By Ann Varriano
Stress is not all bad. Back in the day, Mother Nature designed it to be a short-term state that was meant to kick in to save our butts from potentially dangerous situations where the only way we could survive was to fight our way out of it or run away as fast as humanly possible! When we were out of danger, our stress response shut down. That’s how it was meant to work; but unfortunately, with our 21st century lifestyle, many of us are under chronic stress these days in so many areas of our lives: jobs, families, relationships, finances – you name it. Even if we’re just lying in bed or sitting on the couch worrying about all of these things (as opposed to fighting off or outrunning a sabre-toothed tiger), our stress response is still turned on.
When our body is under stress of any kind, our health can be compromised and there is a very fundamental, physiological reason for this. In this article, I’m going to give you a simplified explanation on why stress can affect our health. I’ll also tell you about a wonderfully relaxing and rejuvenating therapy that you can treat yourself to that will help to alleviate the effects of stress.
The impact that stress has on our health has to do with two parts of our nervous system: the Sympathetic Nervous System, responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ response which is related to stressful situations, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System, responsible for allowing our body to repair, rest, rejuvenate and properly digest.
Chronic stress has numerous negative effects on our body, with some of the more common ones being:
Excessive fatigue/exhaustion/low or no stamina (despite plenty of sleep)
Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope
Feeling sad or depressed
Getting sick often
Increased allergy symptoms
Blood sugar imbalance
Unhealthy food cravings
Nutrient deficiencies (stress not only robs our body of many vitamins and minerals, but it also compromises our digestion, limiting the nutrients we absorb from healthy foods we eat)
Digestive issues (burping, flatulence, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, etc)
In order for our body to be able to properly repair, rest, rejuvenate and digest, our Parasympathetic Nervous System needs to be stimulated and supported – and that isn’t going to happen unless we do something to either eliminate all the stress in our lives (sounds ideal, but likely not possible), or to help us deal with/relieve some of the stress (also sounds ideal…and is possible).
There are many ways to boost the Parasympathetic Nervous System, but I’m just going to tell you about one of them right now that has offered many of my clients significant benefits, and that is foot reflexology.
Foot reflexology is a hands-on therapy that involves applying various stretching, kneading and pressure techniques to the feet using the fingers, thumbs and hands. Some people refer to it as a ‘foot massage’ and while it is similar, it has a more focused approach as it is based on the premise that there are reflex areas (specific ‘mapped’ areas) on the feet that correspond with various parts of the body. This is made possible via nerve pathways and/or meridians. Meridians are energy pathways in the body and form the foundation of many complementary health practices such as acupuncture. In fact, reflexology is sort of like an acupuncture treatment, but without the needles (which is very appealing if you aren’t fond of needles!) and like acupuncture, many sources claim that the history of reflexology can be traced back thousands of years to Asia.
By stimulating the reflex points on the feet, reflexology can positively impact many areas of our body and our health. There are numerous studies that discuss the benefits of reflexology, which include:
Reduces stress and anxiety
Promotes relaxation, rejuvenation and repair by stimulating the Parasympathetic Nervous System
Boosts the immune system
Reflexology can be effective for both sudden on-set/acute conditions as well as long-standing, chronic conditions and is safe for any age.
A reflexology session lasts approximately 45 to 50 minutes. In addition to providing numerous health benefits, it is simply one of the most wonderfully relaxing experiences that anyone can enjoy on a regular basis – and a real treat for our hard working, tired feet.