Simple Technique for Emotional Stress Release
This article first appeared at Healthy Living London. There is a lot of great articles on all health related matters even for people who live outside London.
There is a simple* way to release emotional stress, whether it is regarding current situations, the past or the future. It is so simple that when I first learnt it from a Touch for Health Kinesiology** workshop, I thought it was magic or the people whom I practised with were making up the changes they experienced in just a few minutes. I am sharing this technique for emotional stress release as stress is something we all suffer from in varying degrees.
You can experiment with this technique for yourself right after reading the next two paragraphs. However, please do read the whole article for different uses and mostly importantly, some precautions. I encourage you to also apply this technique for your family and friends so that they can learn about it; and so that you will gain confidence with this technique and use it often.
Emotional Stress Release (ESR) technique
Let’s begin by identifying the source of stress. Is it from work or relationship, from a recent event that was upsetting or embarrassing, from an argument, or just too much going on during your day?
While thinking about this stress in detail, gently touch the two points on the bumps of your forehead above your eyebrows, as shown in the photographs below. You can do this with your thumb and two fingers of the same hand, with fingers of both hands or using your palm to cover the whole forehead. Allow yourself to sit or lie comfortably for a little while whilst touching these points. This might take as short as 30 seconds or a few minutes. If you can feel the slight energetic exchange between your fingers/thumb/palm and your forehead, then it is done when this exchange stops. If not, it is done when you feel it is.
It is also a good idea to have a few sips of water during or after this technique. Our brains need water to function especially when there are some changes happening.
So now you know how to do this, let’s experiment!
How does ESR work
A simple explanation of how these points work is that when under a stressful situation, our bodies go to ‘fight and flight’ mode which involves the stem brain at the back of our heads. Unfortunately, fighting or running away often are not the best solutions. What we need is to have a clear mind to access what to do next. When applying ESR technique, we redirect the focus back to the forebrain which enables us to think of solutions and choose how we react to the circumstances, rather than falling into ineffective survival patterns.
When I applied this technique to my clients or friends, they had reported that their minds seemed to clear up. Some of them said they were able to see the situations in a more positive way. Some said they felt the events didn’t seem as bothersome as before. Some felt ‘lighter’ and more hopeful. Some said they were able to make up their minds as to what to do, or they felt whatever it was wasn’t important to them anymore and were able to leave it behind. Some said related past events came to their minds. If you come across the last scenario, it would be helpful to continue doing ESR some more to release the emotional stress related to these past events.
ESR for Past Events/Traumas
ESR can be used to release stress or emotions related to past events or traumas. It could be an embarrassing moment, it could be a past situation or event that left you feeling angry, frustrated, sad, nervous or overwhelmed, it could even be an accident or natural disaster. If you feel this trauma is big, or could potentially bring up a series of unpleasant incidents, please first establish a safe place and enlist the help of someone you can trust, as explained later in this article.
To release a past event/trauma, bring up the memory of this event as vividly and as detailed as possible. Go through this experience in your mind or talk about it out loud especially if you have someone doing this with you. Apply the ESR technique. Go through the experience again to see how you feel. More details might come up or more emotions. Apply ESR again and continue checking till you feel comfortable about the event.
Sometimes the trauma can be too huge to be completely dealt with in one session, or too many related incidents have surfaced. In this case, please take a break from it or put everything in an imagery box and continue on another day. Even though it is a good thing to put the past behind us, it can be too much for anyone to handle to recall the whole incident or a series of incidents in a single short period of time.
We cannot change what had already happened and we might never like what had happened. We can, however, be free of any negative emotions that stopped us from moving on with our lives.
After using ESR for past event/trauma, please bring yourself fully into the present moment. You can do this by feeling the ground under your feet, noticing your surrounding and concentrating on something that is practical and neutral, like what to eat for dinner.
ESR for Future Events
It could be an upcoming event such as an exam, a presentation at school/work, an important phone call/email, a future confrontation or any future event that is making you nervous or overwhelmed or keep putting off.
To apply ESR for a future event, visualize or imagine this event taking place, especially what you fear most, whether it is the outcome (e.g. exam result) or things that could go wrong (e.g. forget everything during a presentation). Apply ESR and go through this future event again. Continue this till you feel comfortable about it. If related past event comes to mind, apply ESR for the past event as discussed above.
We certainly can go through life without using this technique. However, when we do actively release the emotional stress related to a future event, we certainly can enjoy these events much better because even an exam can be an enjoyable experience, or at least, it could be seen for just another task that we have to do without it affecting our daily enjoyment.
A Helping Hand
It is a wonderful idea to use ESR in the presence of someone you trust. Please make sure this someone is compassionate, patient, a good listener and someone you feel totally comfortable with in sharing your worst moments. Have this person listen to you as you recount the details of past/current/future events that bother you. Let him/her touch the ESR points for you while you relax. Talk about the changes you are experiencing or related events that came up, and ask them to continue applying ESR points till you feel it is done.
Please remember that you are in control. When I do this for my clients, they tell me how they feel and if they need more and I will never make judgement for them because they are in control. I’m only a helper. I might, however, tell them that it could be too much for them to handle and let’s take a break. Your helper might tell you the same when for example you are crying for a long time or look pale. It is also not a good idea to do this, whether with someone or not, for a long period of time. If it takes over an hour or two, what you need most might be a good sleep and time for your body/mind to adjust. Your helper might by now be feeling drained too.
Same goes when you apply ESR for your friends and loved ones. Be patient and a compassionate listener. They might not like to talk, they might not be opened to try this, they might not want to continue after a while. Please honour their wishes even though by now you know that this technique is very effective and helpful. This technique is meant to help people feel good and it wouldn’t be as effective if they feel they are being forced.
Safe Place and Privacy
Sometimes it is necessary to establish a safe place, a place where you or the person you are applying ESR for feel comfortable in and can rest there when you/they need to take a break. It could be a real or imagery place. It could be a corner of the room or a particular chair.
If the experience or emotions that came up are particularly overwhelming, it is also helpful to think of something neutral or pleasant, like chocolate cake, flowers and trees. Counting numbers or focusing on an object in the room by describing it also helps the person to come back to the present moment.
Even if you are only using this technique to release a small stress, make sure that you have some privacy because sometimes tears do come up. When you offer to do this for someone else, please also make sure that you are somewhere private.
We can apply this technique for another person whilst touching our own foreheads. To do this, you will be physically touching the person you are helping whilst applying ESR on your own forehead. An example is for a parent to do this for their small child in their arms.
Proceed with Care and Give yourself a Hug
Every time you use this technique, please give yourself a hug or any gesture that shows love to yourself. A stress that seems very small could have taken a lot for you to release without you noticing it consciously. Please also be gentle with yourself and allow yourself plenty of time to rest as well as water after using this technique. If you choose to release past events/traumas, please proceed gently and allow yourself as much time as you need.
The ESR technique is both simple and effective. It works best if you do it often and actively change your belief patterns and habits. For example, if you had built up a lot of stress from years of work life, you probably need to release the emotional stress from many incidents as well as changing your mindset. So let’s use it often and early and not let the stress build up!
* I first decided to write this article in order to remind my friend how to use this technique for simple every day stress. I decided to add the bits about past events/traumas in case these come up during your experiments. When I first learnt this technique I used it at home to release what I thought was a small matter. Similar events that I didn’t remember from long ago came to mind and I ended up crying buckets. Luckily my husband was at home and gave me the support and listening ears I needed.
Human minds are complicated and often unpredictable and so please use this technique responsibly. For past traumas, especially if you were victim of a crime, please seek professional help. You can also rediscover your full potential for wellness through assistance from one of us. This technique cannot replace any medical help that you are having and please consult your doctor if you have any doubts regarding this.
** Touch for Health Kinesiology was created by Dr John Thie with the approval of Dr John Goodheart who created the first Kinesiology. Dr Thie designed this course because he wishes more and more people would take their health into their own hands. ESR technique is only one of many topics that is covered in this course.
There is no pre-requisite for level one of this course. If you would like to learn Touch for Health Kinesiology as a new tool to help yourself with, a good place to go to in the U.K. is my teacher Jennifer Hand who is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had and who continues to give me support and good information.
All photos by Konstantinos Anastasakis AKA PhotoMan.