If I were tasked with making a 2020-themed word scramble, you would find the word “stress” in all its iterations in the bank of options (think: “pressure,” “concern,” “uneasiness”—you get the picture). The trials and tribulations of this year have left many people feeling more stressed than ever before, making self care all the more important. And using acupressure, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice, you can find some comfort by tapping pressure points for stress relief in five key points on your body.
Shari Auth, DACM, LAc, a holistic health practitioner in New York City and co-founder of WTHN, says a handful of acupressure points re-stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (aka, rest and digest mode) when stress activates your body’s fight or flight response. “Stimulating an acupoint sends a message to the brain that alters brain chemistry and tells the body to react to achieve a desired result,” says Dr. Auth. “An acupressure point that corresponds to stress could trigger the brain to lower cortisol levels, the human stress hormone, while increasing dopamine and serotonin levels, our happiness hormones.”
There are hundreds of known acupoints located where blood, nerve, lymph, and connective tissue meet within the body, and Dr. Auth says that once you know ’em, you can use them for clocking better sleep, relieving constipation, and so much more. For the sake of delivering you a clearer, freer mind in the next few months, though, Dr. Auth says the following five points are the ones to know by heart.
5 pressure points for stress relief
1. Kidney 1: For when you want to feel cool and collected
“This point is found on the midline of the sole of the foot, one-third of the way down from your toes and two-thirds of the way up from your heel, right where the arch of the foot begins,” says Dr. Auth.
To try it, cross your right foot over your opposite knee and use your thumb to apply a firm amount of pressure to Kidney 1. Gently move your thumb in a circular direction while taking 10 deep breaths. Make sure to switch feet afterward.
2. Taiyang: For when you need relief from a high-stress lifecycle
When you see someone massaging their temples to relieve a tension headache, they’re (unknowingly, perhaps) tapping into Taiyang, which means “sun” in Chinese. “The temples are acupressure and acupuncture points collectively known as Taiyang and have been used to calm the mind for thousands of years,” says Dr. Auth. “Place the pads of your index and middle fingers on your temples. Rub the point in a circular direction, slowly breathing in and out for 10 deep breaths. Then rest your fingers in the center of your temples and hold the point for two more deep breaths. Slowly release.”
3. Spleen 6: For battling insomnia and calming the mind
Dr. Auth says she uses this point with 90 percent of her clients, which seems about right considering many of us have a deficit of sleep and surplus of worry. For this one, sit down and place your ankle on top of the opposite knee. “Spleen 6 is located about a palm’s distance—or about three inches—above the inner ankle. Rub the area between the shinbone and the back of the calf taking 10 long, slow, deep breaths, then switch to the other side,” says Dr. Auth.
4. Large Intestine 4: For those stress-induced headaches
Dr. Auth says Large Intestine 4 is kind of a jack of all trades, aiding with headaches, constipation, or aches and pains in your neck or back. To access it, “gently pinch the web between the index finger and thumb of your left hand with your right thumb and right index finger. Rotate the right thumb in a circular motion, applying just enough pressure to feel resistance without pain,” says Dr. Auth. Make sure to breathe deeply, and switch sides.
5. Pericardium 6: For soothing the symptoms of anxiety and prompting deeper sleep
“While this point is famous for motion sickness, it’s also great for calming anxiety and helping you sleep. It’s located on the inside of the forearm between the two ropey tendons a couple of inches up from the wrist,” says Dr. Auth.
Once you’ve found Pericardium 6, press your thumb into the point and breathe. Move your thumb in a circular motion while taking ten deep breaths. Move onto the other side.
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