. This is who I went to for my piercings and I cannot recommend him highly enough.

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