Stress is a massive issue for many of us these days. It tends to be a massive feature in our lives. Busy work schedules coupled with hectic family life, big bills and mortgages, pressure to succeed, hold down careers, raise families etc – these things can really take their toll.
Our bodies are biologically programmed to deal with stressful situations. Signals are sent to our brains when we feel threatened or fearful. Once this happens our survival mechanisms kick in. We enter into a Fight or flight response- blood rushes to our muscles giving us the extra strength that might be needed to fend of an attacker! Adrenaline races through us, providing us with the ability to flee from danger! This was a particularly important function back in the Neolithic Era, when humans hunted and gathered as way of ensuring their survival. Having that extra strength or speed to flee from a large animal was essential!
The modern era has meant that we no longer have to hunt or gather. Our physical safety is no longer threatened to the same extent it may have been years ago. Yet we are spending more time in a state of stress, ‘fight or flight’ than ever before.
Our bodies can’t tell the difference between a physical threat and a psychological threat you see. So it doesn’t matter if I am about to be attacked by a large animal, or if I am feeling stressed by a looming deadline at work, or a difficult family situation – The same biological process applies and my body has that same chemical reaction, flooding it with stress hormones.
Spending short periods of time in a stress response is generally harmless for the body. Unfortunately, for many of us, we are in a prolonged state of stress and this it can start to take it’s toll and have a negative impact on both our mental and physical health.
Research is constantly emerging about the impact of stress on the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Many individuals who are experiencing chronic stress struggle to concentrate and have poor quality sleep. Both of these issues can really take their toll on mood and mental health.
Chronic Stress is the most common issue that tends to present to my treatment room. I can often feel it in the feet. Various reflex points feel tight and tense, usually indicating that stress is a major factor. Digestive issues, irregular menstrual cycles and difficulty sleeping are often what come up during a consultation. Clients also often report back and shoulder pain, jaw clenching and tightness in the chest.
Last year I attended a 2 day seminar at the Reflexology Academy in London, with the highly regarded Hagar Basis to learn more about Reflexology for Stress and how to help my clients with this issue. I’m so glad I did. The invaluable techniques I learned have taught me how to support clients to leave the stress Response (this happens almost instantly during a reflexology session) and enter the Relaxation Response. This is when the body can rest, digest and restore balance. Many report significant improvements in sleep, reduction in pain, improved mode and an overall improved sense of wellbeing. It has been so rewarding to see these changes occur for people.
Evidence is constantly emerging relating to the benefits of Reflexology. Research measuring brain activity by EEG shows from the moment a reflexologist’s hands start their work, the relaxation begins. All together, 24 studies demonstrate reflexology’s relaxation effects.
Weekly reflexology sessions for a period of 6 to 8 weeks, followed by a monthly maintenance session is generally what is recommended for treating stress with reflexology.