Home Acupuncture & COVID-Stress for Healthcare Workers

Acupuncture & COVID-Stress for Healthcare Workers

Over the past several months, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, and stress amongst healthcare providers and caregivers, especially frontline & long-term care workers. The fact that we have not dealt with a global pandemic like this in over a century cannot be understated. It’s undoubtedly affecting all of us, however, it’s clear that our healthcare workers and caregivers are battling COVID stress in ways unique to their respective field.[1] The wellbeing and resilience of our healthcare workers are key to keeping our society alive and healthy as we battle the pandemic. However, without proper self-care, healthcare workers face a burnout like we’ve never seen before, which can turn into varying degrees of maladaptive coping, psychological crises, and PTSD.[2]

And yet, their strong “others first” mentality, lack of time, difficulty in recognizing their needs, and a fear of stigma often prevents healthcare workers from seeking much needed care. Therefore, a self-care strategy needs to be multi-faceted and encouraged. We must encourage healthcare workers to:

  1. Become attuned and receptive to the needs of their bodies and minds
  2. Practice lifestyle modifications: self-pacing, check-ins, adequate nutrition, positive self-talk, adequate exercise, etc.
  3. Cultivate mindfulness regarding thoughts & emotions (change what they can, accept what they cannot, and be able to discern the difference)
  4. Make time for therapeutic modalities that work to provide relaxation, increase stress resilience, and promote health in the body, mind, and spirit. 

This is where acupuncture comes in; integrative therapies like acupuncture can help in all these areas of self-care. Acupuncture works to improve stress resilience by balancing the sympathetic (stress response/ “fight or flight”) & parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response/ “rest and digest”).[3] When these systems are working in harmony, we are given the hormonal boosts we need to address stress in the moment (fight or flight), and the relaxation we need to come down again (rest & digest). Numerous studies have demonstrated that acupuncture increases parasympathetic tone[4] while also helping to:

  • manage pain
  • improve gut motility & other digestive functions
  • improve sleep cycles & energy
  • balance the mood to alleviate depression and anxiety
  • improve cognition and alertness
  • improve awareness of body, thoughts, and emotions
  • improve circulation
  • bolster immunity

At the UofL Trager Institute, we realize that in order to innovate the aging experience, we have to care for those who care for others. COVID has likely changed our society for the foreseeable future, and we must make sure those who care for others are cared for themselves. We look forward to treating as many healthcare workers and caregivers as we can with our acupuncture services. If you have specific questions about how acupuncture can help you cope with the stress of COVID-19, please email our providers at [email protected]. To learn about our acupuncture services at the UofL Trager Institute, click here

Until next time, be safe, be healthy, and be well! We will get through this, and we will get through this together!

Blog Contributors:

Dr. Colby Helton, DAOM, L.Ac

Acupunture Practitioner
UofL Trager Institute


Andrea Helton, MSAOM, L.Ac

Acupunture Practitioner
UofL Trager Institute

[1] Managing Healthcare Workers' Stress Associated with the COVID-19 Virus Outbreak: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/covid/COVID_healthcare_workers.asp

[4] Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation: https://doaj.org/article/71c77729f2604bcb8f09a9b53849a779

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