If “anxious” feels like your default emotion, you don’t have to just accept that. While relaxation techniques such as meditation, counseling and even medication can help, there’s another very effective, quick-and-easy way to “get a handle” on your anxiety—literally. We’re talking about pressing acupressure points on your body to turn off the angst. Here’s how to do it…

Acupuncture is commonly used to treat anxiety and the symptoms associated with it. Acupressure works on the same principles and uses the same pressure points but without the needles. It’s also easy to do yourself on your own body, so it’s a great remedy that you always have with you.

Like acupuncture, acupressure is based on a theory that energy flows through a system of lines or meridians that crisscross the body. This energy flow can become blocked at pressure points located at the edges of muscles, and anxiety is one of the problems that can result. Stimulating the pressure points opens the flow of energy and relieves the anxiety. Acupressure can relieve not only physical symptoms such as headache, nausea, sweating and heart palpitations…it also can relieve emotional symptoms such as excessive fear, worry, apprehension and irritability.

The seven pressure points below are especially good at relieving anxiety and associated symptoms. When you’re working on a particular pressure point, you can either apply steady pressure or gently massage it for a few minutes, whichever works better for you. Repeat as often as you like—acupressure is perfectly safe. You can further enhance the effectiveness by taking slow, deep breaths and/or closing your eyes while you’re pressing or massaging. It doesn’t matter which points you try, how many of them, in what order or whether you apply pressure to a particular point on one or both sides of the body. Focus on the points (and the side of the body) that work for you.

Seven points to try

• Pericardium 6 (PC 6). P 6 is a very well-researched acupressure (and acupuncture) point. In fact, it’s the pressure point stimulated by motion sickness wristbands to reduce nausea. (Wearing one of these bands also helps relieve anxiety!) Find it at the center of your inner wrist, about an inch above the crease. PC 6 not only reduces the nausea caused by anxiety, it also can reduce palpitations.

• Heart 7 (HT 7). Find HT 7 on the outside of your inner wrist, (the side opposite your thumb), just above the palm of your hand in the crease area. Pressure here may relieve nervousness, fear and palpitations.

• Yintang. Yin Tang is located right between your eyebrows, an area sometimes called the third eye. It is an especially powerful pressure point for relieving anxiety and calming the whole body. Yintang also is useful for reducing anxiety headaches and insomnia.

• Jianjing or Gallbladder 21 (GB 21).This point is located at the top of your shoulder about halfway between your shoulder and neck and in line with your nipple. Since trying to reach your shoulder with the hand on the same side is awkward, you will need to cross your arms to reach each shoulder with the opposite hand (or let someone press this pressure point for you). Pressing GB 21 is wonderful for relieving the neck pain and tension that can accompany anxiety. It also can lower blood pressure.

• Liver 3 (LR 3). Locate L 3 by finding the web between your big toe and the next toe (you’ll need to take off your shoes and socks), then follow that space up about two inches toward your ankle. Pressure on LR 3 can relieve feelings of tension, irritability and stress.

• Stomach 36 (ST 36). Find this point about two inches below your knee just on the outside of your shinbone. Pressure here can relieve anxiety-associated nausea and indigestion.

• Earlobe and Shen Men. Start by rubbing your earlobe between your fingers, as you would do to wind a watch. You can then run your finger up above the ridge of cartilage that stretches across your upper ear. Right in the center of your upper ear, you will find Shen Men point, which means “calm spirit.” Stimulating these ear pressure points may bring you to a calm place and reduce both fear and fatigue.

What else helps: Eating anxiety-reducing foods such as cooked vegetables, leafy greens and mushrooms…avoiding foods that promote anxiety, namely processed, deep-fried and spicy foods as well as sweets (which can relieve anxiety temporarily but then make it worse)…getting regular exercise.…and getting enough sleep also help keep anxiety at bay.

Finally, if all these steps don’t help or don’t help enough, discuss with your doctor what other steps you might need to take. You should also let your doctor know that you have heart palpitations, especially with shortness of breath or dizziness, even if you think they’re caused by anxiety, as they could be a sign of a more serious health problem.

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