Reflexology and Anxiety
Everyone experiences anxiety in different ways. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Constant and obsessive worrying
- Feeling overwhelmed and wanting to cry all the time
- Obsessive and repetitive thoughts
- Wildly fluctuating emotions
- Difficulty concentrating, becoming easily distracted
- Difficulty learning or remembering things
- Being unable to relax
- A loss of libido
- Changes to appetite – including craving sweets, losing your appetite, increased nausea and/or vomiting, changes in weight
Anxiety develops when we are first faced with a stressful situation – moving house, a big event, redundancies, bereavement or something as simple as a caffeine overload. These feelings of anxiety are the body’s early warning system. Your body recognises that some form of danger is near, so you are kept alert in order to cope with what your body perceives as a potentially life-threatening event. In healthy individuals, the difficult situation is met, overcome and we move on. For some people, it isn’t so simple. When anxiety symptoms prevent you from coping with everyday life, then you may have developed an anxiety disorder.Why Reflexology for Anxiety?
Reflexology has that track record in anxiety management. A study
carried out at the University of Canberra in 2000 indicated that reflexology was extremely effectiveness in relieving anxiety, nausea and pain in cancer patients. Other studies carried out in Europe, show reflexology to be very useful in treating stress-related anxiety (and reducing staff sick days by 25% over 3 years), and managing both pain and anxiety during labour and childbirth (and reducing the length of time in all stages of labour in the process).
Reflexology is a great way of relaxing and learning to manage your stress levels and anxiety symptoms. As well as the profoundly relaxing experience of having a treatment from a professional reflexologist, you can also use hand reflexology in between sessions in order to manage your response to your anxiety symptoms yourself. One technique that many find useful is to develop the habit of working the solar plexus point on the hands from the moment you start to feel anxious. This point is easy to find (ask your reflexologist) and subtle to work – someone watching you is unlikely to notice what you are doing; it just looks like you have your hands folded over each other.
In reflexology, the body and soul are divided into the four elements of earth, water, fire and air, with each element related to a specific part of the foot. The ball of the foot is associated with fire, which controls emotions such as fear and anger; reflexologists will typically focus on this area when attempting to alleviate stress. 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, is associated with a small pea-shaped area beneath the ball of the foot, directly under the big toe. If you're not under much stress, this "pea" will feel like a small bag of sand; if you're under heavy stress, however, it may feel like a hard lump. If you are under a great deal of stress, you may find that manipulation of this area can be quite painful.
Reflexology may work very specifically to help the body heal itself and clients will often seek a reflexologist for help with common ailments such musculo-skeletal pain, insomnia, hormonal or digestive issues. In many cases they may see their symptoms improve or disappear but, by then, they have discovered how deeply relaxing reflexology can be to their whole being which results in better sleep, peace of mind and less anxiety. Reflexology appeals to many people because it is non-invasive; the only clothes to be removed are shoes and socks. The hands, as well as the feet, can be worked and this allows discrete self-help relaxing techniques to be applied at any time.
Reflexology may help balance the mind and body and to maintain this state of homeostasis the body needs to run smoothly. When there is a malfunction in the body it is thrown off balance. Reflexology helps to sustain a natural equilibrium in every gland, organ, muscle, tissue and cell in the body through stimulation of pressure points, called reflexes on the hands and feet.
Stress is a normal physical response to events when a person feels threatened, upset or their equilibrium is threatened in some way. At this point, the body's defences kick into a rapid, automatic process known as the fight-or-flight reaction, or the stress response. When there is a perceived threat, the nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rouse the body for emergency action and the blood pressure rises, the heart beats faster, senses become sharper and, for a brief period, stamina and strength can increase. These reactions are life preserving but many people live at this heightened state of anxiety all the time and that can take a physical, chemical and psychological toll on a person that impinges on every aspect of their life.