As a Level 5 Clinical Reflexologist, I am in the privileged position of supporting my clients’ journeys to their target of optimal health and well-being. During many appointments in my Treatment Room I am finding that stress seems to be the underlying cause of many of the conditions that my clients are seeking help for. I believe that this is because the stress that we encounter in our busy lives can affect us on many levels – not just impacting our thoughts, feelings and behaviour but also negatively impacting our bodily functions.
The physical signs of stress are experienced in all of the body’s main systems – Stress can trigger a rapid heartbeat in the Circulatory System, nausea and digestive problems in the Digestive System, dizziness and difficulty breathing in the Respiratory System, a lack of libido and disruption of the menstrual cycle in the Reproductive System, aches and pains in the Muscular and Skeletal system, and colds and illness in the Immune System.
In addition, the psychological responses to stress affect the Nervous System and result in us having difficulty remembering things, being anxious, worrying and focusing on the negative. Emotionally, this can result in us feeling sad or depressed, irritable, lonely and agitated.
Moreover, during periods of sustained levels of stress in our lives, for example as we navigate major life events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, the loss of a job, or even simply trying to please everyone or never taking the time to relax; our bodies are even more detrimentally affected. Living under conditions of chronic stress means that the “fight or flight” response of the Sympathetic Nervous System is permanently switched on. This leads to heightened levels of adrenalin and other stress hormones which have the effect of permanently raising our heart beat, blood pressure and breathing rate while slowing down our digestive and other “non- essential” systems.
Whereas this reaction to stress is vital to our survival in short term situations of crisis, over the long term its impact on our health can be catastrophic. For example, raised high blood pressure leads to strokes and heart attacks, and the stress hormone cortisol is linked to abdominal obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. In his book ‘How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body’, David R. Hamilton PhD describes how stress can even negatively affect our rate of healing and how well medicines work on us.
There are however lots of ways that we can manage the stress in our lives so that we minimise the effect it has on our health and well-being. If you’re suffering with stress why not try one or a combination of the following suggestions:
• Get high on exercise, working out is one of the best stress-busters available to us all. Even a walk in the park will help, and it’s completely free!
• Eating a healthy, balanced diet helps to keep our immune system functioning efficiently, protecting us from the effects of stress.
• Talk about it – create a network of friends and family that you can share your feelings with in order to prevent the sensation of isolation that can accompany stress.
• Let it out – sometimes we can all benefit from a good cry! Emotional tears actually clear out stress-related chemicals from our bodies when we are under pressure.
• Prioritise your sleep – stress interferes with sleep and a lack of sleep adds to your stress levels.
• Finally, hold on to your sense of humour, try watching a funny film or tv programme whenever you are feeling overwhelmed – laughter is one of the best stress-busters of all!
Of course, regular Reflexology Treatments are also an effective way of combatting stress. Reflexology is a safe and effective ancient therapy which has been practiced for over 5,000 years. According to the Association of Reflexologists, the UK’s Professional Body of which I am a full, insured member, Reflexology treatments “can help aid relaxation, improve mood, release tension, enhance sleep and can generally help improve wellbeing; allowing us to cope better with the stresses that life can bring”.
Research into the effectiveness of reflexology is continually being undertaken, and I believe that ultimately, more and more evidence will be gathered to prove that reflexology should be considered a very effective tool in combatting the effects of stress on the body. The anecdotal evidence and feedback from my own clients would certainly support this. As Barbara and Kevin Kunz in their book ‘Reflexology – Health at your fingertips’ states, “one application interrupts stress; further sessions condition change to take place; and ongoing application teaches the body to operate more effectively”. As a practicing Clinical Reflexologist, it’s my belief that reflexology should be regarded as a key therapy to combat stress and promote better health and well-being – why not try it for yourself and see if it has a beneficial impact on your own stress levels? I think that you will be pleasantly surprised by the results of your treatment!
Hamilton, D. R. (2009) How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body. London: Hay House
Kunz, B. & K. (2016) Reflexology – Health at your Fingertips. London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd