The Government’s restrictions on our daily activities over the past year have
been incredibly challenging for everyone. We had to learn how to live with the loss of our normal routine and had very limited interaction with other people. Suddenly most of our time was taken up with focusing on ways to stay healthy not only physically but mentally. If mental health was something we didn’t give much thought to before, being in lockdown will certainly have changed that.
The life changes and uncertainty caused by the pandemic were perfect fuel for anxious thoughts, and many of us found ourselves looking for ways to give our mind a rest from over thinking. Mindfulness meditation is often suggested by mental health professionals as an effective way to help quieten a busy mind. It helps focus our attention and bring us fully into the present moment. Of course, when we are paying full attention to what is happening in the moment, it is impossible to be overthinking or worrying. I would recommend everyone give mindfulness a try, however it takes time, commitment and regular practice and I know it is not for everyone.
So, what else can we do that will help keep us fully in the present moment so we can enjoy the benefits of peace of mind? The good news is that it needn’t be hard work and if you have a hobby or activity, you can fully immerse yourself in you may already be enjoying the benefits it brings to your mental health.
The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was the first to recognise a state of mind he named ‘flow’. When we are in a ‘flow state’ we are so completely focused and totally absorbed by the task in hand that we are beyond distraction. Our senses are heightened, we lose track of time and there is a fluidity between our mind and body. Physical sensation such as hunger or tiredness fade into the background and most importantly mind chatter quietens. Csikszentmihalyi found rock climbers, surgeons and ballet dancers all enjoyed being in the ‘flow’ when they were doing their thing. You may have enjoyed being in a ‘flow’ state while taking part in activities, such as, sport, ballroom dancing, playing chess, drawing, painting, or playing a musical instrument.
It appears when we are completely focused on doing something we love, ‘flow’ happens in a spontaneous and natural way. So, if you are unsure if you have ever experienced ‘flow’ but curious to have a go, here are a few pointers that will give you the best chance of enjoying that blissful state.
The great benefit of being in the ‘flow’ is that as well as keeping our mind focused on the job in hand, and therefore away from negative thoughts, it is very enjoyable and brings a great sense of satisfaction and wellbeing. I dare say we could all do with some of that!
As the pandemic remains these are the hygiene measures I am taking to minimise risk of transmission.
I have been vaccinated against C-19.
I will continue to wear a face covering during treatments.
Clients having craniosacral therapy need to wear a face covering unless they are exempt for medical reasons.
Paper used on the treatment table is disposable and changed between clients.
Clients having facials will bring their own face cloths and sponges, or buy some from me. I will return these at the end of the treatment for you to take home and launder and bring with you next time. If you purchase them from me the cloths and sponges cost £3.00
The window in my treatment room will remain open for ventilation. The heating system at High Beech House is very good and I will make sure the room is always warm enough for you.
Some clients like to be covered during a treatment. I have light blankets which you can use but you are welcome to bring your own if you wish.
I am no longer able to offer you drinking water, please bring your own.
Hand sanitiser is available, and all surfaces including product containers are cleaned with antiviral cleaning products between clients.
To protect my other clients, myself and prevent the spread of Covid in the community I politely request that you do not attend if you feel unwell and think you may have Covid, have tested positive for Covid or know you have been in contact within the last 14 days with someone who has Covid-19.
‘Stress’ tends to manifest itself in two ways in the body. We either have too much energy running around our system and feel ‘hyper’; with tense muscles, churning stomach and the inability to focus; or we feel a deep lack of energy, fatigued, withdrawn, and a lack of motivation.
Does this sound familiar? When dealing with the challenges of the past year you may have felt your own energy swing from one of the above examples to the other. Here are some suggestions of activities that will help to bring you back into that middle ground and feel more in balance
Our body is able to create a huge surge of energy to get us away from anything we consider threatening. In our daily lives, anxious thoughts trigger this same response, and while this energy remains circulating in our body, it will be more difficult for our nervous system to be able to shift out of the stress response and into a state where we feel calm. One of the most effective ways to release this ‘excess’ energy is exercise. Any form of exercise will be beneficial, so do whatever is possible within your range of fitness and ability. If you have a health condition that means you are not able to exercise, or you don’t have the space at home, then TRE or Tension Releasing Exercise is an effective alternative. A technique created by Dr David Berceli, who first used it to help heal traumatised communities in countries affected by violence and war, it is a technique that is now taught in classes and on a one-to-one basis. Online teaching may now also be on offer.
There is a strong connection between the body, mind and breath. Learning to breathe well is one of the most powerful ways of revitalising your mind, body and emotions, and when practised regularly the benefits of breathing exercises are far reaching. They help rid the body of waste products, increase a sense of vitality, and calm the mind and emotions during stressful times. If you are interested in trying this for yourself ‘The Power of Breath’ by Swami Saradananda is an easy to follow and inspiring book with many different breathing exercises. Conscious use of the breath is practised in hatha yoga which is an excellent way to deepen your connection to your body and another way to build good breathing habits. For local yoga classes in person and online I highly recommend Yoga Crow.
The vagus nerve is part of our parasympathetic nervous system and a great regulator of our body. It helps shift our body out of ‘fight or flight’ and into a calm balanced state. We are not able to consciously control the vagus but there are many activities that influence it indirectly. Breathing exercises mentioned above are one way and here are some more simple ones you can try;
Our digestive system has around 100 million neurons, which is why it is sometimes known as our ‘second brain’. Our gut does a lot more than just digest our food, it supports our immune system, reduces inflammation in the body and most relevant here, influences our mood and how anxious we feel. It does this by working very closely with our brain and our gut bacteria or gut microbiota. Our gut and the bacteria in it are able to produce natural mood regulating substances such a serotonin and dopamine. As you can see, having a healthy and diverse microbiome supports our overall health so if you are interested in learning more about the gut microbiome, Viola Sampson is a reliable source of information on this topic.
Full Body Presence
If you are lacking in energy, feel empty, or physically numb; or if you are recovering from an illness and have post viral fatigue; it can be difficult to find the energy and motivation to do anything at all. If this is how you are feeling right now then guided visualisations and meditations can be helpful, as they only require you to listen and can be done sitting or lying down. Suzanne Scurlock Durana a craniosacral therapist based in the USA has created her own visualisation called ‘Full Body Presence’ that will help you feel more energised and connected to your body. This audio is not free but you can hear a similar shorter version on Suzanne’s website for a taster. If you have a history of trauma, please be cautious when doing exercises that focus on body sensation. Remember you are in complete control throughout and can stop the audio at any time. You may find it helps to lighten your focus if you are struggling but do not continue if you feel at all uncomfortable.
Oils have been extracted from plants, seeds, and leaves for thousands of years. Plant oils have been used as food, in traditional forms of medicine like herbalism and of course in skin care too. Most natural skin care products harness the benefits of the huge array of plant oils available to keep skin healthy and looking good. I am often asked which plant oils I would recommend for skin care so here is a shortlist of some my favourite oils.
A light easily absorbed oil that contains trans-retinoic acid and vitamin C. Rosehip seed oil is very effective at promoting skin cell regeneration, and as a result is helpful for mature skin and in the healing of scars.
A lovely odourless golden coloured oil with the silkiest of textures. Jojoba oil has the ability to permeate the skin and to pool at the base of hair follicles. If the skins own oil is gathering here and blocking the pore Jojoba oil is able to help dissolve this build-up and as a result may help prevent spots. This makes Jojoba oil ideal for oily or combination skin, helping to keep it hydrated without making it greasy. Hazelnut oil is also a good alternative.
Evening Primrose and Borage
Both of these very light easily absorbed oils are rich in Gamma-linolenic-acid, a type of essential fatty acid needed for maintaining cell structure and function. If used in skin care they are anti-inflammatory and help establish and maintain normal skin function. This makes them ideal for sensitive or dry, scaly skin, and eczema, where the skin is not broken.
A beautiful copper coloured oil with a velvety texture and a nutty aroma, Argan oil contains vitamin E and is a powerful antioxidant that quenches free radicals. Ideal for dry, lacklustre skin and skin affected negatively by stress.
Avocado oil is thick and green and unless it is deodorised has a distinctive smell. This is one oil that will still retain its benefits if refined and does not need to be kept too cool as it will start to solidify. A very effective moisturiser, it contains vitamin E and A and is excellent for very dry skin.
Shea butter is actually a fat and not an oil but is well worth including in this list. Extracted from the Karite nut, Shea butter has anti-inflammatory properties, encourages cell regeneration and healing, which makes it ideal for dry chapped skin. It is a little heavy for the face but is very nourishing used as a hand or foot cream or body lotion.
Good quality oils can be costly so you might consider sharing some with a friend or you could try less expensive oils such as Apricot Kernel – great for sensitive skin or Sunflower seed a heavier oil which is good for use on the body.
All of these oils can be used on their own, but you might like to experiment by combining oils. A good combination for dry or mature skin would be to blend an active but readily absorbed oil like Rosehip with a heavier more emollient oil like Argan. This will provide the skin with regenerating nutrients whilst moisturising and nourishing. Apply by massaging into the skin after cleansing at night.
Some things to look out for when purchasing oils:
I am pleased to tell you that close contact services will be permitted in the Loughton area from the 2nd December 2020 so I will be able to do facials again with safety precautions in place. Unless there is a change to the local restrictions which mean I can't do treatments, these are the days I will be open during the festive period.
Monday 21 Tuesday 29 2 January 2021
Tuesday 22 Wednesday 30
Wednesday 23 Thursday 31
I will have all the usual safety precautions in place. Please wear a face covering or mask when you visit and remember all the usual rules apply so if you have had a high temperature, new continuous cough, have lost your sense of taste or smell or know you have been in contact with someone who has C-19 please cancel your appointment.
I think we will all agree that being told to stay indoors during ‘lockdown’ was something everyone found challenging. There has been a alot of research into how our bodies respond to being in nature. Intuitively we feel good when we are in a natural environment and we now have scientific evidence that shows being in a natural environment has a positive effect on our wellbeing.
If you live in West Essex where we have Epping Forest on our doorstep you may already enjoy a walk in the woods, however if you need encouragement to leave your comfy sofa keep reading as I have some facts that may convince you.
The Japanese, many of whom live in densely populated cities, have recognised the health benefits of being ‘in nature’ and taken this a step further by creating Shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing'. This term was first used in 1982 by the director of the Japanese Forestry Agency and refers to immersing oneself in a forest and connecting deeply to the environment through our senses. It is a very pleasurable exercise in immersing yourself in your sensory experience of the forest by paying close attention to the sights, sounds and smells of your natural surroundings.
Forest bathing does not involve strenuous activity so is accessible to anyone regardless of how fit they are. In fact it is best done slowly as the idea is to notice everything around you, both large and small. For example, the quality of light, the different types of plants and insects or wild animals, all of which might be missed if you are walking speedily by. It has been proven so effective at stress reduction that major corporations based in Tokyo regularly send their staff on Shinrin-yoku holidays.
Dr Yoshifumi Miyazaki pioneered studies over many years on the effect of forest bathing on the body and summarises the key results in a book he has written on the subject. The studies found that after two hours of ‘forest bathing’, cortisol, one of the hormones produced profusely when we are under stress, was reduced by 15.8%, pulse rate slowed by 3.9%, blood pressure dropped by 2.1% and parasympathetic nerve activity (the part of our nervous system that is more fully engaged when we feel calm) went up by 102%. (Miyazaki Y 2018). Of course, what cannot be measured is the pleasure and enjoyment we get from feeling so connected to our natural surroundings.
So why not try a little forest bathing yourself this season? Autumn is the time the forest puts on a huge show and the perfect chance for us to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Learn more about forest bathing
I have implemented new hygiene measures:
I am very pleased to say I will be able to offer craniosacral therapy once again from 15th of July 2020. At present the government restrictions will not allow me to treat the face so unfortunately, I cannot offer facials. Please contact me if you would like to book a craniosacral therapy treatment. I look forward to seeing you soon.
You may be aware that beauty and complementary therapists have not been allowed to resume treatments on the 4th of July. As I fall into this category, unfortunately I am unable to take bookings at present.
I am obviously eager to return to the treatment room and will be doing so as soon as the Government says it is possible.
When a date has been confirmed concerning the lifting of restrictions, I will contact everyone on my mailing list but in the meantime please feel free to contact me if you have any queries.
I will post a blog with an opening date when I have permission to start treatments again.
Thank you and hope to see you soon.