is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior, such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints, and rumination. It is different from fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat, anxiety is the expectation of a future threat. It is often accompanied by muscular tension, restlessness, and problems of concentration. It can be appropriate but when experienced regularly it becomes an anxiety disorder (1). The cause of anxiety can be partly genetic, or due to drug use (alcool, caffeine, benzodiazepines…) or stress (which is when the perceived pressure on a person exceeds their perceived ability to cope and they feel out of control). It is advisable to consult your medical doctor to look for a potential medical cause that anxiety can mask.
In the Oriental approach we look at anxiety in terms of energy flow, when there is anxiety the flow is disrupted in different channels depending on the kind of anxiety, energy can be rising and become heat (when the cooling kidney energy is deficient and there is palpitation and insomnia) or stagnant with dampness and phlegm. Observation, questioning and touch will help find which channels or meridians to treat and the intention to apply.
Shiatsu is a wonderful tool to help manage anxiety in a holistic way. It provides a safe place to be listened to, a sense of connectedness, the pressure and stretches help the body get out of the stress response ”fight and flight” mode and allow the nervous system to relax (2). Shiatsu helps promote clarity of thoughts and creativity in decision making, in looking for lifestyle changes, the practitioner can listen and ask the right questions. If anxiety has led to being energy depleted, shiatsu will bring support to give us a ”jump start”, to let go and receive. When we have regain enough energy and clarity we can start making those changes , and give ourselves self Shiatsu.
Following are a few examples of pressure points that will help in a situation of anxiety attack or as prevention.
Before you start, begin by calming yourself through 2-3 minutes of deep breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth) in order to be centered, return to the present moment, and be in your body.
The hands :
Start with massaging your hands vigourously one after the other using the thumb and fingers of the other hand. apply pressure in the middle of the palm and press for 30-60 seconds, then stroke the entire palm. stretch the hand by pulling all four fingers of one hand with the fingers of the other hand. then flip hand over and massage the top of the wrist and the top of the hand. Massage each finger with the thumb and index fingers of the other hand. Do the same on the other hand. And then go to the specific points described below
Heart 7 : this point is called ”Spirit Gate” on the little finger side of the forearm at the wrist crease. Massage the right side with the left thumb applying firm and perpendicular pressure, then alternate with right thumb on left forearm. It treats anxiety, insomnia, palpitations and calms the mind.
Heart Protector 6 :In the inner side of the forearms, three fingers width from the wrists apply firm and perpendicaularpressure with one thumb between the tendons and breath deeply through the nose, it will relieve anxiety, calm the mind and promote sleep
Large Intestine 4 : In the flesh between the bones of the thumb and the index finger towards the metacarpal of the inex finger, press with the thumb and stay for 30 seconds. relieves anxiety (not to be used in pregancy, it can promote labor)
The ears :
The ears are the sense organ of the kidneys, which are directly affected with stress or anxiety. auricular accupuncture treats a lot of conditions by treating just the ears. Ear massage detoxifies and stimulates the body systems. It improves the circulation, strenghtens the immunity and calms the mind. Massaging two ears at the same time, use your thumbs and index fingers to massage the front and the back of the ear, pulling gently ont the upper, middle part of the ear and down on the lobes, finish with covering the ears with your hands for 30-60 seconds to warm them.
The feet :
The feet and ankle are soo important as they help support the whole body so a good chi gong (Chinese gymnastic) session will often start at the feet. Rotating, shaking and massaging one’s feet and ankles with a tennis or a spiky ball, and of course with you own hands
Liver 3 : found in the depression between the joints of first and second toe as seen on the chart. known as the point of rushing energy, it helps restore a good flow and calms the mind. apply perpendicular pressure for 60 to 120 seconds on both feet
Kidney 1 : Bubbling Spring the first point on the Kidney meridian and the only accupuncture point on the sole of the foot. it has the abiliy to revitalize body, mind and spirit. massaging for 2-3 minutes it calms the mind, lowers blood pressure and relieves palpitations.
Knowing the location of this points and including gentle daily practise of massaging them is a good prevention, and then when a sudden anxiety comes it is only natural to instinctively come back to those points.
Discuss with your shiatsu practitioner to start practising and find the points more appropriate for you. If you can, start with receiving a few Shiatsu sessions to restore good energy flow and get enough confidence to self practise.
(1) Wikipedia (2)Michael Webster 2003 ”Shiatsu in Stress Related conditions”
nb : angoisse = anxiety in French