The following text is the lecture I held at the RiEN conference in Madeira, Portugal, 2014.05.10, and revised 2014.07.05.
This lecture aims to cover the issues of anxiety disorder from the point of view of a frozen stress reaction. New ways of treatment based upon the understanding and power of full- body reflexology are being introduced and further elaborated in the workshop at the conference.
Anxiety disorder is a medical condition which therapists should not diagnose themselves. The term is widely used in society. Clients may claim to have this disorder with or without a GP’s diagnosis.
To ensure a common perception of this diagnosis, the definition by Webster is being used.
Definition of GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER:
an anxiety disorder marked by chronic excessive anxiety and worry that is:
– difficult to control
– causes distress or impairment in daily functioning
– and is accompanied by three or more associated symptoms (as restlessness, irritability, poor concentration, and sleep disturbances)
A thing to note is that this is a chronic disease, it is not one time only anxiety attack. Chronic issues tends to make pattern in the body. These patterns are the key for reflexologists when revealing problems.
Breathing problems and body posture
Breath problems are a well known companion of anxiety disorder. Anxiety can induce breathing problems, and breathing problems can induce anxiety. What causes which can go both ways. This relation is a trace for the type of pattern of interest.
One of the less described reactions of anxiety is the body posture. Wikipedia describes this as: Sufferers of anxiety are also known to assume the fetal position during panic attacks. When going into the fetal position one enters one of the three known stress responses being flight, fight, freeze responses, namely the freeze. It can be viewed as playing dead. A closer analyses of this fetal posture will provide more insight.
In this position, the back is curved, the head is bowed, and the limbs are bent and drawn up to the torso. This is not an ideal position for breathing. As we know; foetuses do not breath. When entering this posture the muscles of the torso’s ventral side are contracted. This position reduces the ability to breathe, both by chest and by the belly. When muscles have been contracted this way it is important to stretch them to counteract. I have not seen such stretching described as an intervention for anxiety in medical literature. A thing to note here is that much of the muscles contracted have their attachment in the sternum area.
Repetition makes permanent
The anxiety disorder is chronic, implying that these kind of anxiety attacks comes repeatedly. It is said: Repetition makes perfect. In this situation it is more correct to say repetition makes permanent. The downward spiral is entered.
It makes sense to approach the treatment of anxiety from two different angels being: 1 Preventing the entering of the fetal position by releasing overall chest tension.
2 Preventing the anxiety attack by reducing the overall stress level.
This can obviously be done by classical foot reflexology. Trained as a full-body reflexologist I have learned to use and apply on my clients, different ways of working within the field of reflexology that have a far better results, higher success rate and faster results.
Releasing the overall chest tension
Starting with the first angel of approach, you will now be introduced to what in full-body reflexology is called system 2.
Figure 1 shows a general layout of the projection, without much details. The head, the trunk and the limps can be identified. In this speech the focus will mainly be on two details of it. Figure 2 gives more details of the torso. The junctions of the ribs and the sternum can be found on the ventral side of the leg, on the lateral side of tibia. When sliding over this area pits can be felt. Usually these pits vary in size and form, and in discomfort when palpated. The more treatment on these areas people receive, the more the irregularities will shrink in size. The experiences of discomfort during treatment will also decrease for the client. According to good reflexology tradition, via this area, the area that is projected will be treated. In other words: treating this area will relieve problems in the sternum area. One of the benefits of working on the sternum projection on the leg over the one on the foot is the size of it. In this case the bigger size will also give more details. Another good thing in relation to anxiety is that this projection tends to give better results on problems that have been present for some time. This issue will not be fleshed out today. In the workshop attendees will get the opportunity to gain first hand experience in working on this projection.
An appropriate way to describe this kind of treatment is supporting the body in releasing the pattern related to anxiety. It is an explicit intervention aiming to reverse the negative spiral.
Reducing the overall stress level
Then over to approach 2, reducing the overall stress level. In the first figure we saw a projection of the head covering the foot. This head projection is much bigger than the one most reflexologists use on the big toe, giving more details to work on also here. Within full- body reflexology it is common to work with multiple projections on different body parts or even on one body part.
Presuming that the reader is familiar with the relationship between anxiety and the amygdala, this article will not go into that subject. Figure 3 represents the system 2 projection where the amygdalaI is marked. Again, by treating this area, the area that is projected here will be treated. This reflex will enable any emotional chaos to be reduced. In this context this emotional chaos is the anxiety.
As experienced reflexologists surely you now ask yourself: What is the marked area in the reflexology chart I use? In the system that I work, what is projected in the area marked in this figure?
A lot of maps are used worldwide. Hopefully you agree that there is a big change to find the reflex point of the adrenal gland in this area. During an anxiety attack the glands are working very hard producing cortisol. But more important in this context, high levels of cortisol increase the probability for anxiety seizure. The negative spiral again. By working on this area we kill two flies with one stone. Obviously this double effect had occurred without any knowledge about the system 2 projection, but when you know, it is easier to utilise also this projection.
As a full-body reflexologist I work with innumerable systems. It is then important to choose those systems that give best results for the client. Having this knowledge and experience, clients suffering from anxiety attacks will be approached in a different way than only treating the big toe.
Using full-body reflexology charts
On most foot reflexology charts, the reflexes in the big toe are more detailed then the other toes. The big toe can have the reflexes for pituitary, hypothalamus, cerebellum, nose, trigeminal nerve and brain lobes. The other toes cover the reflexes of sinuses, sometimes ears or eyes, and occasionally a non detailed brain. Clinical experience with full-body reflexology shows that the best toes to treat any kind of stress are the fourth and the fifth. Even though they are smaller than the big toe, they are the best indicators for high activity level in the neural and hormonal system of the head. All sore spots on those toes are indicating some kind of stress. Just trust the signals from the body, then you will treat the right spots. Painful or sore spots are the indication without giving more detail to which glands are projected. The explanation for this is outside the scope of this speech. It could definitely be interesting to say more about why the anxiety occurred in the first place, but also this will have to be for another time.
For anxiety, stress reduction is alfa and omega. Even if you already worked on those toes, the workshop on full-body reflexology will offer you some interesting knowledge.
This article only reveals a very small part of full-body reflexology. Starting to understand the different projections and the impact they have on clients makes reflexology far more powerful then working only on the widespread reflexes on feet, hands and ears. If your curiosity is triggered, do feel welcome to ask for more information. The shown projections also exist on hands and forearms and even other body parts. New worlds open to those who are willing to experience.