When I managed to reach the medical burnout point running my business in 2018, I had no idea that “Chinese medicine” was even an option for the symptoms that I had.
Daily heart palpitations, severe insomnia that was so bad I thought it might be better to throw myself under a bus, indigestion and reflux, odd vibrating sensations in my body, a feeling like a belt was strapped over my chest, random shortness of breath…this was just the beginning.
I was in the middle of experiencing a dozen symptoms that I had never once experienced in my life on their own – and it hit me all at once.
The weird part?
I never felt that stressed out.
But my body was losing its shit.
When I first went to the hospital and got the textbook line, “we don’t know what’s going on, but you don’t appear to be dying,” that’s when I knew I wasn’t going to find the answers at my doctor.
And that’s where the adventure began.
Here are some things that I’ve learned, that may help you
1. It Can Work Impressively Fast For Insomnia and Stress
One study done by Dr. Michael Freeman, who is a professor at UCSF, found that 49% of the 250 entrepreneurs he studied struggled with depression or a mental-health disorder. And 72% self-reported that they had mental health concerns.
The absolute toughest part about me running my own business for the first time was the crippling stress that came with the fear of my business failing.
How am I going to grow this thing? What if it doesn’t work out, I’ve dedicated three years to this baby, I can’t possibly let it go. The whole business and everyone depends on me, I can’t fail.
Unfortunately, it took serious burnout to learn that my exact mindset above is the same one that will take you to an early grave.
“The whole enterprise depends on me – therefore I cannot fail.“
This righteous, CEO mindset unfortunately is a direct path to self-destruction.
And yet, that was me on a daily basis. Eventually, there were one or two nights where I didn’t sleep well.
Later, there were weeks where I couldn’t sleep well two nights in a row.
And eventually, there were times where I couldn’t sleep at all, and even though I was exhausted, I couldn’t sleep the next night until 3 am – and this went on for three years. After my sleep deprivation had been going on for six months, I made a new friend: Clinical Anxiety.
Oh, so that’s what people mean when they say “crippling anxiety.”
How Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Formulas can Help
I was shocked to find out how quickly acupuncture worked, after I tried basically every OTC medicine I could find for sleep relief, (including getting on my knees and crying/begging to God).
After seeing the practitioner that I went to for Chinese herbal formulas, for the first time in almost six months, I slept through the night for three days in a row.
The research is very interesting too:
- One systematic review of 46 different studies found that acupuncture worked better than sleep medications to increase sleep duration by more than 3 hours; that sleep was better even if you were using sleep medication combined with acupuncture; and that acupuncture with herbal formulas worked better than herbs alone
- Another study here compared acupuncture vs. a sham vs. the Benzodiazepine drug Estazolam and found that all three improved sleep (compared to the pre-treatments), however that acupuncture performed best, especially for feeling more awake during the day
- One smaller study done on pregnant women compared sleep hygiene practices versus acupuncture for insomnia, and found that their average insomnia scores decreased by 50% in most of the people in the study
The conventional medical treatments for anxiety are, for lack of a better word, disheartening.
Typically someone who is having anxiety or a panic attack is put on muscle relaxants or in the old days, “tranquilizers.” Now we have Benzos and all kinds of sleeping pills and anxiolytics we dispense like pez machines, alongside antidepressants too.
I get it. There are a lot of anxious and depressed people.
In fact, the cliche entrepreneur is extremely prone to the “upper” in the morning, and “downer” in the evening chemical approach to staying sane and sleeping.
Usually, that ends up being caffeine (or worse), and to wind down, alcohol or Xanax when things are severe.
Here’s the thing…
If you’d like to end that cycle of anxiety, insomnia, and not feeling like yourself, relying on the upper and downer cycle won’t work. Also, it’s unusual to find someone who consciously uses drugs like they should be used – short term, to get through a tough phase in life.
It’s unfortunately common to find someone who is on and off benzos (or other anxiety-depression-insomnia drugs) for decades, or their entire life.
This is a dangerous road to go down, and does not address what’s really causing this in your life.
3. The Solutions Your Doctor May Give for Depression / Anxiety Are Questionable
I’m not anti-pharmaceuticals, however the rate at which modern physicians are dispensing antidepressants and anxiolytics (drugs used for anxiety) is problematic.
The bigger problem?
An interesting paper written in the British Medical Journal called “The Pharmaceuticalisation of Life,” shared two important points, worth knowing.
“First, evidence shows that only one in nine people benefit from antidepressants: the remaining eight are unnecessarily put at risk of adverse drug events.”
Secondly, the effect size for antidepressants is modest, plateauing at around 0.30 compared with placebo, and is based on scales of questionable clinical relevance…”
These drugs can be life saving, and do help many people.
However, most entrepreneurs that I’ve seen with moderate-later stage burnout typically end up on antidepressants and Xanax, and it’s very difficult to come back from this stage, if symptoms are not dealt with in an integrative fashion. In my experience, the longer that uncomfortable symptoms are suppressed, typically the longer the healing process.
And if you’re interested in high performance, that’s not possible if you don’t feel well long-term.
4. You’ll Realize You Can Have Financial Success and Enjoy Your Life
One of the reasons I found myself burning out, was because I couldn’t fully relax and let go. I had to make sure my empire succeeded.
This is burnout mode:
“I am the CEO, if I don’t grind, this entire company will collapse without me, I HAVE to do this, everyone is relying on me…”
This is crush-it mode, while actually enjoying life:
I’ll grind it out every day, but I know that if this venture doesn’t work, I can always start another one – and life will be fine.
Part of healing from entrepreneurial burnout and “oh shit I ruined my health and relationships” deals with addressing the beliefs you’ve had around success your entire life.
The fundamental belief that allows you to keep grinding in the face of illness is a faulty belief: If I relax, this will all come crumbling down.
If that’s you, try a 30-day surrender experiment – where any of the things that are not going well in your business, or that are causing you stress, you literally command your mind to “let me see what happens if I let this go, just a little, just 10%.”
Once you see that your empire doesn’t fall, and once you see that you feel a million times better – and often have more financial success – this can become a habit.
5. You’ll Become Less High Strung
For me, like so many entrepreneurs who worked long hours, I noticed subtle changes in my personality.
The first thing? I was becoming more and more agitated with people, and more and more high strung.
But it all came from my ridiculous workload. It came from the fact that I could never fully relax and let the business do its thing – whether that meant success or failure. It came from the fact that I never felt like I had enough time to work in my business because it never made “tons of money” to get to the point where I could relax.
Acupuncture and herbal formulas can absolutely help tone down the high-strungness that is so damaging to yourself and people around you.
The problem is that many conditions related to emotional unexpression cannot be diagnosed in conventional care. For example, hysteria, also tied to “hypochondria” was related to a time in history where primarily women complained about this stuck feeling in the ribs – hence the name, hypo (below) chondrium (ribside). Oxford languages explains it as originated from the Latin and Greek hupokhondria, denoting the soft body area below the ribs, from hupo ‘under’ + khondros ‘sternal cartilage’.
Sounds like it’s all in your head right?
In Chinese medicine, this is actually a measurable, clinical pattern treated with certain formulas and acupuncture – a condition that is not “measurable” on a standard lab test, yet can be treated.
6. It Can Help With Jaw, Back and Neck Pain
Acupuncture is one of several effective therapies you can use for back, neck and jaw pain.
One study compared Acupuncture versus a Sham (“fake acupuncture”) and found that real acupuncture worked on TMJ to:
- Be able to open your mouth easier
- Have less jaw clicking
- Have less jaw pain
- Have less tenderness
- Experience fewer TMJ-related headaches
I’ve also previously written about how Acupuncture can help you with fixing lower back pain.
7. You Have a Reason to Escape the Office in the Middle of the Day to Nap
Two things happen very frequently during acupuncture treatments;
- Patients fall asleep
- Patients spontaneously feel emotions come up out of nowhere – and feel awesome afterwards
Both of those are great things.
8. You’ll Get Treated By Someone Who Knows How to Help Your Entire Life Get Better – Not Just Work
The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.
– Sir William Osler
Traditional Chinese Medicine (and really, any great physician) has always been concerned with treating the entire person.
What does that mean?
As a person, you:
- Eat a certain diet every day
- Live in a geographic area
- Have genetic predispositions to things
- Feel certain emotions
- Live with people or deal with people
- Work a certain job that you may or may not love
- Are a certain age, gender, and race
- Are driven by certain fears, desires, and emotions
… And every single one of those factors is considered an essential point of diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Every one of those has to be taken into account for a person to properly diagnose and treat what is going on with someone.
So just like a person can start cultivating the discipline to exercise, and then their relationship automatically improves too, by treating “the pattern” of imbalance in your life, your TCM doctor can help your perform better in work, love, and in leisure.
9. You Might Lose Weight (And Might Actually Want to Have Sex Again)
Sitting all day and working all day.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
You know what else all work and no play does to you? It makes you get fat and never want to have sex. And who the hell wants that?!
Well, I’ve already written about 7 ways acupuncture can help you lose weight. But what about wanting to snuggle up next to someone and do the dirty?
One study done on Japanese workers with Type 2 diabetes found that sitting longer hours was correlated with higher rates of sexual dysfunction
. Acupuncture and herbal formulas are natural methods to help you get your mojo back.
10. Who Knows, You Might Dream up Your Billion-Dollar, Unicorn Idea While Snoozing On The Table
There are many famous accounts of scientists who had the “aha” moment for their scientific breakthrough or business idea while napping.
Here are a few creatives who used this tactic, featured in a Fast Company article:
- Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose “Kubla Khan” is a record of half-dreamed reverie
- Composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who grabbed ideas while napping in his carriage
- Inventor Thomas Edison, who said that his mind was flooded with images when he was half-awake
- Composer Richard Wagner, whose Ring Cycle has hypnagogic images
- Philosopher John Dewey, who said people were most creative when they are “relaxed to the point of reverie.”
Even if you find it impossible to justify taking the time to leave your business – what if your one hour appointment is the thing that helps you find your breakthrough, your creative advantage or your next initiative?
That may be something worth thinking about.
-“Dr Alex” Heyne
P.S. Is there something here? Or are these just the ramblings of an old alchemist?