The 6 Best Acupressure Points for Anxiety
Though you may already be well-versed on the many benefits of acupuncture, it sadly doesn’t serve us much now as we continue to quarantine. (Unless, of course, you happen to live with an acupuncturist. In which case, we’re jealous.)
Luckily, you can still reap some similar benefits at home via acupressure, which applies many of the same theories as acupuncture. As Dr. Shari Auth, cofounder of WTHN acupuncture studio in New York explains: “Acupressure is a great DIY technique that’s been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine to promote stress relief and wellness from the comfort of your own home. Just like acupuncture, acupressure stimulates points across the body that correspond to various ailments or conditions like anxiety.”
I’m listening, doc. So, how exactly does acupressure work?
“There are hundreds of pressure points, or acupoints, on the body. Acupoints are located where blood, nerve, lymph and connective tissue meet. Stimulating an acupoint sends a message to the brain that alters your brain chemistry and tells the body to react,” explains Dr. Auth. “For example, an acupressure point that corresponds to stress could trigger the brain to lower cortisol levels (our stress hormone), while increasing dopamine and serotonin levels (our happy hormones). Stimulation of acupressure points also increases circulation, which helps to relax tight muscles or bring blood flow to an organ, depending on where the point is located,” she adds.
Sign me up. How do I get started?
“I believe that healing is a multisensory journey, so do whatever you need to set the mood—whether that means lighting a candle, indulging in some aromatherapy, dimming the lights, or turning on some soothing music,” advises Dr. Auth.
Once you have your space ready, it’s time to get pressing, but before we get into specific acupressure points, let’s figure out the correct motion.
“Using your thumb, you’re going to gradually apply increasing pressure on a point until you find the sweet spot, where it’s just enough pressure to feel some resistance without causing any discomfort or pain. Then, hold that pressure steady and make a small, circular motion with your thumb, gently massaging the point. Take ten deep breaths and then release the point.”
OK, ready to get your Zen on? We’ll walk you through Dr. Auth’s favorite acupressure points for alleviating anxiety and stress.
1. Kidney 1: For when you want to feel grounded and calm
“This point is found on the midline of the sole of the foot, a third of the way down from your toes and two thirds of the way up from your heel—right where the arch of the foot begins,” explains Dr. Auth. “Fun fact: This is the only acupoint located on the sole of the foot.”
Cross your foot over your opposite knee and use your thumb to apply firm but comfortable pressure. Push down and move your thumb in a circular direction. Take ten deep breaths while you are applying pressure, then switch and do the other foot.
2. Pericardium 6: To soothe anxiety and promote deeper sleep
“While this point is famous for combatting motion sickness, it's also great for calming anxiety and helping you sleep. Located on the inside of the forearm, it sits just a couple inches up from the wrist,” says Auth.
Use your thumb to press into the point and breathe. Apply a firm but comfortable pressure. Move your thumb in circular motion and take ten deep breaths while you are applying pressure, then switch and do the other wrist.
3. Taiyang: To relieve tension headaches
“The temples are acupressure (and acupuncture) points collectively known as Taiyang and have been used to calm the mind for thousands of years. These points can also be used to ease tension headaches, which are (unfortunately) a common symptom of a high-stress lifestyle,” says Dr. Auth.
Place the pads of your index and middle fingers on your temples. Rub the point in a circular motion, slowly breathing in and out for ten deep breaths. Then, rest your fingers in the center of your temples and hold the point for two more deep breaths and slowly release.
4. Spleen 6: To balance hormones and reduce stress
Spleen 6 is located about a palm’s distance (or about three inches) above the inner ankle. This point balances hormone levels that correlate with calming the mind. “It’s great for treating stress, anxiety and insomnia. I use this point on 90 percent of my clients,” admits Dr. Auth.
From a seated position, place your ankle on top of the opposite knee or lie down and bend one knee, then rest your other ankle on that knee. Rub the area between the shin and the back of the calf taking ten long, slow, deep breaths, then switch to the other side. Do this daily for best results.
5. Large Intestine 4: To relieve headaches and other bodily pain
“Commonly known as a headache point, Large Intestine 4 has so many uses and is good for relieving pain anywhere in the upper body—including the neck, shoulders, jaw and head. It’s also good for getting things moving, like your emotions and your digestion, so activate this point to relieve stress or constipation,” says our expert.
Gently pinch the web between the index finger and thumb of your left hand with your right thumb and right index finger. Rotate the right thumb in a circular motion. As the resistance releases gradually apply more pressure. Breathe slow and deep as you do this and then switch sides. Keep rubbing until you feel a release in the area.
6. Ear Seeds: For ongoing relief
To get ongoing relief, you can also try ear seeds, which take less than a minute to apply, stay on for days and can look just like a little earring. “Ear seeds focus specifically on acupressure points on the ears, which are known to be a map of the human body,” Dr. Auth explains. “There are hundreds of points on the ear alone that correspond to various ailments.”
Ear seeds are tiny little adhesive beads that you apply to one (or more) of your ear’s acupressure points. Press down on them periodically throughout the day to get an extra boost. Each seed can be left on between three to five days, at which point they can be replaced as needed.