Have you ever wondered why we put a hand to our forehead in a moment of shock? You’ll see people do it instinctively when they’ve forgotten something important or when they’ve received shocking news.
Why do we do this and what benefit does it have?
Behind the forehead is the prefrontal cortex area of the brain. It is the most evolved part of the brain but also the most sensitive to the detrimental effects of stress. The prefrontal cortex receives information from multiple areas of the brain and is where that information is processed. It is responsible for executive functions such as mental control, working memory and self-regulation, as it regulates our thoughts, actions and emotions.
During stress, responses are triggered by the amygdala: the part of the brain that disables the frontal lobes and activates the fight-flight-freeze response.
What to do for immediate relief during times of stress and overwhelm
The prominent bumps on the front of the forehead above each eyebrow are acupressure points known as Emotional Stress Release (ESR) points. Holding these points lightly with a couple of fingers from each hand or with your whole hand across your forehead brings blood flow to the prefrontal cortex. The increased blood flow allows the brain to process the stressful emotion slowly and in turn, you will regain a sense of calm. That’s why we instinctively hold our foreheads when experiencing a sudden surge of stressful or overwhelming emotion.
As you hold the ESR points, you begin to process and release the emotion by bringing to mind a situation or event that has caused the stress. Think about how it makes you feel and see if you can pick up on any sensations you may be feeling in your body. For example, if anxiety is the underlying feeling, people often feel a hollow sensation in the stomach area (the location of the solar plexus: the area that is linked to the adrenals and prepares the body to respond to stress and produces the fight-flight-freeze response). You might find that colours, smells or sounds come to mind. There is no right or wrong; just focus on what comes up when you concentrate on the stressor.
Breathe slowly and deeply while continuing to hold the ESR points. Hold gently until you begin to lose focus of the issue. Then try and bring it to mind again and see if the intensity has lessened. This is such a simple and effective tool we have at our disposal and the great thing is, it doesn’t take long. If you are at work and something overwhelming happens, you can always pop to the loo to get some time alone to regain your composure!
Holding the ESR points is fantastic for immediate relief and will help you regain clarity over the best course of action to take. Give it a go and let me know how you get on! Feel free to contact me if you would like more information or help to get started.
For longer-term issues that are causing stress or overwhelm, meditation is a great tool. Practicing meditation over time is helpful in increasing blood flow to the prefrontal cortex and helps to increase self-control in stressful situations.