The news regarding obesity rates doesn’t get any better. Driving home from seeing a client the other day I heard this story on NPR about the amount of money being invested in diabetes prevention measures. When even the government is willing to spend on preventative care, you know this is serious business. Later the same day, I saw an even more depressing article in The Guardian newspaper about the situation in New Zealand – the author, a campaigner for diabetes awareness, says she is giving up as she is so disillusioned.
Most people know by now that the links between obesity, inactivity and the rise of type 2 diabetes are clear, but what may be less well known is that high levels of stress are also implicated in fluctuating blood sugar levels. Once again, learning to manage stress has a key role to play in fighting against a serious health condition.
Some years ago, I was invited by a local hospital to give mini reflexology sessions to people who were attending a lecture about the impact of stress on blood sugar levels. They were also given biodots to wear as they received the reflexology as a non-invasive way to help them de-stress, and were later guided through a short breathing/relaxation sequence. The biodot stickers are a simple measure of surface body temperature which can indicate stress levels. It was striking to see these change colour as the event went on, despite the fact that people were listening to some concerning information.
Since then I have seen number of people with pre-diabetes who are working to improve their health, and who have found reflexology not only helpful in managing stress, but also in giving them more information about their whole body. One regular client has commented on being able to better manage her diet – less comfort eating now that she has is able to keep her stress levels in check – and another has found that he often feels energized after a restful session and therefore more inclined to do some exercise.
There are number of issues associated with diabetes that can show up in the feet, and according to some studies the discomfort can be helped by reflexology session, as long as it is permitted by the client’s doctor. Reflexology helps the circulation which is useful since poor blood flow is another problem encountered with diabetes. If it is contraindicated on the feet, reflexology can be focused on the hands and/or ears instead to give good results in terms of relaxation and boosting the circulation.
While it would be foolish to claim that stress management and relaxation can cure or treat disease, there is overwhelming evidence that stress is harmful to the body and that even ailments which appear entirely physical, like insulin resistance, cannot be separated from our state of mind. Perhaps the most important impact of complete relaxation, whether through reflexology or other means, is that we just feel better, happier even, when we find a way to truly let go of stress. The sweet message, ‘don’t worry, be happy’ won’t solve everything, but it is a mantra that can help us all lead a longer, healthier life.