Lower your HKDSE exam stress with simple hand reflexology you can do at anytime

By Natasha Warren-James

Studying can be stressful at any time of the year, but especially so during the exam period. Take a moment to step away with a really old technique of calming your body down called reflexology

By Natasha Warren-James |

Latest Articles

Tick, Tick ... Boom! review: did you know Andrew Garfield could sing?

WTA suspends tournaments in China amid concern for Peng Shuai

Hong Kong’s secondary schools lose 4,500 students and 1,000 teachers in single year

Orange the Clock Tower to fight gender-based violence

Thai annual buffet for monkeys resumes as country’s borders reopen

Hong Kong students must ‘love motherland’ under new values curriculum

Give yourself a hand and relax for a bit.

According to the Association of Reflexologists, reflexology is an ancient therapy that dates back more than 5,000 years. Treatments try to bring back balance to the body, encourage healing and increase relaxation, and can be done on the hands as well as the feet – similar to Chinese foot massages. You can pay a professional reflexologist to do this; but doing the treatments yourself means you don’t have to fork out the cash. Plus, a study at Kangwon National University in South Korea found that (literally) treating yourself helps in reducing perceived stress.

The techniques

Hand reflexology can be used to help manage your stress levels during the DSE exam period, or at any time when you feel you could do with some relaxation. It focuses on breathing and the stress response, and should only take 5-10 minutes.

There are two techniques used in this treatment. The first is thumb-walking, when you press the tip of your thumb on the reflex area (the area you want to work on), lifting up and pressing down again in tiny little steps as you “walk” across the reflex area, almost like a caterpillar. The second technique is a rotating technique, where you place your thumb directly on top of a reflex point and slowly twist several times clockwise, then anticlockwise.

With both techniques, you should use the fingers of your working hand to support the hand you’re treating. This means you’re using your working hand to work as an anchor, or counterweight, for your thumb. Perform this routine at least once a day in a calm, quiet space. Take your time, and try to breathe slowly and deeply for the duration. Pay attention to how your hands feel as you carry out this treatment; if any areas feel too painful, lighten up on the pressure.


Breathing deeply has been found to help lessen feelings of stress, and so this routine targets reflex areas that relate to breathing: the diaphragm (the muscle that separates your chest from your stomach), lungs, and sinuses.

The diaphragm reflex, or pressure point, is in a horizontal line one third of the way down each palm, roughly following the natural crease. Placing the thumb of your working hand at the start of the diaphragm reflex, use the thumb-walking technique to move from one side of the palm to the other. Thumb-walk across three times, then repeat on the other palm.

The lung reflexes are across the entire top third section of both palms, from the bottom of each finger to the crease. Use the thumb-walking technique on both sides, criss-crossing over the entire area.

With palms facing up, use the thumb-walking technique to work up, and then down, the centre of each finger and thumb (from base to tip) to focus on the sinus reflexes.

The stress response

In times of stress, our body will begin the fight or flight response, through the hypothalamus, pituitary glands, and adrenal glands. The response makes us want to either stand up to whatever we’re facing, or run away and hide. Although the activation of this stress pathway has its uses, high levels of stress hormones once the event has passed can be unhealthy. There are reflexes in the hand that are linked to the areas of the body that cause this response.

The hypothalamus and pituitary gland reflexes are found in the middle of the soft, padded part of both thumbs. Supporting the thumb with the fingers of the opposite hand, use the rotating technique on these areas.

The adrenal gland reflexes are on your palm in the thin stretchy skin between your thumb and forefinger, just above the thumb muscle. Again, use the rotating technique to treat these reflexes. Aaaand relax.

Edited by Ginny Wong