I booked in a craniosacral course with Dawn. They really helped me reconnect with my body and not be all in my mind. I have still been using what I have learnt.
Dawn is a brilliant therapist and got me completely as a person which was important to me.
Thank you so much.
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!
‘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.
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 am very pleased to say I will be able to offer craniosacral therapy once again from 15th of July 2020.
Please contact me if you would like to book a craniosacral therapy treatment. I look forward to seeing you 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 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.
The treatments helped to ease my symptoms and restore a feeling of wellbeing, making it easier for me to cope with my disorder
I have just completed 12 sessions of CST with Dawn for a neurological disorder. The treatments helped to ease my symptoms and restore a feeling of wellbeing, making it easier for me to cope with my disorder.
Dawn has that rare quality of being intuitive, gentle and caring while maintaining high professional standards.
I would not hesitate to recommend her skills.
The 14th to the 20th of October is Craniosacral Therapy Awareness Week.
I think the best way to learn about the therapy is to have a treatment!
If you have not experienced craniosacral therapy why not give it a try?
I will be offering taster treatments, free of charge on Sunday 20th October from 10am at my treatment room in Loughton as my own way of spreading awareness of the therapy.
I will be booking slots for the treatments, please contact me for further information or to book a place.