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.
The good news is that I will be able to return to the treatment room from 4th of July. However, as much as I would love to resume treatments as before, infection from COVID-19 is still a threat, so I have had to make changes to the way I work.
Your health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance to me. I am a member of the Federation of Holistic Therapists and Craniosacral Therapy Association and I have been guided by their advice on how I can carry out treatments safely, without putting your health at risk.
This means I will not be offering facial treatments when I start back initially. I will be reviewing this on a regular basis.
I will no longer charge a cancellation fee. If you feel unwell the day before, or on the day of your treatment, or know you have been in contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19, please cancel your appointment. I will obviously do the same.
All payments are to be made by card. I will no longer accept cash or cheques. Prices will remain the same with a low-cost clinic for craniosacral therapy twice a month.
Safety and Hygiene
I will be wearing a mask or face shield. Please do not be offended by this and feel free to do the same if you wish.
The treatment table will be covered with a disposable semi fabric cover and paper placed on top. The couch will be wiped down with disinfectant in between customers.
Hand sanitiser will be available for your use in the treatment room. Please use this when you arrive.
I will allocate time in between treatments to ventilate the treatment room, disinfect communal surfaces and replace disposable hygiene equipment.
If you prefer to limit your contact with other people, if you arrive on time you will not have to wait in the communal waiting area.
Water – Please bring your own water to drink as I will not be able to offer you water.
I hope you will bear with me and that I will be able to return to doing facials again soon.
As you know I practice craniosacral therapy. One of the reasons people seek out craniosacral therapy is for help with managing stress and anxiety. We need a little stress to thrive but if the load is too great it can have a negative effect on the way our body functions. We may not always be aware of it but when we are under stress our inner landscape changes from being balanced into a state of high alert. It is natural to feel a little anxious from time to time, but anxiety is a state of constant worrying and an excessive and persistent state of apprehension. There are many factors that contribute to anxiety, mostly centred around our unique personal history. However, stress creates the perfect environment in our bodies to generate anxious thoughts. When we are under stress the sympathetic part of our nervous system becomes activated and our bodies produce a combination of hormones and neurotransmitters, which all keep the body on the look-out for danger. It is impossible not to feel anxious if we sense an impending threat. It then follows that if we lower our stress levels we will be giving ourselves the best chance to feel less anxious.
Our stress response is in fact the incredible capacity of our body to get us out of a dangerous situation. It is programmed into us for our survival. You may have heard it called the fight or flight response. In human beings something as simple as being late for an important meeting can trigger our stress response. For the majority of us the things that trigger our fight or flight response in our daily lives are not life threatening at all. It is important to recognise how far along the fight or flight path we are, as once we have a sense of this we can seek to address it if needs be. However, this is not always a simple as it sounds. We only know what feels normal for us, so how do we know what a ‘balanced’ nervous system feels like? This is where having awareness of body sensation or interoception is invaluable. Interoception is the perception of the internal state of our bodies. For example, as you are sitting here how does your throat feel, or your chest or gut? This gives a true picture of how we are.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. You may experience your first panic attack during a period of chronic stress, after an accident, surgery, illness, trauma or emotionally overwhelming event.
What does it feel like to have a panic attack?
Panic attacks last on average from 5 to 20 minutes but can last longer.
Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack will tell you that they are extremely unpleasant. There is an overwhelming feeling something terrible is about to happen, sometimes with an urgent need to get away from wherever you happen to be.
Please note do not self-diagnose, I recommend you check with your GP if you are experiencing symptoms you are concerned about.
Physical sensations of a panic attack may include:
Heart beating very hard and fast
Feeling nausea or wanting to vomit
Chills or hot sweat
Feeling like you are going to faint
Tightness in the throat
Shortness of breath
Dizziness or light headedness
Sense of unreality or detachment
A feeling that something terrible is going to happen
This is a link to a short You Tube film from Mind with a group of people discussing their own experience of panic attacks.
What happens during a panic attack?
Knowing what is going on in your body during a panic attack might help you understand some of the sensations you experience which can be intense and frightening;
Heart beating fast – pumping blood to big muscle groups to help you run fast.
Feeling or being sick – if you have a full stomach you cannot run as fast.
Shortness of breath, – adrenaline increases breathing rate to prepare for action.
Dry mouth – the digestive system shuts down as it is non-essential in a crisis, salivating is the first part of the digestive process.
Feeling faint/dizziness/light headedness/sense of unreality – if we are in a situation where we feel seriously under threat, we ‘space out’ or dissociate.
Preventing a panic attack
In the long-term, stress reduction is vital. This should take into account all aspects of your life and there is a lot of information available about how we can do this. However, there are some targeted stress reduction techniques which are very effective. For example, breathing exercises which are able to directly access the parasympathetic nervous system and take us out of a fight or flight state. Hatha yoga, and the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme created by Jon Kabat Zinn. All of these incorporate ‘interception’ mentioned earlier.
Try to avoid highs and lows and maintain balance in the body by cutting down or eliminating caffeine and alcohol. Eat regularly and avoid excess sugar to keep blood sugar levels even. If you know your panic attacks are generated by anxiety or events in your life, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy also known as CBT or counselling may helpful.
During a panic attack
Here are a few simple suggestions that you can try during a panic attack.
We suffer less stress if we feel we have some control over our situation. Knowing you can do a few simple things that help, might take away the dread of having an attack and even lessen them.
Become aware of your needs, wear comfortable clothes which are not too tight and allow you to breath. If you start to feel hot take off your coat, if you need fresh air move nearer to a window. Commuting on packed tube trains I have learned that standing in the aisle gives you more space and air but there is a cooling draft as the train moves if you are squashed against the door!
Remember to remind yourself the panic attack will last a short time and you will feel ‘normal’ again soon.
When you feel those familiar sensations that tell you, you are starting to feel panicky, try to ‘ride the wave’ rather than control the sensations. Trying to control tends to further escalate the attack.
If you can try to be a ‘witness’ to what you are experiencing, notice the body sensations rather than reacting with negative internal monologue which will escalate the feelings of panic.
Mentally reassure yourself ‘I sense danger/a threat but when I look around me, I see nothing dangerous – I feel safe.’ It is ironic that when we are in an activated state, we are less able to discern what might be a threat but obviously don’t lie to yourself here! If you are in a dangerous situation you don’t need to calm down, you need to get ready to run.
If you are with a friend or someone you trust ask them to reassure you, look at their face and ask them to tell you everything will be okay. This is an automatic and human response for most people, but research has shown the importance of social interaction between human beings in regulating their parasympathetic nervous system.
You can try ‘shuttling’. Find a part of your body that feels okay, feet are always a good place to start. Really try to feel all the sensations in your feet – the fabric of your socks, if your shoes are tight and their contact with the floor. Do this for a minute or so, take in all the sensations as best as you can, then give yourself a break for a few minutes, if the unpleasant sensations come rushing in try to stay with them for a minute then change your focus back to your feet. Keep repeating this shuttling back and forth. This may allow you to remain in a situation you can’t get out of until the attack passes.
When we are panicking our breathing speeds up, if you are able to slow your breathing down even a little it will help you get back to feeling okay. It also gives you something to focus on. I really like this animation app for breathing during a panic attack. Looking at the image of a face rather than counting adds to the therapeutic effect.
I hope you have found this helpful.
I am currently in good health, however, following advice from the government on trying to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, I have taken the decision to stop doing treatments from Saturday 21 March for two weeks – until Saturday 4 April.
Then, depending on the advice we are being given, the spread of the virus and my own health, I may begin treatments again.
As I am sure you understand, no one knows how things will unfold so I feel this is the best option under the circumstances.
I will let you know as soon as I can when I am going to be doing treatments again.
Please feel free to contact me by text, email or phone or check this blog page for the latest updates.
During winter our skin can become very dry – have you noticed your skin feeling tight or itchy recently? This is most likely due to excessive dryness. There can be several causes of dry skin in winter. We spend more time indoors in heated spaces where the air is dry and when we do venture outdoors our skin may be exposed to low temperatures or a biting wind. Winter colds and viruses dehydrate the body and skin and unless you are fortunate enough to have a water softener, the hard Essex water will also take its toll.
So, what can we do to rehydrate, nourish and bring our skin back to the healthy organ it should be? Before we look at what we put on to our skin let’s approach this holistically and look at how we can treat it from the ‘inside’.
Preventing skin from becoming too dry means ensuring we keep our body well hydrated. We tend to drink less water in winter when hot drinks like tea and coffee are more appealing, however both have a dehydrating effect on the body, so limiting the amount you take in is wise. Drinking cold water may not be to everyone’s liking in the colder winter months, so maybe try substituting it with hot water and lemon or herbal teas that do not have diuretic properties. Soup is another comforting winter food that contains lots of liquid. It is helpful to make sure you have sufficient Omega 3 and Omega 6 in your diet. A lot of research has been done into the effect of omega oils on the human body. Were you ever told as a child to “eat up your fish it will make you clever”?! We now know there is some truth in this as Omega 3 - one source of which is fish - supports healthy brain function. Omega 3 and Omega 6 support skin health too by re-enforcing its natural defence - the lipid barrier. They also play an important role in supporting the body’s ability to soothe and calm itchy and inflamed skin conditions like eczema or dermatitis. Some sources of Omega 3 are salmon, flax seeds and walnuts, and Omega 6, almonds, eggs and sunflower seeds. Omega oils are available in supplement form but as they may interfere with other medication always consult a professional nutritionist or your GP before you take omega oil supplements.
Now onto the outside! Our skin produces its own natural oil called sebum, which helps prevent moisture loss and is part of the skin’s acid mantle – it’s defence system against bacteria. The skin’s natural barrier can be compromised by washing too frequently or using harsh products so bear this in mind when choosing body washes or soap. There are two simple ways to help hydrate dry skin; firstly get rid of any excess dead skin by exfoliating and then moisturise, moisturise, moisturise!
Exfoliating removes dead skin cells. After exfoliating your skin will feel smoother, and any moisturising cream you apply will be more readily absorbed. There are many different types of exfoliator, they work either mechanically, by gentle abrasion, or by dissolving the dead skin cells and its natural ‘glue’. There are literally hundreds of exfoliators on the market, for the face, body and feet (there are even exfoliators for the lips!). You can experiment to find the one you like best. If you have a sensitive skin that is irritated by exfoliating try using a ‘Korean Sponge’ – these are very soft and gentle on the skin but effective at removing dead skin cells. As they are made from plant material they come from a renewable source and are biodegradable.
Seasonal Skin Care
Although you wouldn’t always know it, we have four seasons in Britain and our skincare routine should change to reflect this. A face wash may work well in the summer when we tend to wear less make up and enjoy the refreshing feel of water on our skin, but in winter a creamy cleanser and gentle toner or hydrolat like rose water, will be less drying. During winter use a heavier more nourishing day and night cream and if this still is not doing the trick add a hydrating oil or serum underneath your night-time product. Sometimes making the smallest and most simple change can bring about an improvement;
• If you rinse your face with water make sure you put your products on as soon as you have dried your skin to lock in any moisture. If your skin starts to feel tight it is losing water and drying out fast.
• Hands tend to get exceptionally dry in winter, so try wearing rubber gloves for chores and gloves outdoors when the temperatures start to drop.
• Apply hand cream just before you go to bed – that way you won’t be able to wash it off straight away. If you have very dry cuticles soak them in a little warm almond or apricot seed oil or treat yourself to a professional moisturising hand treatment using heated mitts.
• Excessively hot baths will dehydrate the skin so if you really like to stew, then limit yourself to that treat a couple of times a week!
Products – Mineral oil versus plant oil.
Products sold to moisturise the skin are made from mineral oil or plant oils. Some may be a combination of the two. In my experience the benefits of plant oils far outweigh those of mineral oil, and they come from a renewable source. Mineral oil is a by-product of the petrochemical industry and will generally appear on the ingredient list as petrolatum or paraffin. It works by forming an impermeable layer on the skin preventing water escaping from it – so locks in the water already present. Water loss from the skin into the atmosphere is called trans-epidermal water loss. Mineral oil is very effective at preventing this.
Heavier plant waxes like shea butter can also prevent water loss through the skin but plant oils have many other benefits which help the skin function better:
Many plant oils, for example Rosehip seed, can be absorbed into the upper layers of skin taking their beneficial properties with them. Plant oils also;
• Contain vitamins such as pro vitamin A, vitamin C and E all powerful antioxidants.
• Contain plant phytosterols with anti -inflammatory, moisturising and cell renewing properties.
• Contain omega oils which help support the structure and function of skin.
• Can be infused with potent herbal extracts – for example calendula or comfrey which helps skin heal.
• Are biodegradable and when grown sustainably benefit everyone from the grower to the planet.
I hope this has given you at least a few ideas about how to look after your skin in the colder winter months and prepare for warmer times ahead!
After each session I experience a calmness and inner peace that balances my mind, body and soul. - D, Woodford
I cannot recommend Dawn and Craniosacral Therapy enough!
Dawn's healing hands have helped to restore me and put me back together after suffering from post-viral fatigue. Her expert touch untraps stored emotions and blockages in my body so that real healing can take place. After each session I experience a calmness and inner peace that balances my mind, body and soul. It truly is an unforgettable healing experience. If you've ever wondered what it really feels like to be 'you', then make Cranio with Dawn a priority.
Winter can be a beautiful season: frost sparkling on twigs and branches and even those of us who dread getting out and about in it have to admit there is nothing quite as magical as freshly fallen snow. But it is a time of year when we are more likely to pick up colds, viruses and flu. So, what can we do to give ourselves the best chance to avoid picking up infections so common at this time of year? I am guessing you probably do most of these already but sometimes a timely reminder can be helpful. Eight ways to stay well in winter…
1 At the risk of sounding obvious (or like your mother!) washing hands thoroughly and regularly is one of the best ways of preventing infection. Remember to wash your hands after visiting places with a high volume of people passing through like the supermarket or public transport. When you are out and about try to avoid touching your face, rubbing eyes and especially biting nails as any bacteria on them will be transferred to your skin or mouth. Mobile phones, keyboards and iPads should also be cleaned regularly. Just think where you take them!
2 Our body’s immune response fights off infection. Like many bodily functions that go on without us being aware of them it is complex and impressive. To function optimally our immune system needs vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin E, B6, folic acid and zinc. A healthy diet should provide you with all of these, or if you feel you might be low on some vitamins you might choose to take a multi nutrient supplement. Getting the balance of vitamins and minerals correct is important and it is worth consulting a nutritionist or dietician who can give you professional advice tailored to your specific needs.
3 Stress raises our cortisol levels and high cortisol levels supress the immune system. Use all your own favourite (healthy!) ways to unwind and try to include exercise out of doors. This need not be strenuous but is particularly beneficial if taken in nature, the park, woods or by the sea.
4 We are constantly being told about the next new ‘superfood’, but as with everything in life balance is key. Raw garlic has been known for centuries as an effective killer of bacteria and viruses. Mushrooms, particularly Shitake mushrooms, have immune boosting properties. These ingredients can be found in most supermarkets and can be easily incorporated into the diet.
5 There are many essential oils such as Thyme, Eucalyptus, Ravensara and Pine that are helpful against respiratory infections.The essential oils we extract from plants are full of active chemical compounds that the plants themselves use as a defence against bacteria and viruses. If you feel like you are coming down with a cold try using a pre-mixed blend of essential oils such as Micheline Arcier’s ‘Vigeur’ in the bath or two drops of essential oil in a carrier oil such as sunflower seed oil applied to the upper chest area. It may be enough to prevent the illness from taking hold. A few drops in a bath is also a great way of warming you up if have been outdoors and become very cold.
6 Soluble fibre in the diet has been shown to boost production of a protein called interleukin-4, that stimulates the body’s infection fighting T cells. It also has an anti-inflammatory action so may help achy winter joints. Some sources of soluble fibre include oats, carrots, strawberries, blueberries, apples, nuts, seeds, lentils, barley and citrus fruits. Whoever coined the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” clearly knew what they were talking about!
7 Negative thoughts supress the immune system so If you tend to feel a bit ‘low’ during the winter months try to include gentle exercise outdoors once a day to get your daily dose of natural light. Whether it is meeting friends for a coffee, watching a film, reading a book or meditating, discover what works best to keep you positive and make sure you are getting enough Omega 3 in your diet.
8 Our microbiome or microbiota is the trillions of microbes that live on and in us and is as unique to us as our fingerprint. This is a fascinating topic that I cannot possibly cover in a few lines but the reason I mention it here is that scientists are discovering more and more about how it contributes our health. Our gut microbiome greatly influences our immune system. It appears a healthy digestive system is the foundation to our overall health. So, look after your digestive system and you might find it will keep you well all winter.