Stress, Anxiety and Body Aches Got You? Run to Your Nearest Reflexologist

Springtime for many of us, especially if you are an inhabitant of the Midwest, means budding trees, and temperatures that raise the spirits that may have fallen into the winter tundra. For this particular high school teacher, living in Shenzhen, China, during these springtime weeks, I spend many moments gazing out at the South China Sea from my classroom window.

As I watch the fisherman’s boats lull on the soft waves, I begin to dream of my summertime spent back home in Minnesota. At this point in the year, four weeks from my departure date, my dreams are plagued with end of year anxieties: stacks of papers that build back up as soon as I reach for the last essay, and awards nights’ speeches that I totally botch.

Yes, stress and anxiety are running high in these final weeks of the school year. In response to such stress, sometimes we turn to bottles of wine or heavy doses of Tylenol to quell our agitation and headaches. Because I know how unproductive I am on hangovers, and have learned too much about the way some over-the-counter meds can affect my gut in negative ways, I am working to combat my end of year angst with an Eastern approach. Yesterday, I marched my feet into one of the local reflexology parlors in hopes of some relief.

What is reflexology?

An ancient technique — perhaps developed as early as 4000 BC in China — that works under the philosophy that pressure points in your feet are connected to organs in your body. When a trained reflexologist works these points in your feet, your overall health can be improved as the therapist removes energy blockages that may be causing discomfort or disease.

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What is reflexology used to treat?

So. many. ailments. According to an article in The Telegraph, reflexology can be used as preventative medicine, to stave off illness as the therapy helps the body maintain a state of homeostasis.

Reflexology, though, is also used to address a number of health issues once they have manifested, such as headaches, backaches, digestive problems, depression, anxiety, and stress. In the article, reflexologist Rosanna Bickerton notes that she most often works with clients experiencing anxiety. Her work “triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing anxiety, stopping the fight-or-flight response, and letting the body heal.”

How often do I need to go to reap the benefits?

This depends on what you are experiencing and how severe your symptoms are. Some reflexologists may want to see you once a day for 10 days to re-establish that even state within your body. Bickerton, though, explains that clients can maintain positive results by coming in once a week for six weeks, and then as regularly as your reflexologist recommends to maintain your body’s balance.

As I sank into the plush chair in the dimly lit, quiet streetside salon yesterday, even that one 70-minute session helped to ease my fraying nerves. The reflexologist’s thumb seemed to be just the anodyne my arches needed to shake the tension that had left my feet feeling they were going to curl into themselves. The longer my reflex points were worked, the more even my breathing became.

The rest of the evening after my reflexology session felt as if someone had loosened the twisted knot of anxiety within me. In truth, today it has tightened again, but after having read more about the science behind a true foot rub, I think I have cause to put it on my weekly agenda without feeling that it is a frivolous activity.

Where do I book my reflexology appointment?

If you are in the Chicago area, Yelp is here to help you find the 10 top notch reflexology parlors. Heading on an Asian adventure? I hope you swing into Beijing. After catching breath-taking views from the top of the Great Wall, you can march into one of Liangzi’s 30 locations. When I’m home for holiday, I love to walk around the lakes up Minneapolis, taking in the sailboats and scenes of families picnicking together. After speed walking along the lakes for 7-8 miles, I can’t wait to waltz into Unwind Within, the reflexology parlor in my beloved hometown, this summer!

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About Jamie Bacigalupo

Having first traveled from her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to live in Quito, Ecuador, she decided to give the East a run and is now a resident of Shenzhen, China. She earned her degree in Communication Arts/Literature and Communication and Secondary Education from Gustavus Adolphus College and is enthusiastically exploring Asia by teaching abroad. She digs hanging out with her students by weekday, and relishes finding new restaurants to eat authentic Chinese food and finding new hiking paths on the weekends. In addition to sticking her nose in a book to recover from an intense workday, Jamie also loves exploring all manner of flavors in the kitchen, especially when she is whipping up some recipes for her friends and family.