Grooming behaviour is used by mammals across the board to release stress. This applies to co-grooming (where one horse nibbles on another) as well as to self grooming (where one horse nibbles on itself).
Not many people know that self mutilation is actually a high end stress relief behaviour, a natural last resort version of self grooming (not just in people, in all mammals).
Biting your fingernails is somewhere in the middle.
The pleasant de-stressing effects of grooming can be brought forth in various ways, and you can be inventive with what can be done with yourself and others under a variety of circumstances.
Brushing or combing the hair (without a mirror as that stresses out of people who haven't been trained in the use of mirrors) significantly lowers stress, especially if it is done repeatedly and for a longer than normal period of time and for the act itself, rather than to "look good".
A variant of that is to sit down, hang the head down and rub all fingers over the scalp and through the hair as though one was washing one's hair.
Stroking one's own hair (head) with long, slow strokes front to back is another variant on that same theme.
An energetic version without touch is to copy those movements but leaving about a handspan's distance between the body and the grooming hands and focusing on the effects this has on the emotions and the energy system.
This version can also be applied to all body parts, ostensibly "to remove dirt from the aura".
Making the movements of washing one's hands, face or hair is yet another variant of the grooming stress release; and this can often be observed taking place spontaneously in stressed people.
It is interesting to note that women with complicated hair and a lot of make up will have to default to energetic versions of self grooming as they can't touch themselves in public without creating chaos.
In self help, all forms of self grooming, self massaging, tapping indeed, self touching are stress reducing.
Often these activities are linked or confined to happening "in the shower" or "in the bath" or "in the bathroom after the bath" but it is worth noting that just the movements of sponging yourself down in the absence of water will bring about a very similar result in stress release.
There are some lovely ritual versions of this self grooming, including cleaning the aura with feathers or bundles of herbs, smoke or just movements, which adds an extra dimension to that basic powerful stress release method. These include finding a suitable aromatherapy oil and enjoying massing parts of the body that carry a lot of stress, such as hands, shoulders and feet, or treat yourself and oil yourself all over.
Sexual stress and tension can also be successfully relieved by self touching, so don't be shy!
With therapy and healing clients, encouraging self touching and self stroking (for example, in EmoTrance where this happens structurally) also brings forth the grooming anti-stress response. If you focus your touch on ereas of your body where you feel the stress most profoundly and self touch with the intent to wash or wipe away the stress that has accumulated there, you gain additional stress relief from dual sources.
We all have energy bodies and therefore, all these energy bodies have healing hands; switch them on to self groom the physical and energy body at the same time for additional stress relief.
There are many more variants of this, so look out for it in your environment and use it as and when to trigger a powerful, PRIMAL stress reducing system we were all born with.
-- Dr Silvia Hartmann