3 Holistic Cures for Stress

Kim O’Brien, holistic practitioner and owner of Ancient Medicine (150 O’Connor), has always been fascinated by ancient cultures, and their healing methods. She offers three stress-relieving treatments at her practice that originate from ancient times.

O’Brien believes that healing modalities that have been around since ancient times—and have stood the test of time—have lasting merit and proven effectiveness. The purpose of holistic therapy is to bring the individual back into balance, thereby restoring their health. The entire person must be treated concurrently, and this includes the body, mind, and emotions. When the entire person is in a balanced state complete health is achieved.


Reflexology originated in Ancient Egypt, according to the Ontario College of Reflexology. An ancient Egyptian papyrus scene was found depicting medical practitioners treating the hands and feet of their patients (dated at approximately 2,500 BC).

“A lot of people think that reflexology is an hour-long massage—they don’t realize the effect that reflexology can have on their bodies’ internal systems and organs, and its ability to detox, regulate hormonal function, and clear neural pathways,” says O’Brien.

In fact, many clients are surprised by what Kim O’Brien can tell about their body just from their feet. For example, she remembers a time when she could feel that a client had toxins in their lung and thymus. They were surprised when O’Brien could tell, from their feet, that they recently had a chest infection. Situations like these demonstrate the power of reflexology to reveal underlying health issues, and will “open clients’ minds more as they begin to see reflexology as a valid and effective treatment,” says O’Brien.

What to Expect

The reflexology treatment will begin with the client reclined on the treatment table, with their feet exposed. Both feet are then cleaned with tea tree oil water. One foot is worked on at a time; the other foot is wrapped in a towel to keep it warm. Every system and organ in the body is stimulated through pressure and movement applied to the soles of the feet. A map of the foot divides it into sections. Each sections shows which corresponding body part can be assessed —for example, the arch of the foot corresponds to the kidneys, pancreas, and liver.

Clients often feel warmth and tingling in the area of their body that is being worked on through the feet. The whole body is worked through the gentle manipulation of the feet, but problem areas are given extra attention. The treatment lasts for one hour.

Following treatment (a few hours to a day) you may feel fatigued, emotional, and/or  feel slight flu symptoms as your body cleanses toxins from your system. Kim O’Brien recommends that clients drink lots of water and have an Epsom salt bath following the reflexology treatment to help the body flush out toxins, while taking the strain off the kidneys (an organ that aids detoxification).

Reflexology can effectively treat stress by calming the nervous system, and eliminating the “fight or flight” response. It can also treat many other issues:  digestive problems such as acid reflux, PMS, and decrease inflammation. Above all, O’Brien says reflexology can give the client a deep sense of relaxation, and relief from minor aches and pains.


Reiki originated in ancient Tibet thousands of years ago. Dr. Mikao Usui, of Japan, later rediscovered the technique in the 1800s. Reiki is a holistic healing method —“it is an energetic healing method based on the chakra system of the body,” says O’Brien. Each chakra corresponds to an endocrine gland (part of the hormonal system). For example, the throat chakra corresponds to the thyroid gland.

Chakra is the Sanskrit word meaning ‘wheel’ or ‘disk’ and refers to energy centers that run from the crown of the head to the base of the spine. They ‘spin’ and draw coded information from our environment. This information can include things such as another person’s aura, levels of consciousness, stages of life, body functions, sounds, or colour. It is believed that each chakra center is interdependent upon the other and is connected on varying levels such as emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual,” says Roberta Sotonoff of Travel to Wellness, an online magazine catering to the spa and wellness travel niche. There are seven chakras in total.

What to Expect

Clients remain fully clothed for the treatment. They lay reclined on their back on a comfortable treatment table. “The treatment consists of light touch —or without touch if the client is too uncomfortable or in too much pain,” says O’Brien.

Treatment begins at the head; the practitioner lightly places their hands there and then moves towards the feet. Once the feet are reached, the client will lie on their stomach and the entire process will be repeated from the feet to the head. The treatment takes an hour to an hour-and-a-half. Clients tend to feel a strong release of emotions during the treatment. They also tend to become more aware of their body and its sensations. Following treatment, clients can expect to feel very calm, peaceful, energized, and experience pain relief, according to O’Brien.

“Reiki is good for everything —generally, there are no contraindications— anyone can have it,” says O’Brien. It is a gentle, safe, and effective treatment. Reiki can help relieve stress by putting the client in a meditative state. These positive emotional and mental benefits last longer with each Reiki treatment.


Indian head massage is another holistic treatment focused on bringing the entire person —body, mind, and emotions—into balance to restore health. The process originated in ancient India, as part of Ayurvedic medicine. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, “the term ‘Ayurveda’ combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Thus, Ayurveda means ‘the science of life’.”

“A lot of people believe that an Indian head massage only focuses on the head. However, it is an upper-body massage and focuses on the upper back, shoulders, neck, head, and face. It also includes some energy/chakra work,” explains O’Brien.

What to Expect

The client will be seated in a massage chair, leaning forward to decompress the spine and the head cradled in the chair comfortably. Massage cream is used and, unlike massage oil, it will slowly absorb into the skin —so the client doesn’t leave with oil in their hair and clothes. Essential oil will be massaged into the skin. The client can choose the scent that they like best —such as lavender, cedar, or eucalyptus. Most of the treatment takes place in the massage chair.

However, at the end of the treatment the client moves to the table and lies on their back. This is where the face portion of the treatment, as well as more chakra work, is completed. The masseuse then gives the client the option to focus on a specific problem area, such as the lower back, for a few minutes. The entire treatment last for 30 minutes to an hour.

The Indian head massage helps increase blood flow to the head and neck, and gives much more attention to the head and neck than a “regular,” or “traditional” massage does. The Indian head massage also stimulates the lymphatic system, which helps the body remove toxins more easily.

Following treatment most people feel deeply relaxed and peaceful, with a decrease in neck and head tension. Their breathing also tends to be much deeper. Overall, Indian head massage calms the mind and the body, helping clients release stress and tension more easily. Kim O’Brien recalls a time when one of her clients said, “I’ve never felt this relaxed before.” She says by helping a client to “de-stress” the massage also boosts the immune system.

If you think you don’t need a massage, ask yourself: “Can you ever be too relaxed?”

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