We all have those days. Nothing is going right, work is piled high, everyone seems to be expecting everything from you, and you do not have any time to do any of it.
At the end of the day, you try to ease the stress— you take a bath, eat some comfort food, watch a funny TV show.
Still, some days, none of that helps, and you have run out of ways to de-stress. The stress piles up without relief. But what if there is something you still have not tried?
Reﬂexology has become a new way to ease stress and anxiety. Many people are beginning to swear by this ancient practice, and it seems to be worth a try— if you can massage your foot in just the right place, you may ﬁnd the simple answer to easing the stress in your life.
What Is Reﬂexology?
To put it simply, reﬂexology is a type of massage therapy that follows the belief that each area of the foot is tied to an organ or group of organs in the body.
Emotional and physical problems are caused by energy blocks in these organs, and by pressing on just the right area of the foot, you are able to release the blocks and let the energy, or “qi”, ﬂow freely again.
To tell which area is associated with what organ or organ system, and what system is associated with what emotion, reﬂexologists have organized each part into the four elements: ﬁre, earth, air, and water. In this way, the “water” emotions, organs, and part of the foot are all connected, and so on.
Another way some reflexologists find the correct area of the foot is similar to how they find pressure points in acupuncture.
They divide the foot and body each into five sections, and each section of the body is related to a section on the foot.
There are many charts that can be found online and in books which show these divisions in detail, making it easy to find the correct point.
Unlike other types of massage therapy, reflexology does not use any sorts of oils or lotions. Also, the massage is typically done with a single finger or thumb, rather than the whole hand or palm.
It has roots in ancient China and Egypt, but has recently become popular as an alternative medicine in the western world.
In fact, it is one of the most popular alternative medicine sources in Denmark, Norway, and the United Kingdom.
How Does Stress Connect to My Foot?
Reﬂexologists associate the ball of the foot with ﬁre, which can be linked to negative emotions like fear, anger, and, you guessed it, stress.
Because of this, the ball of the foot is often one of the most highly suggested areas to focus on in order to get rid of stress.
This area is also linked to the endocrine system, which secretes hormones including the “ﬁght or ﬂight” ones that lead to stress.
Reﬂexologists have found that there is an area just under the ball of the foot that connects to the endocrine system, and when someone is particularly stressed, this area may become larger, heavier, and possibly painful.
Other areas are associated with stress because they allow the mind to clear, or allow the body to be more relaxed.
Some help relieve symptoms caused by stress, such as tension, headaches, and digestive problems.
When trying the massage, see which area works best for you, because some may be better than others depending on the type of stress you are experiencing.
Even people who do not agree with the ideology behind reﬂexology can agree that massages are generally helpful in stress relief, and since reﬂexology is really just a kind of foot massage, it is at least helpful as much as any massage is.
Does It Work?
So far, no scientiﬁc research has shown that reﬂexology actually helps treat the health problems it claims to, although one study has shown that it may improve blood circulation. However, there has been a study in relation to stress that shows reﬂexology might actually work.
The study was done at Anglia Ruskin University in the U.K., and published in “Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice” in August 2007.
It was used to see if reﬂexology could work in a hospital. To collect data, they gave some participants reﬂexology treatments and the others were used as a control group, and did not receive treatment.
The study was able to ﬁnd a strong link between reduced anxiety and reﬂexology in the patients, conﬁrming that in some way, reﬂexology can be used to help reduce stress. That’s enough evidence to at least try reﬂexology as a stress reliever.
Should I Try It?
If you are stressed, why not? It takes very little time, and you do not need any materials or other people. It can be as easy as pressing your thumb into your foot for a few seconds.
Again, since it is a type of massage, reﬂexology must work at least as well as a massage. Also, many people claim that it does more than that for them.
Even if it has not been conclusively shown by studies yet, there are many people who say that reﬂexology works for them.
In any case, it is not going to hurt to try it— it is free and easy, and for the most part, will not harm you in any way. If you have run out of stress management options, this could be the way to do it.
How Do I Prepare?
In general, there is not really anything you need to do to prepare for it, because it is so simple.
If you are worried about ﬁnding the right spots, there is a plethora of videos and diagrams online that may help show exactly what points to massage.
Right before you begin the massage, reﬂexologists suggest that you take some time to relax your body and mind.
This can be done by simply sitting down, focusing on slowing your breathing, and opening your mind.
Many say that opening your mind is what makes reﬂexology work— it also opens your soul and body, allowing the energy to ﬂow.
This preparation in itself seems already stress relieving, and should not be skipped if you want to have the full results.
How Can I Do Reﬂexology By Myself?
It is possible to perform reﬂexology on yourself. It can also be done by a very close friend, loved one, or reﬂexologist.
Here are what most sources agree are the points to relieve stress:
Massage the ball of your foot— this can be as easy as pressing your ﬁnger into the area and holding it for ﬁve seconds.
Massage both of the pads of your big toes in a circular motion for 30 seconds each. This helps relax your brain.
The inside of your big toe can help release tension caused by stress. Start next to the nail, work your way down, then work your way back up the toe.
The area just under the ball of your left foot is associated closely with stress. Because it is close to heart and kidney pressure points, reﬂexologists do not advise using this point if you’re pregnant or have a heart condition.
Your bones make a “v” on the top of your foot between your big and index toes, and the tip of the “v” is a point thought to relieve anxiety and depression.
Press your thumb into this area and hold it for a minute on each foot. Again, this point should not be used by pregnant women.
Are There Similar Stress Relief Techniques?
In short, yes. People who recommend reﬂexology also recommend other ways to relieve stress that are similar. These include:
Massages (obviously)— there are many types of massage therapy, and reﬂexology is only one of them. Although most other forms cannot be done to yourself, they can be equally relaxing and helpful.
Acupuncture— yes, needles can be scary, but this follows similar beliefs to reﬂexology. This can be done by yourself, but that is not recommended, especially for beginners.
It is easy to be skeptical and write off reﬂexology, but it is worth a try. Stress can be useful when trying to ﬁnish tasks on time, but can be extremely harmful in the large and prolonged amounts that are all too common in the modern world.
Stress can lead to heart, reproductive, and digestive problems, not to mention mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.
With all of the dangers that stress brings, it is extremely important to ﬁnd a way to manage all of it safely in order to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Reﬂexology could be the answer.
Reﬂexology has shown to work in people around the world. It is quick and easy, and can even be done by yourself.
If you feel swamped with stress, or struggle with anxiety, think about trying reﬂexology. It will not hurt you, and you may be surprised by the results.