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Beating stress with holistic therapies

Our modern, fast paced world is a perfect breeding ground for stress and tension. Whether it’s the daily commute, the pressure at work, family tensions, or financial worries, many of us are feeling increasingly stressed out.

In fact, a study conducted by the International Stress Management Association reported that "one in two workers had suffered from stress within the last 12 months".

Some stress is good for us, it helps us to perform better in the short term, but long-term chronic stress can affect our health and wellbeing from digestive issues and diabetes to infertility and heart disease.

Sometimes there’s a solution to deal with the underlying problem depending on your situation, and if so, you should try to reduce stress in your life, but other times, this is impossible, and we just have to ride the storm in the best way we can.

There are many stress management techniques, for example, you could try going for a run (to clear the mind, and release those feel-good endorphins), or you could explore a different approach from the world of complementary and alternative therapies. Here are four great therapies that can help you beat stress.


beat stress with reflexology

Reflexologists believe long-term stress is damaging to the body's endocrine system, which includes the pancreas, pineal gland and adrenal gland. The adrenal gland, which is triggered during the "fight or flight" response to danger (i.e. stress), is associated with a small pea-shaped area beneath the ball of the foot, directly under the big toe. Many reflexologists will focus on this area during treatment on a client who is struggling with stress.

Many people use Reflexology to help cope with the long-term effects of stress, rather than turning to medication, which can mask symptoms rather than deal with the underlying condition.

Reflexology can be a natural, low-cost option to fight the effects of stress on the heart and overall health. Reflexology intends to treat the body, mind, and soul as a connected system by getting to the root cause of disease, not its symptoms. Reflexology helps the body to reach a place of deep relaxation where it can balance the body systems and therefore cancel out the effects of stress.

Through the deep relaxation process, the body is more capable of dealing with the stresses placed on it during daily living and those associated with illness. In this relaxed state, muscular tension is released, nerve function improved, blood and lymph circulate freely, and overall health and wellbeing improve. Sleep also improves with regular treatment, and the whole ‘fight or flight’ stress response is calmed.

And here’s the science bit … in a report on reflexology research published at a Chinese study demonstrated how reflexology efficiently alleviated the effects of extreme stress. Twenty patients being treated for neurasthenia - a condition of extreme emotional stress - were given a course of reflexology at the hospital's department of physiotherapy. The treatments focused on areas of the feet relating to the adrenal glands, kidneys, bladder, sinus, brain, and heart; organs that are compromised by the effects of stress.

The treatments were given daily for a week with the following results presented at the China reflexology symposium in July 1993: 40 per cent experienced a complete cure; 35 per cent were greatly improved; 15 per cent mildly improved, and 10 per cent reporting no change at all.


beat stress with massage

Essential oils can be used as part of a massage, added to an incense burner or poured into your bath water. Lavender, rosemary, lemon and frankincense have traditionally been used to ease stress and promote feelings of relaxation. There are also certain remedies designed to be used as oral drops (such as Bach flower remedies).

Simply smelling essential oils can help to ease stress and anxiety. Certain scents work better for some people than others, so consider experimenting with various options.

Lavender may be especially helpful. A 2012 study tested the effects of aromatherapy with lavender on insomnia in 67 women aged 45–55. Results suggest that the aromatherapy may reduce the heart rate in the short term and help to ease sleep issues in the long term.

Frankincense relieves stress very effectively. Through the use of Frankincense and its numerous properties that help, including its anti-depressant and sedative qualities, the nervousness that builds into anxiety can be calmed.

The aroma of Frankincense holds a blissful and immediately soothing and calming aroma which has a truly gentle nature to it. It is used in spiritual ceremonies throughout the world for various reasons, one of which is its energetically cleansing nature, though it also helps priests and monks to achieve a deeper level of calm with ease. This is in part due to its natural sedative effect and is good for when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Massage Therapy

beat stress with massage

Massage therapy relaxes the mind, works wonders on tense, knotted muscles and also releases feel-good endorphins into the body. Its usage dates back thousands of years in ancient civilisations such as China, India and Egypt. Massage therapy often involves different techniques such as pressing trigger points, tapping, or kneading areas with muscle tension.

Virtually every symptom listed by the American Psychological Association can benefit from massage. Research has shown that it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, relax your muscles and increase the production of endorphins, your body's natural "feel good" chemical. Serotonin and dopamine are also released through massage, and the result is a feeling of calm relaxation that makes chronic or habitual as well as acute or short-term stress much easier to manage.

In fact, stress relief is one of the first benefits that spring to mind if you are thinking of trying massage therapy. It's also a key component for anyone trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Clinical studies show that even a single 1 ½-hour session can significantly lower your heart rate, cortisol levels and insulin levels - all of which explains why massage therapy and stress relief go hand-in-hand.

Your health is important, so taking care of your body should be at the top of your priorities list. By adding holistic massage to your healthy lifestyle habits, you'll feel, look and simply be healthier for your family and increase your chances of a healthier future. In fact, stress relief alone can improve your vitality and state of mind. So, what better way to prepare for a long, happy life than a relaxing, therapeutic massage?

Reiki and energy healing

beat stress with Reiki

Healing touch therapies, the best-known being Reiki (pronounced RAY-key), are ancient practices which are getting more popular. A more modern version I use in my practice is E.M.A. (Energy Morphing Activation), which uses a higher vibrational energy than Reiki, but both are very effective at fighting stress and disease. Reiki uses a light touch or hands just above the physical body, meaning it is safe, gentle and non-invasive.

As we have already seen, to beat stress we need to relax. When we relax, our muscles become less tense, and our blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate become lower. This response is the opposite of the "fight or flight" stress response.

One of the most relaxing treatments you can experience is Reiki healing. It is a gentle therapy that works with the energetic field of the body by directing healing energy. If the idea of healing seems like a wacky concept, then consider this - the knowledge that all human beings possess an innate healing mechanism, (our immune system), is a reminder that we have an in-built intelligence that wants to repair and renew cells and to efficiently eliminate invaders and “foreign bodies” as part of our defence system. Relaxation and rest are vital elements that help this system to work effectively.

The vibrational flow of energy allows the mind to slow down and relax, to shift from the stressed-out dominance of the sympathetic nervous system to the relax, rest and replenish aspect of the parasympathetic nervous system and triggering the innate healing of our immune system.

With such a deep relaxation response and calming effect, following a Reiki session, people often report less pain, better mental clarity, feelings of calm, and a generalised sense of well-being. It lifts and refreshes the soul and provides a deep sense of peace and calm that helps to restore a positive mind and outlook, making the treatment an excellent choice for helping to cope with stress levels.

Start making a healthy choice for your mind, body and soul.

If you think any of these therapies might be beneficial to you and your stress levels, then book your treatment today to see how Waterlily Therapies can help. Also, for essential oils such as Lavender or Frankincense, click here. Fall in love with taking care of yourself; Mind, Body and Soul.

Sharon Cole

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