At the end of an exhausting day, have you ever felt that army of seemingly small yet stressful thoughts flood in and set up camp inside your head? One at a time, these moments tend to be relatively easy to deal with, but they add up. When you experience a sudden tidal wave of stress from moments that caused you to feel worried, fearful, angry, sad, or inadequate, it can affect your relationships and overall health.
Many people opt for a quick-fix approach and end up taking anti-anxiety drugs including Xanax. There’s an ancient treatment, however, known as reflexology or “zone therapy” that may be able to help give you natural stress relief and rebalance your inner self. The bonus? It takes only five minutes, and you can do it anywhere.
What is Reflexology?
Today we can look at reflexology’s broad foundation, see how it has developed in the Western world, and appreciate its nuances. But let’s not forget its rich and traveled history.
The Origins of Reflexology
If you’re wondering where this ancient natural stress relief therapy originated, the answer remains somewhat of a mystery. There is some evidence dating back to 4000 B.C. of China and Egypt practicing various forms of foot and hand therapy. Often, people attribute reflexology techniques to Japan because of a Japanese student, who studied in China years ago, brought the practice back home where it flourished.
Millennia later, in 1582, two European doctors by the names of Adamus and A’tatis produced the first book on zone therapy. However, it was a Russian psychiatrist who coined the term “reflexology” in the late 1800s and advocated for its psychological benefits. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that American doctor William H. Fitzgerald returned from Vienna having learned about “reflex therapy.” As he continued to share his findings and further develop his theories, Dr. Fitzgerald assumed the role of the modern originator of reflexology in the U.S.
However, it seems that what separates Dr. Fitzgerald’s theories from others is a subtle but significant detail. In his research, he discovered that applying pressure to certain zones not only relieved pain but relieved underlying causes, too. And these are methods that reflexologists still practice today on themselves and their patients.
Natural Stress Relief: How a Reflexology Massage Works
Although this alternative medicine has history and anecdotal proof on its side, it hasn’t been well explored in the scientific community. Nevertheless, sometimes the least likely methods can be the most effective ones.
Reflexologists maintain that blocked force or energy fields can lead to various illnesses. To unblock these fields and begin the healing process, they stimulate the feet and hands which allow vital energy to flow into the necessary body parts.
Before they begin physical treatments, reflexologists require a full medical history of their patients to more effectively treat the symptoms as well as the root causes. Patients remain fully clothed except for their feet (and hands) which the reflexologist gently massages them, sometimes with lotion or oils. After the massage, they begin to apply pressure to certain reflex parts of the hands or feet. They may use instruments other than their hands, including:
- Wooden sticks
- Rubber balls or bands
- Tongue depressors
- Wire brushes
- Special massage tools
- Hands probes
While these objects seem out of the ordinary given the context, the therapy itself should never hurt. So if you feel pain, definitely make your reflexologist aware.
Sessions tend to last on average from a half-hour to an hour as part of a month to two-month treatment plan. Depending on your personal benefits plan (or lack thereof), it’s also possible to learn how to administer these reflexology techniques to yourself.
An important fact to remember, however, is that reflexology in America currently has no regulations. The law also does not require reflexologists to have training or a license, although one can become certified to boost their credibility.
Reflexology Tips for Natural Stress Relief
This ancient method is so attractive for some people because it’s completely natural and holistic and non-invasive. What’s more? You can perform these techniques on yourself! We wouldn’t suggest you go into this thinking it will immediately take all your stress away. Sure, it might. But try it first and see if it benefits you in any way.
5-Minute Hand Reflexology for Natural Stress Relief
If you can provide yourself with natural stress relief without the use of drugs, you’re in good hands (especially because they’re yours, haha). In hand reflexology, each finger represents a specific attitude or feeling.
Thumbs will help combat emotions like anxiety and worry. Index fingers can help combat feelings of fear. Middle fingers help you manage resentment and anger. Ring fingers help to combat sadness or depression and encourage decisiveness. Lastly, pinky fingers will help you increase optimism and self-confidence as well as reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Now, you must know how to properly use these fingers to combat the army that is throwing stress balls at your life.
To harmonize your body’s life energy:
- Grasp whichever finger you need with the opposite hand and wrap it completely with the fingers and thumb.
- Starting from your thumb or pinky (whichever you prefer), hole each finger for one to two minutes.
(You will know that the hand reflexology is taking effect when you feel a pulsing sensation coming from the pressure point on your hand.)
To calm your mind:
- Push into the center of your palm with the thumb of the opposite hand.
- Keep applying that pressure for at least one minute.
Ideally, practicing these techniques will help you to stay both calm and balanced regardless of all the stress-causing things in all the areas of your life.
Reflexology’s Growing Popularity
More and more people are rediscovering how much capacity we have to heal ourselves using our very own body parts. These hands-on healing techniques will likely continue to grow and evolve because, for many people, their lives noticeably improve. And the more that we can treat ourselves and maintain good health without the use of drugs, the better.