Feeling stressed and in need of a quick and effective tool to help you relax?
Deep effective breathing can trigger a relaxation response in your body and help you feel at ease and refreshed. But this isn’t always easy to do when you’re already feeling uptight and anxious and don’t know how to start calming down.
So where to start? This is where reflexology comes in…
Reflexology is well known as being all about the feet, but did you know that it can also be used on your hands? And they are MUCH easier to work yourselves! Often very discreetly and without anybody realising what you are doing.
Self-help hand reflexology techniques can be used for many different issues and can be especially beneficial for sleep problems. But one point that is very easy to use and can help you feel more relaxed is one connected with breathing.
It is well known that high stress levels can have a very negative effect on your health by exhausting your adrenal glands, and keeping high levels of both adrenaline and cortisol in your body. These stress hormones increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure and, most importantly, slow functions deemed ‘non-essential’ in a survival situation. This means that both your digestive system and immune system are suppressed.
Breathing deeply and effectively can have the opposite effect, and can even counteract the harmful effects of stress on your body. By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, breathing lowly and deeply slows down your heart rate, reduces your blood pressure, promotes relaxation and improves digestion.
Deep breathing means breathing in for the count of four and out for the count of eight. But don’t worry if you can’t manage the count of eight to start with. Begin with four or six instead.
So what happens when we breathe?
The diaphragm is the large muscle that lies underneath your lungs and controls their movement. When we feel anxious or stressed, our breathing changes and becomes shallower.
We take small breaths, using our shoulders and upper body to move air in and out of our lungs, rather than our diaphragm. This can cause some tension in this muscle and also makes us feel even more anxious.
When we breathe deeply our diaphragm relaxes, which causes it to rise and press on the bottom of our lungs and pushes air out of them. Then, when we breathe in our diaphragm contracts, drops down again and pulls your lungs down with it. As the top of the lungs remain in their original position, the lungs expand and fill with air. And so it continues.
There is a little dip in the centre of your palm, just in the middle as you bend your fingers towards you. This relates to your solar plexus and the line that runs through this point also relates to your diaphragm.
- Press the thumb of your other hand firmly into the area highlighted by the red circle
- Bring your fingers loosely over the top
- Then release the pressure from your thumb and move your fingers back again
This is helping to relax your diaphragm, which will also help to regulate your breathing – helping you relax.
As well as working your diaphragm reflex, it will also work over the solar plexus area. Working this point can also alleviate stress and nervousness, not to mention improving your breathing and sense of calm.
Give it a go and see how you get on!