These 5 Acupressure Points Can Instantly Diffuse Overwhelm

Acupuncturist and massage therapist By Elizabeth Martin, MSOM, L.Ac, LMT
Acupuncturist and massage therapist
Elizabeth Martin, MSOM, L.Ac, LMT, is a licensed acupuncturist, massage therapist, and holistic practitioner. She has a Master’s degree in Oriental Medicine (Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology) and is a licensed NY board-certified acupuncturist. She is also a reiki master and certified in medical Qi Gong, NAET (Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques) and NET (Neuro Emotional Technique).
Woman Meditating at Home

In traditional Chinese medicine, fall represents a time of breaking down, refining, and letting go of any vital energy that doesn't serve us. With an election and pandemic on our hands, there is certainly a lot of that floating around this year.

The overwhelm that so many of us are feeling affects our mental and physical health. Mentally, we may have trouble concentrating or our mind may feel clogged with too many thoughts. Physically, feelings of overwhelm can affect the stomach. Have you your stomach feeling off until a stressful event ends, and then you feel better? In Chinese medicine, this is explained by the fact that the stomach is part of the Earth energy meridian that's responsible for our thoughts, and so when we ruminate, it can actually physically manifest in our gut.

Using a hands-on technique like acupressure is one way to we can reduce overwhelm and its physical manifestation. Acupressure is a similar technique to acupuncture, but instead of needles, you use your fingers to manipulate acupuncture points on the body. The idea is that when our body's organs and energy pathways are working in harmony, we have the ability to combat overwhelm before it leads to physical symptoms.

While the research on acupuncture is ongoing, there are some early findings: For example, one 2018 study found that acupressure reduced stress and anxiety in women receiving fertility treatment. For people who either don't like needles or don't feel safe getting acupuncture right now, a systematic review of studies found acupressure can be just as effective as acupuncture. Various outcomes included managing nausea and vomiting, reducing pain, and decreasing insomnia and fatigue. 

Here are my top 5 acupressure points to help relieve overwhelm right now.

With each of these acupressure points below, press with your index and middle finger firmly until you feel slight tenderness. Move your fingers in a circular motion while taking 5 deep breaths, expanding the belly, not just the chest. You should breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, counting the inhale to 5, and then exhaling out 5. We call this box breathing, similar to ujjayi breathing in yoga. 

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Heart 7

Location:

On the inside of your nondominant hand, find the spot between your pinkie and ring finger. Move the opposite hand's fingers down to your wrist to find the point.

Heart 7 meridian point

Image by Elizabeth Martin / Contributor

Benefits:

The heart meridian is connected to our mind and balances emotions. This pressure point can help reduce anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Stomach 36

Location:

Use the four fingers on your nondominant hand and place just below your kneecap with the fingers facing out. Find the point below your pinkie finger on the outside of your knee.

Stomach 36 meridian point

Image by Elizabeth Martin / Contributor

Benefits:

The stomach meridian is connected to our digestion and our cognitive thinking. This point helps the digestive system absorb nutrients, supports immunity, and can clear up some brain fog.

Spleen 6

Location:

On the inside of the ankle, rest four fingers of your nondominant hand above the top of the ankle bone. The point is above your pointer finger toward the outside of your leg on your tibia bone.

Spleen 6 meridian point

Image by Elizabeth Martin / Contributor

Benefits:

The spleen meridian functions to balance energy in our surroundings and processes what we consume. This point helps balance mood, reduce symptoms of PMS, and facilitate healthy digestion.

Hall of Impression Point (aka Yintang)

Location:

Use your fingers to press on the point in between the eyebrows.

Hall of Impression meridian point

Image by Elizabeth Martin / Contributor

Benefits:

This point helps relieve stress and anxiety.

Bladder 20

Location:

Put both hands on your hips and move your hands below your ribs with the thumbs pressing on the lower back. Find the point on either side of the spine, at T11 (Thoracic Spinal Nerve 11).

Bladder 20 meridian point

Image by Elizabeth Martin / Contributor

Benefits:

The bladder meridian runs through the entire body and has branches that can connect with the other organ meridians. This point improves digestion and helps with detoxification.

Tui-Na

And one final method to try is tui-Na, known in Chinese medicine as one of the oldest forms of bodywork. You can use a combination of eight different massage techniques, from kneading to pressing to holding for gentle treatment. To relieve constipation or stomachaches, you can gently massage a circle around your belly button for 30 seconds, clockwise.

You will need a partner to do this technique. I recommend trying this gently on children who may be experiencing digestive problems as well.

 Acupressure has long helped calm me down and bring me back to center, and I hope these quick routines do the same for you.

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