Acupressure for Stress and Anxiety
Feeling Stressed, Anxious or Depressed?
We all endure periods of stress and times when we do not feel quite ourselves, but ongoing bouts of depression or anxiety can be debilitating. Unfortunately, many Americans, regardless of their background, suffer with these conditions. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that approximately 17.3 million adults in the United States had experienced at least one major depressive episode in their lifetimes. Anxiety disorders are even more prevalent, affecting some 40 million adults in our country. Fortunately, acupuncture and acupressure have proven to be effective in diminishing and reducing the harrowing effects of depression and anxiety without the side effects of pharmaceuticals.
How Do Stress and Anxiety Affect Your Body?
Stress occurs naturally as a physical response to challenging or overwhelming situations. At normal levels, stress can help you increase productivity and improve focus, but when stress levels increase they can take a toll on your quality of life. Exposing your body or mind to frequent, ongoing and/or intense stress and anxiety levels, may lead to health problems such as headaches, insomnia, and low energy. All of these can affect or limit your normal daily activities. Acupressure is an effective form non-invasive treatment that helps to reduce stress and improve your overall general health.
Acupressure is considered a very safe and effective form of self treatment, but please consult with a licensed acupuncturist if you have one of the following conditions: a recent fracture, osteoporosis, cancer, uncontrolled high blood pressure, a bleeding disorder, heart disease or diabetes.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach
For centuries, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has relied on the mental health benefits of acupuncture. While releasing tension and unblocking the flow of energy (or qi) throughout the body using acupuncture or acupressure points provides a physical benefit for sore muscles, TCM teaches that those healing effects extend to the spirit as well. As acupuncture has become commonly practiced in western societies, medical professionals have begun to recognize its positive results on patients suffering from anxiety and depression.
Bridging Eastern and Western
In addition to Eastern medical and philosophical traditions, there are additional aspects of acupuncture that align with Western medicine. One of the benefits of acupuncture and acupressure is that they stimulate the release of endorphins. If you exercise regularly you are likely familiar with the burst of energy and positive feeling that comes from your body producing these neurotransmitters.
At the same time as endorphins reduce the perception of pain, they also can induce a euphoric effect on the mind. In fact, the term “natural high” refers to the feeling elicited by a rush of endorphins. The body begins to heal itself naturally by releasing a chemical that makes you feel better, both physically and mentally. Acupuncture, and self-administered acupressure , can produce the same effect.
Mental Health Concerns
Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety often respond best to a multi-pronged treatment. Nevertheless, you should never adjust a prescribed treatment plan without consulting your mental health practitioner or your primary care physician.
In particular, never stop taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications without the guidance of a medical professional. The side effects of ending those pharmaceutical treatments can be dangerous if not done correctly. If you are seeking, however, a drug-free way to lessen the grip of depression or anxiety, acupuncture provides an alternative that has stood the test of time.
A 2013 study by the University of York, England demonstrated “a significant reduction in symptoms of depression” in subjects who received acupuncture along with their usual care from a mental health provider. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America also lists acupuncture as one of its complementary health practices for anxiety and depressive disorders.
How does acupuncture help? The answer is multifaceted. In TCM there is a belief that your organs – primarily the heart, lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys – play a significant role in spiritual balance. For instance, the lungs are tied to feelings of grief. When the lungs are in balance, then just as with air, grief is taken in, processed, and then pushed away from the body. If the lungs are unbalanced, those feelings of grief can linger and become overwhelming. Because acupuncture is designed to unblock the pathways of your body’s energy it allows your organs to regain balance and to bring equilibrium back to your physical and emotional state.
Acupressure to relieve stress & anxiety with your thumb and index finger
Acupressure is an ancient healing art that’s based on the traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture. Acupressure stimulates specific acupuncture points using pressure from your thumb and index finger instead of needles.
With acupressure, you put pressure on precise locations, called acupoints, on your body. Pressing and stimulating with your thumb and index finger these points can help release muscle tension and promote blood circulation. You can learn how to do acupressure on yourself to reduce stress and anxiety. This is a great way to begin your treatment at home or continue your treatment after receiving acupuncture.
How to Find and Use the Best Acupressure Points
By regularly using the following acupressure points you will develop an effective self-care routine that helps reduce everyday stress levels and improve well being.
HOW DO YOU USE ACUPRESSURE?
Set aside several minutes.
Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
Relax, close your eyes, and breathe deeply.
Place a thumb or finger on the acu point and gently massage in a circular motion
Begin with gentle pressure and increase to firm, deep pressure for 1-10 minutes in a small rotating or up-and-down movement.
How long should I stimulate each pressure point?
Start out slow- you might find that one to two minutes feels like enough when you are starting out and you can work up to pressing for longer. Use acupressure several times a day if you like, but avoid pressing on any single point for longer than 10 minutes. You can also tape special magnets (available at our clinic - EVAM) to these points to help stimulate them throughout the day.
ACUPOINT LOCATIONS AND INSTRUCTIONS
This point calms the mind and reduces stress, insomnia and anxiety.
It is located at the midpoint
between the eyebrows - in many cultures this is referred to as the third eye.
Use your thumb, with your fingers facing up, to rub the acupoint with a circular motion.
2) Shen Men (English translation: Heart Gate)
This is our favorite ear point to use. It links to the cerebral cortex and calms the mind and spirit.
Shen Men is located in the triangular fossa of the ear.
Stimulate Shen Men by pinching the point on your upper ear between your index finger and thumb.There are major nerves that run near your ears.
It can be very calming to first stimulate Shen Men then massage your ear all over.
At your next acupuncture treatment ask your acupuncturist to put an ear seed on this point. An ear seed is a tiny round seed that is taped to an ear point and helps to provide stimulation during acupressure.
3) PC6 (English translation: Inner Gate)
Is located approximately 1.5 inches from your wrist crease midway on your inner wrist. To locate it place your three fingers on the wrist crease between the two tendons.
This point is wonderful for opening the chest and regulating energy that feels stuck in the chest. It calms the heart which helps with insomnia and stress and also can reduce nausea and morning sickness.
4) LI4 (English translation: Joining Valley)
This point is located on the back of your hand between your thumb and index finger. It is usually tender when massaged.
LI4 is great at moving “stuck” energy throughout the body especially when used in combination with LV 3, which is described below. It is also a great for relieving pain and headaches.
It is important to note this point should not be stimulated on pregnant women.
5) LV3 (English translation: Great Surge)
This point is located on the top of your foot, between your big toe and your second toe.
Slide your finger along the space between the first and second toe up towards your foot. The point is located in the depression before your finger touches the bone (metatarsal joint).
It is great at moving “stuck” energy and clearing your head.
Acupressure is a great compliment to acupuncture for relieving stress and anxiety
At EVAM we regularly suggest that our patients treat themselves with acupressure between visits to our clinic. Many patients find the few minutes it takes to stimulate several pressure points is relaxing and helps maintain the benefits of their regular acupuncture treatments. Anxiety and depression have been shown to respond very well to the combination of acupuncture and acupressure.
Our community clinic is dedicated to helping patients maintain their heath through proactive treatment and ongoing maintenance protocols as well as treatments focussed on more acute problems. Self-administered acupressure is a proven complement to acupuncture. Please feel free to contact us at EVAM to schedule an appointment with one of our wonderful practitioners.