Stress, Anxiety and Reflexology
We are all familiar with that feeling associated with being overly stressed; tense muscles, faster breathing, tight chest, heart pounding, sweaty palms.
This feeling can be helpful in the short term, helping us to accomplish our goals, and get things done to tight deadlines. But if your stress levels become too high, or are left unchecked for too long, this can have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing.
Stress and anxiety are common conditions for many of my clients, and it can make everyday life seem hard, often manifesting itself in various ways such as:
Physical symptoms – general aches or pains, muscle tension, frequent colds, lack of energy, rapid heartbeat, and digestive issues like IBS.
Behavioural changes – stress can lead to people isolating themselves, procrastinating, neglecting responsibilities, insomnia, eating too much or too little, or using alcohol and other drugs to cope.
Cognitive changes – difficulty in concentrating, constant worry, feeling fearful or on edge, having a negative view of life.
Emotional changes – irritability, feeling overwhelmed, loneliness, lack of a sense of humour.
When you are living with stress at this level, it can often be difficult to see a way forward or to believe things are ever going to get better. Sometimes, my clients are looking for a magic formula that will make it all go away, but the truth is there is no magic formula.
As a Reflexologist and holistic therapist, my job is to support your physical and emotional wellbeing on your journey to achieving better health. We need to look at your current lifestyle and work out what small changes we can make to impact your life and help you achieve your goals. Even if that’s finding 10 minutes for a walk, or sitting and practising some deep breathing to help you relax and unwind.
How does Reflexology help?
Firstly, I offer a relaxing treatment in a warm and comfortable environment, a listening ear, and space just to let go of the daily stresses and strains, even if it’s only during the treatment time.
I start my reflexology treatments (feet and face) with a slow, gentle massage to calm the nerves and get the client used to touch therapy. Slow, rhythmic massage has been shown to release oxytocin and has many benefits including lowering of stress hormones, increased pain threshold, sleep-inducing and improved healing.
“If you’re feeling out of kilter, don’t know what or where, find the sore spot and work it out!” – Eunice D. Ingham, the Mother of Reflexology.
Each person is unique, but their feet will tell you where to work to relieve the stress, anxiety and physical symptoms they are experiencing.
The definition of Reflexology describes the therapy as “a system of massage used to relieve tension and treat illness, based on the theory that there are reflex points on the feet, hands, and head linked to every part of the body.”
Therefore, when we find a spot that can feel tender or gritty, we can release the pressure and work on easing the tension of out this spot, or ‘Reflex’ point. For stress, we can also work the reflex points that are known to be involved when stress or anxiety are present. These points are:
Automatic nervous system – the sympathetic nervous system the “fight, flight or freeze” response to stress, and also returns the body to a state of rest once the stressful situation has been removed. This is linked to specific nerves and can be worked via the cranial and sacral reflexes.
The hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal glands – these three glands from the endocrine system are the most active in releasing stress hormones. Working these will help them to re-balance and return to their normal state.
The Brain – many anxious feelings come for the amygdala and hippocampus found in the brain which controls the automatic nervous system when they perceive something in our surroundings as dangerous. Worrying can make these areas overactive, so working the brain, found in the toes, can help to calm your mind and stop those worrying thoughts.
The Digestive tract – Science is starting to show the relationship between a healthy gut and healthy mental and physical wellbeing. The link is so important that the gut has been named ‘the second brain’. It is now known that gut microbiota (or gut flora) influence the levels of serotonin, which regulates feelings of happiness, so paying particular attention to the digestive reflexes can have a real impact on stress and our wellbeing.
As holistic therapists, we all need to be aware of lifestyle factors that can improve our health and happiness, and activities that may enhance, or put us on the right path to maintaining our wellbeing.
Here are three suggestions that can make a real difference to your stress levels.
Walking and other physical activity – stress and anxiety affect the brain with its many nerve connections, and the rest of the body feels this impact as well. Therefore, if your body feels better, it makes sense that your mind will too. The chemicals released from the stress response need to be used up for the body to return to its usual calm state. So, through a little exercise, you can reduce the stress hormones, reduce your anxiety symptoms, and improve the ability to sleep. Also, during exercise, endorphins are released which decrease pain and increase the good feelings in the body.
Yoga - Yoga is a self-care and nurturing activity for the mind and body that almost anybody can do, and it’s easy. Long, deep breaths will help to calm the mind and body, and the movement will help to burn away those stress hormones and free the muscles that are tight with tension. The easy movements make it non-competitive, so any fitness level and age can participate without the desire to give up quickly.
Mindfulness - with mindfulness, we observe our inner chatter, our thoughts, feelings and sensations with an open mind. We are non-judgemental, kind and curious. In this way, mindfulness allows us to interrupt the automatic fight, flight or freeze response – the responses that lead to stress, anxiety, fear, foreboding and worry.
In summary, as a Reflexologist and holistic therapist, I provide a safe and supportive environment for my clients, as well as a listening and non-judgemental ear if you wish to talk. There is no need to talk either, you can just sit quietly, and that’s ok too.
If you want to find a qualified reflexologist in your area, visit the Association of Reflexologists website at www.aor.org.uk.