We've all learnt in the past 12 months that our health and wellbeing is essential to us. Therapists have been promoting this message for years, but as we all lived busy lives, it was easy to forget about self-care and do the British thing of just 'Carry on Regardless'.
This 'busy mentality' is why people find meditation so hard. We are just not used to sitting quietly and BEING rather than DOING. We often find this brings up unwanted emotions, memories that we thought we had buried and, quite frankly, just don't want to deal with.
The time spent in lockdown, limited in what we can do for entertainment, has forced us to face ourselves, our deep thoughts, and re-evaluate what truly makes us happy.
On my own personal journey, I found myself doing just this in my 20's, and I have to say it was a difficult process, but one I'm glad I did. Reflecting on where you want your life to go, who you want to be, and setting intentions is an emotional rollercoaster, but so worth it in the long run. Your health and happiness are an inside job, and this work will help you live your best life, despite whatever madness and influences the outside world throws at you.
This was also when I discovered reflexology's power and how much it could help me – not just physically but emotionally. So, for anyone who is yet to try this lovely treatment, let's take a quick look at what reflexology is, and how it works on stress and anxiety.
What is Reflexology?
If you are struggling with shoulder and neck pain from sitting at the laptop all day, you would (under normal circumstances) book yourself in for neck, back and shoulder massage. But your feet work hard all day long, carrying you everywhere you need to go. Supporting you to move, dance, play, shop, cook, drive - and yet you don't think to book yourself in for a foot massage!
Reflexology is much more than a foot massage, but at its basic level, that's the best way to describe it. It's an alternative therapy used to treat a wide variety of conditions and dates back thousands of years. The ancient Chinese and Egyptians have documented similar practices to reflexology as a treatment for certain illnesses.
Modern reflexology follows foot maps, which work in zones, and use reflex points that correspond to different organs, body systems, or areas in the body. The nervous system is then manipulated to send messages to the areas of the body imbalanced to start the healing process.
A lot of the theory behind reflexology has to do with clearing and balancing your qi (or life energy). Reflexology is believed to release 'trapped energy' – a build-up of emotional stress or feeling unwell, enabling energy to flow more freely through relaxation. This is why you'll hear me talk about energy and vibrational frequencies quite a lot! I know it sounds a little whimsical, but there is a science to this too and plenty of scientific studies to back me up.
Can reflexology help our stress levels?
Based on the scientific evidence, what are reflexology's benefits for stress and how can it help you feel better?
Several studies indicate that reflexology may reduce pain and psychological symptoms, such as stress and anxiety, and enhance relaxation and sleep. Reflexology is also low risk, and you only need to expose your feet, making it a popular option for clients seeking relaxation and stress relief.
Reflexology can reduce the effect stress has on you by putting the body in a state of complete relaxation. In this state, muscular tension is released, nerve function improved, blood and lymph circulate freely, and overall health and wellbeing improve.
Sleep improves with treatment, and the whole 'fight or flight' stress response is calmed.
Many people use reflexology to help them cope with the long-term effects of stress. Rather than relying on medication, which can mask symptoms rather than deal with the underlying causes. Ultimately, regular reflexology encourages the body to relax and restores natural balance.
Reducing the effects of depression and anxiety
Looking at some of the studies that have been carried out on reflexology's effects, it seems that this type of massage goes beyond simply putting people in a relaxed state for the hour of the massage. Research demonstrates that reflexology can reduce depression (11 studies) and anxiety (9 studies).
According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, receiving a soothing hand or foot massage after the death of a loved one can help a great deal with the stressful grieving period. Foot massage provides consolation, assisting people in balancing the need to grieve and adapt to life changes.
Certain points on the feet can help ease symptoms of depression, for example, the spot in the centre of the big toe, the centre of the ball of your foot or the part located under the big toe are associated with emotional stability and mental health. Massaging these points or applying pressure to them for a few minutes two or three times a day can help relieve symptoms of depression.
And the benefits of reflexology don't stop here. There are many more ways it can help you feel better, mentally and physically.
As you can see, reflexology and foot massage are a lot more beneficial to your physical and mental health than most people realise. Even for healthy people, reflexology can ensure you stay healthy!
Don't wait until you can see a professional reflexologist.
Alternatively, there are plenty of available resources online that can help you learn a thing or two about the different foot massage styles. It only takes 10–20 minutes a few times a week to achieve these benefits, so swap massages with your partner or best friend, and you can both reap the amazing benefits of foot massage without a lot of work.
Did you know reflexology is also commonly performed on the hands too?
What is great about this is that it turns reflexology into a tool you can use in your own home, and yourself. So as another long week of lockdown (with children!) comes to an end, is it worth having a little play on your own hands?
Here's a lovely 5-minute hand massage video from the Association of Reflexologists that you can do either on yourself, a family member, or on your partner until things get back to normal and you can book your next treatment.
Why not give it a go and let me know what you think.
You deserve a healing, relaxing, stress-relieving massage.