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Reflexology in Stress Management

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To attempt to scientifically evaluate an abstract concept such as reflexology is very difficult. To evaluate the effects of that treatment of reflexology is much easier. As in many other forms of natural healing, reflexology works by allowing the body's natural life force energies to flow and balance. Reflexologists believe that a balance of mind- body-spirit is fundamental to well-being. A relationship between specific parts of the feet and organs and systems of the body has been established. Trained, sensitive hands can detect tiny irregularities along lines of energy flow in reflex areas in the feet. Reflexology can encourage an energy discharge at areas of stress or imbalance. The effect is that the body is encouraged to return to homeostasis, its innate rhythmic level of function peculiar to each individual.

Stress therefore, may be described as the experience of living and working in conflict with our own generic blueprint. Healing has been concerned with this concept for many years.

Our unique vibration
Perhaps some people may better recognise the importance of personal identity - our own generic blueprint, perhaps some people may be more in touch with their true nature than others, they may better recognise the unique flavour and purpose of their spirit, which will be their very own personal identity until the day they die. Some people however in busy lifestyles with constant pressures of living may sometimes forget, perhaps it sometimes just becomes difficult to remember our true nature; just exactly who we really are. Sometimes perhaps a major life experience may touch us profoundly, at our very being and we may need to learn again who we really are.

Complementary therapies may be very useful to ground and get back in touch with our real selves. Reflexology is a holistic treatment, in that it does not focus on the treatment of specific medical symptoms but on the restorative effects of improving the overall equilibrium within the client - a delicate and complex synthesis of spiritual, emotional and physical aspects. It is, to this unique personal identity, that reflexology is applied.

Complementary therapies thrive in simplicity; imagine the concept of stress held on a cellular level within the mind- body relationship. Each cell should normally vibrate at its own unique level but stress can affect this and can cause it to vibrate at a higher level. Years of experience and work with trauma and bereavement care have allowed me to identify that loss and trauma may be held and nurtured in significant areas within the body.
As we well know, these areas of retention may manifest symptoms of stress, such as stomach problems or other imbalances within the body. Consider the posture of a bereaved client. Imagine how they may protect and hold on to those affected areas of their own body. The shoulders may stoop and the arms may fold to protect the heart and solar plexus. These then become significant areas of reference, which may subsequently be identified within specific reflex areas within the feet. The language used by that client further identifies the site of the trauma retention. They are 'heart broken', or as the solar plexus constricts, they feel 'sick to the stomach'. They may retain, protect and nurture the memory at these significant points.

A bereavement may be ingrained in mind and spirit and very painfully, very much so within the body itself. So it would follow that a truly holistic approach would seem to be appropriate.

Obviously with such deep seated and painful trauma, integrated, skilled and highly experienced hands would be required, but simplistically, when the client presents ready to heal, the simplest intervention is to restore the energy balance so that grief can be borne. The task may be to allow that trapped energy its natural grieving passage; to symbolically identify its route through to the outside and eventually to facilitate a method to express and make sense of the loss and trauma. More easily said than done; but any process of grief and expression needs a nurtured seed from which to grow. It is essentially a philosophy of trust in our own nature, a reinvestment into our true nature, an understanding that after such major trauma, that it may indeed eventually be possible to heal. In this instance, natural therapies could be useful when properly integrated with counselling and other mind and psychochemical therapies.

Complementary therapies may prove to be supportive in high-level stress. Our lifestyles now tend to be more insular; the support once offered by the extended family is no longer available to many. The positive supportive effect of therapeutic touch begins now to be recognised and integrated body therapies such as aromatherapy massage may be very useful and supportive in this application. An hour of relaxation with an experienced therapist may prove to be very useful indeed.

The Effect
The general effect of reflexology varies, as it will affect the individual in its own peculiar way. Some people will experience a dramatic reaction to the treatment; for some the effect will be slower to establish; for others there may be no visible effect at all. Reflexology may be applied as a short course of treatments with regular 'top ups' and it is often possible to 'measure' its potential after one or two treatments. Reflexology may be profoundly relaxing. Some clients will enter a profound state of relaxation and it is, at this level I have found, that the healing seems to originate. Following a session the client may be allowed to remain in this semi-conscious condition for some time as they process the results of the treatment. The client may experience a feeling of well-being and invigoration which may last for some days. Some may experience a healing reaction which may temporarily worsen their symptoms as they begin to deal with presenting issues.

Many therapists are now beginning to realise the potential of this non-verbal communication. For the complementary therapist this is an entirely abstract concept but one which many practitioners use and cultivate on a daily basis and, as one would expect, therapists will eventually develop an ability to intuitively link empathically with the client. Therapists will learn Entrainment, a process by which therapist and client become linked and empowered. The personal life experience of the therapist is therefore very important, as I believe it can have a positive effect on the client. Experienced therapists will understand how a client is reacting to the treatment and will be able to manage it as it progresses. I personally believe that there is therapeutic communication between the practitioner and the client on this non-verbal level as the client is encouraged to start their healing process. As levels of perceived stress lessen, so the body begins to function normally, beginning to heal and starting to recover from associated ailments.

So the case for integrated stress management becomes stronger. Each discipline has many positive qualities to form a truly client based, holistic approach to client care, and all aspects of the client's lifestyle, such their diet, may be challenged as motivation increases. It has been recognised that significant percentage of the GP's workload is concerned with stress management. Truly holistic, integrated stress management systems could significantly free the Doctor's time to pursue other issues. However, at the moment the system does not encourage complementary therapies into primary care surgeries.
Reflexology may be helpful as part of an integrated healthcare system as well as an effective stress management tool in its own right. In my own searching; a complicated journey to simplicity, it has proved very challenging but I have attained a slightly different perspective on stress management; one in which simplicity reflects an attunement with natural, unavoidable, perpetual laws and, in this simplicity, complementary therapies such as reflexology can help in a wide range of applications.

By Bob Davies Member of the Association of Reflexologists
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Author: Member of the Association of Reflexologists

Biography: Bob's practice developed from training and work with people in crisis. He worked with Cruse Bereavement Care, routinely seeing clients who were suffering following a major and traumatic bereavement. By working at this level he was able to develop listening, attending and people skills. Grief can be a very physical condition, ingrained not only in mind and spirit but very much so within the body itself. He very quickly identified how these emotional problems may affect the physical and spiritual body, this is the very principle of complementary medicine and this simple understanding has developed to become the very basis of his reflexology practice itself.

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Reflexology in Stress Management

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