Find out more about acupuncture with our columnist, Drew Nesbitt.

If you've ever planned a wedding, you won't be surprised to hear that the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) considers wedding planning a "major stressful life event," lumping this joyous affair in the same category as coping with the loss of a loved one.

The pressures of planning this momentous occasion require individuals to keep their heads straight through all of the high-stakes decisions, financial obligations, and mounting family tensions. Feelings of frustration, anxiety, and even resentment towards partners may lead future brides and grooms to feel out of control. The term "bridal stress disorder" is now a recognized health condition, and "Bridezilla" is no longer a novelty catch phrase. It is official: stress during the wedding planning process is a serious and legitimate health issue.

How can future brides and grooms cope with stress as the big day approaches? Wedding websites and magazines recommend exercise, extra sleep, and spa days. These are all helpful ideas, but what if you have zero energy to exercise or you are having trouble falling asleep? Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can help you move beyond the headaches, conquer the nervous tension, and allow you the freedom to focus on the positives as your big day approaches.

Acupuncture: keeping you calm and balanced

First and foremost, TCM practitioners seriously consider the emotional state of the individual. In fact, specific acupuncture points are used exclusively to help relax and calm the mind.

From a scientific point of view, the stimulation of these points can influence our bodies' neurotransmitters, endogenous opioids, and hormones. In other words, acupuncture can influence our brain chemistry and therefore reduce the effects of the stress response. Due to the number of research studies on acupuncture, physicians are starting to recommend acupuncture for stress relief.

From a TCM point of view, acupuncture is said to regulate the body's energy source known as qi (pronounced "chee"). Qi travels to all parts of the body in pathways or meridians, nourishing all of our tissues, muscles, and organs. Simply put, when the qi of the body is imbalanced or blocked, disease can occur. A common diagnosis in TCM is "liver qi stagnation," which occurs when stress and frustration take over. Acupuncture, along with the use of herbal medicine, can effectively remove these blockages by helping you feel calmer and allowing you to think with more clarity and generally feel happier and healthier.

Getting the most out of your acupuncture session

To ensure a safe and effective acupuncture session, it is best to seek out a TCM practitioner with at least 4 years of full-time TCM training, and who is kind and easy to communicate with. Weekly treatments are most common but some individuals may require 2 sessions per week. After your session, you should feel calmer, happier, and experience greater mental clarity.

Don't let stress get the best of you as you plan your wedding. Let a trained acupuncturist guide you towards a stress-free wedding. Before you know it, you'll be better equipped to take on the caterer... and your soon-to-be mother-in-law!

Drew Nesbitt BA, TCMP, Ac. is an acupuncturist and TCM practitioner at Balance Integrated Healthcare located in Liberty Village,