5 lessons about life from my hot stone fusion course

Right up until the last moment I wasn’t sure I’d catch the train to Brighton for my hot stone fusion course. But I’m so glad I did. In this blog I’ll share what was holding me back, why I went anyway, and what I learned as a result – spoiler – it was a lot more than how to work with hot stones! Here are five lessons about life from my hot stones fusion course.

To go or not to go?

I’d been looking forward to the hot stone massage course for months. Not only was it an area of massage that I was keen to learn, I’d trained before with Jing Advanced Massage Training and knew it would be a wonderful experience.

Yet it turned out the timing couldn’t have been worse. A close family member was in the midst of a health crisis and most of the weeks preceding had been occupied with them and their needs. And this course was for four days. And, even worse, was hundreds of miles away – it wasn’t like I could get back in a hurry.

It would’ve been easy to say no. To wait until the next time. But I knew I needed to get away, and, besides, I’d invested a lot of money in the training. I wasn’t the only person around in my family. So, I took a deep breath, and decided to get on the train.

As you might have guessed by now, it was the right decision. I learned and experienced so much about the benefits of using hot stones in massage (the subject of another blog!). And I also learned a lot about myself and what I need.

It was a timely reminder for me of what’s important in life. And I think these things are easy to forget, so I’m sharing them with you too.

Lesson 1: Life doesn’t stop

‘Busy’ seems to be the default these days. Especially for women. I myself am in that ‘squeezed middle’ section of life, where I’m supporting both the generation below and above me, and I know many others in the same boat.

It’s not easy to make time for yourself, whether that’s time to relax or time to do the ‘important but not desperately urgent’ things that bring you fulfillment. And sometimes, if your plate is truly overflowing, it’s reassuring to say, ‘there’s always next time’.

But, equally, I’ve learned that there’s never a perfect time. And it’s usually the things for yourself that drop to the bottom of the list, or fall off altogether. Sometimes the right call is to say: ‘Yes I’m busy. But this is important. I am important. And the other things will have to wait, or muddle on without me for a little while.’

 Lesson 2: It’s good to receive

The hot stones massage training was experiential. That means we actually received some massage as well as learned about giving it to others. This added such a lot to my understanding of the benefits of hot stones massage – and what they could do for me.

As soon as I felt the heat from the stones on my body I could feel myself start to relax. When the stones were placed on my feet and into my hands it felt like a gift. As Emma worked over my chest area I felt a wave of physical and emotional release. It is hard to put into words how the heat from the stones made me feel. It was a dreamlike experience, I could feel the heat deep in my body and my mind completely switched off.

Many of us feel the need to give all the time. But, just as you need to breathe in to breathe out, it’s important to be open to receiving care and relaxation.

Lesson 3: People matter

One of the nourishing aspects of my training course wasn’t directly about the massage. It was about the people I was with, and the environment the Jing Institute created. We were encouraged to relax, to open ourselves up to learning, to let go of worry or fear. Which meant we were able to absorb so much more.

I was replenished by my time away, even though it was hard work and involved taking a lot in. Because the people were encouraging, supportive and nurturing. The people we surround ourselves with have a huge impact on how we feel. This course was a reminder to choose to spend time with the people who nourish me. It also underlined the fundamental need for connection and I have many ideas bubbling away about how to create more opportunities for connection this year.

Lesson 4: There’s a ripple effect

The saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ has become a cliche. But cliches are rooted in truth. I often talk about the importance on focussing on our own needs as well as the needs of those around us. The training course allowed me space to switch off from my burdens and obligations at home. Which meant I was able to return home fresher, with new insights and more energy for my loved ones.

Time we take for ourselves doesn’t stop being beneficial once we’ve got off the massage couch, or left the yoga studio, or art workshop, or whatever it may be. It has a lasting ripple effect into the days and weeks that follow, too.

Lesson 5: we have to live our values

I’d be a hypocrite if I told everyone else to look after themselves, take time out and do things that bring them joy if I didn’t do the same myself! Ultimately I owed it to my clients as well as myself to do what’s important for me. Even if it came at an inconvenient time.

I honestly believe that by taking time for ourselves we can make the world a little bit better. Just in small ways – like being calmer with our kids. Or being more clear-minded in our decision-making. Or questioning whether we are giving our time to the right things and breaking unhealthy cycles. All of this ripples out into the world.

And if I believe that, and talk about it, then I have to do it! I’m so pleased I got on the train.

I can’t wait to offer hot stone massage to new and regular clients very soon. If you’d like to be one of the first to experience the bliss, just contact me here to book in.


Why your self-care slips through your fingers – and what you can do about it

When there are so many demands on your time, it’s easy to let things slip. And I’ve noticed a pattern among my friends and clients. They tend to let go of the activities that nourish them. They will continue to meet work deadlines (even if they’re unreasonable). They will always take their children to after school clubs (whatever the weather). But they don’t have time for themselves and their own needs.

There is no magic spell to solve this conundrum. But research suggests there are ways to make sure you don’t lose time for yourself completely. In this blog I share some learning from psychologists on what helps.

Why do we do things for other people and not for ourselves?

There are so many answers to this question. Lots are probably rooted in patriarchal ideas of women being in service to others. And stereotypes of the ideal mother being a selfless being who serves her children at her own expense. All of which need changing!

Setting that aside, one thing that I found interesting is the difference accountability makes. Apparently, if you have told a person you will do something, that increases your chances of actually doing that thing by 65%, compared with you having a vague idea to do it.

So it makes a lot of sense that we manage to facilitate other people’s commitments – like my sons’ football matches – above our own. If your children expect to be at swimming, or dance, or whatever it is, you are more likely to meet that commitment. If your boss or your client expects you to meet a deadline, you will do everything you can to ensure it is met. Whereas if you’ve thought you might drop into a yoga class if you can fit it in, it’s easy to let it slip.

The importance of making a plan

 Health psychologists did a study on how much ‘motivation’ had to do with whether or not someone followed through on their exercise plans. They split participants into three groups. The control group were simply asked to track their exercise.

The other two groups both watched a motivational video explaining the benefits of exercise. Additionally, people in the third group were asked to make a specific plan by completing this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE].”

In the first two groups (the control group and the motivated group), between 35% and 38% of people exercised at least once in the week. Motivation alone didn’t make much of a difference. But in the third group – the ones who had made a specific plan – that percentage leapt to 95%.

So having a specific time and place scheduled for your goal has a huge impact on whether you’re likely to do it.

What’s this got to do with massage or reflexology?!

 I think we all know that life will just keep coming at us and it’s easy to let our own self-care slip. Even when we know it’s important. Even when we know we can’t care for others as well if we’re exhausted. Even when we know we don’t need to justify doing things for ourselves in any case.

But you are far less likely to skip your massage if it’s already booked in. Because all of a sudden, someone else is involved (me!) and you have a specific time and place set.

I know the difference regular massage and reflexology has made to me over the years. Life has felt particularly stressful recently and I honestly feel as though my regular treatments have been essential to my ability to cope as life just keeps on coming. There is something about the space it creates in my head as well as the impact it has on my body.

So, this is my invitation and my plea! Book yourself in for a massage! Get it into your diary now. And you are far less likely to let it slip.

My calendar is open to you whether you come once a month, once every few months or once a year. What better way to start this new month of February, a month often linked to love, than with a commitment to yourself? Let 2022 be the year you prioritise your own needs as well as everyone else’s.

If you are a new client please get in touch here https://debbiethurlow.com/contact to receive the booking link.

 

 


What does the season of goodwill mean to you?

What do you think of when you think of the festive season? For me, if I don’t catch myself, I start to panic about presents (Christmas follows hot on the heels of both sons’ birthdays), how to fit everything in, and what we’re going to eat on the big day.

Over the past few years though, I’ve tried to be more conscious about where my thoughts take me. Who made the law that we need a big roast on Christmas Day? We experimented with a buffet of our favourite foods  a couple of years ago and everyone was so much happier.

And this year I’m remembering Christmas is supposed to be the season of goodwill. Not just to all men (pah!) – but to all of us, including ourselves.

What is goodwill?

Again, I know from my own experience that there’s a big difference between doing nice things because we feel like we should, and because we genuinely see the purpose in them. I worried I’d disappoint my family if we didn’t have ‘proper’ Christmas food, but actually found that making the change made for a more light-hearted, fun day, with no worries about burnt potatoes or how many sprouts to cook.

What’s this got to do with goodwill? Well, I think that in order to truly embrace goodwill, we need to tune into what matters to us, and those around us. Not what we’ve always done, or what we’re told matters. To go beneath that and think about what’s really important. And then act on it, generously.

And that means starting from scratch. To borrow declutterer Marie Kondo’s approach, to take everything out and only put back in what ‘sparks joy’. To go back to my food example, it was important to be with loved ones and eat food we enjoyed for Christmas. That really did not look like a traditional Christmas dinner. It did mean thinking about what everyone liked and what was simple to prepare so that we could make the most of our time together without some of us slaving away in the kitchen for a meal we weren’t that fussed about.

The missing ingredient

One vital ingredient that’s usually forgotten about, whether it’s to do with goodwill or anything else, is ourselves. It’s all very well being loving and generous to other people. But if we don’t include ourselves in that love and generosity, sooner or later we burn out. We exhaust ourselves. And we resent others for it. When actually, the answer starts with us.

So this season of goodwill my focus is on goodwill to myself, as well as those around me. Not in a Scrooge-like way! It’s simply that I am going to make an effort to remember I need to be kind to myself. Partly so I can role-model that self-kindness to my boys and others around me. And partly because I simply know it’s essential for me to do good elsewhere.

Pay it forward

I intend to use this season of goodwill to pay it forward. To respond to kindness I’ve been shown by moving it on. The pandemic, and all the lockdowns we’ve been through have brought home to me the importance of social connection. So I intend to pay it forward by supporting a local initiative here in York whose aim is to alleviate loneliness and isolation. The group is called Xmas Presence and this year they are delivering Christmas dinner and hampers to elderly people who otherwise would be alone. If you want to check them out you can find them on Facebook.

And, this year, as I recognise that I’m included in my own goodwill, I intend to pay it forward to my future self, as well as to others. I am booking myself in for a whole series of massages in 2022. And scheduling regular time-outs in nature. And I will defend them to the hilt!

What does paying it forward look like for you – paying both others and yourself? Of course, regular massage or reflexology readily ticks both boxes! A massage or reflexology session is so much more than ‘pampering’. It can be a real unburdening, a time of lightness that flows into the rest of your week.

So do think about whether you can give yourself, or a loved one, the gift of something that will really make a difference this season of goodwill.

If you’d like to chat about gifts or loyalty offers, simply contact me here and we’ll make a plan to suit you.


3 practical ways to slow down this autumn

This season of retreating light and advancing cold invites us to step down a gear. Autumn is a time to slow down. The leaves fall to the ground around us: the trees know it’s time to let go. To hunker down and save energy for times of new growth.

Our own personal seasons don’t have to copy the trees exactly. We don’t have to spend all of autumn and winter lying low, in a state of snooze. But we do need to honour ourselves, and recognise our own call to go slow.

I know I’m feeling it in my bones that I can’t just keep going full tilt, all the time. I suspect I’m not alone. My body is telling me it’s had enough, that not everything has to happen right now, that time spent in stillness and quiet is just as vital as time spent busily doing.

So often we think how nice it would be to slow down – to step off the world and the commitments it throws at us for a little while. But it just doesn’t feel possible. So here I offer three practical ways to slow down. Actions that are within my grasp, and yours.

1. Let go of shoulds

I’m not going to pretend the daily grind just stops when we’d like it to. In my own life I still need to get the children to school, and to football (so much of my life is spent standing on the sides of freezing pitches, wishing I was elsewhere!). People still need to be fed, bills still need to be paid, work still needs to be done.

This is all true. And, yet, I know for myself that there are some things I do because I feel like I ought to. Things like post on social media for my business. Or take the children into town for a treasure hunt (even though they’re not desperate to). Or do some new training .

None of these tasks are bad, in themselves. They are often enjoyable! But they become a burden when I’m driven by the ‘should’. So I am trying to form a habit of checking in with myself before planning something new. Am I doing this because I want to, or because I should? And if I’m doing it because I should, do I really need to? And if I need to, can I make it as simple as possible?

2. Go outside

I had to include this one because it’s so simple, and so helpful. Whenever I’m feeling frazzled I try to get outside. Even if it’s just for three minutes in the garden with a cup of tea. Even if it’s raining. Even better if it’s for a 20 minute walk.

It’s not a miracle cure, it doesn’t make all my problems disappear. But it does give me a chance to reset and refresh. And, usually, it’s enough to help me feel a bit less overwhelmed. For the world to feel as though it’s coming at me in a slightly less aggressive manner.

3. Book a massage or reflexology session

Of course, I had to talk about this! But not just because it’s my job. Before I started my own practice I booked a monthly massage for myself, for years. And it’s not an exaggeration to say I needed it.

I’m sure I would have survived the early years with my two boys without my regular massage, just about. But I would have been a lot more frayed at the edges. A lot less me.

For me, there is something uniquely special about stopping and experiencing the benefit of therapeutic touch. Something no other relaxing activity can offer. That session on the couch really lets me drop into my body, without even thinking about it.

It’s one time where there are zero demands on me. I don’t have to do or be anything. I just have to lie there and let it happen. And that frees my mind up. To relax, properly.

And when that happens, my body starts to speak. It quietly lets me know where I’ve been holding onto emotional hurt. Where I’ve been coiled, ready for action, despite the fact there’s no sabre-toothed tiger around the corner.

That little slice of respite carries over into the rest of my day and week. It gives my body time to recalibrate. I feel calmer, and there is power in the calm. It’s not only a nice feeling to have – it seeps into how I approach my life. My massage (and, more recently, reflexology) sessions enable me to make calmer, wiser choices as I negotiate the hustle and bustle of life.

So there you have it. An invitation to be inspired by the trees, and honour the call to slow down whenever you hear it.

I’d love to be part of your slowing down. To book a massage or reflexology session with me, simply get in touch here.

 


What to expect at your first consultation

When you book in for a massage or reflexology session for the first time, we have a consultation together. You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a quick, paperwork formality before getting on with the real business of the session. But it’s not! Your consultation is an important part of the therapeutic process.

My new clients are often surprised at how valuable the consultation is in itself, before you even get on the couch. So what happens when you decide to book in for a massage or reflexology session for the first time? In this blog we’ll explore what we discuss in your first consultation and why.

Your intentions for the treatment

It’s important that we both understand why you booked a treatment. You might be hoping your massage or reflexology session will help reduce stress or anxiety. You may have a particular physical ailment you’re hoping to alleviate. You may want to feel more relaxed and like yourself again.

Taking the time to explore what you want from the session helps me ensure your needs are met. And it can also help you clarify your own wants and needs for yourself. This is especially true for clients who’ve been gifted a session. They might have thought they were simply having some time out for themselves, and in the consultation realise they’ve been carrying a lot of tension they were unaware of, for example.

We’ll discuss whether you’re planning a course of treatment or a one off session. During the process of the consultation I can also recommend what would suit you best – though of course the decision is always yours. It’s important that if this is a one off treatment that we don’t open a can of worms! Often, for example, issues with deep muscular tissue will need a course of treatment.

Your physical health

In full confidence we will talk through your current physical health. As well as discussing things you might expect, such as any health conditions or medication, we’ll also discuss your whole physical picture. Factors such as your menstrual cycle and average amount of sleep all help inform the work I’ll do with you.

Your lifestyle

We’ll also discuss your lifestyle and habits. This isn’t just me being nosey, and I certainly won’t judge! But it will help me understand and work with your body better. It is your daily activity and lifestyle patterns that influence the state your body is in, so knowing the context is important.

It may be that we can discuss adjustments to your daily routine (such as drinking more water or getting more sleep – most of us need more water and sleep!) that will complement the work of the massage or reflexology session. I can also recommend other complementary practitioners, such as physiotherapists or nutritionists if relevant.

Your preferences

You are the expert in your own body, and it’s important to me that you get the experience you want. During the consultation there will be opportunities for you to tell me about your preferences. For example, you might prefer that I avoid certain places (such as your face or feet) during a massage. You can tell me whether you prefer music playing during the session or not.

There are no silly questions during a consultation. Just as it allows me to understand you and your needs, it’s a chance for you to understand more about your treatment and the work I do. It’s important you feel entirely comfortable with the plan we make together so there will be plenty of time for you to ask questions and clarify anything you’re unsure about.

Time for you

As you can see, the consultation process is far more than a formality. It’s there to set the scene for your treatment, and to give you a chance to pause and reflect on your own needs. Depending on the Covid-19 situation your consultation can be over the phone or in person. My hope is that it leaves you feeling comfortable and confident in our plans for your treatment, so you can fully enjoy this time that’s just for you.

If you’d like to book in some restoration time, do get in touch. Just as in the consultation, there are no silly questions. This is time for you to get to the heart of what you want and need.


Massage: Is It An Act Of Relaxation or Revolution?

When you think of massage what do you think of? Chances are it’s something along the lines of having time out, to relax. You might buy a massage for a friend as a birthday present, or for yourself as a treat. It might form part of a pampering spa weekend. And you’d be right –  there’s no denying massage is relaxing. But… is having a massage a revolutionary act? Surely not!

In my mind massage is both a form of relaxation and an act of revolution. And in this blog I’ll explain why.

Massage for relaxation

Coming for a massage creates a space for you to just be. With no demands on your time. There’s nothing for you to do, there are no expectations of how you need to act. It’s such a contrast from everyday life to be able to ‘just be’. That, in itself, is an invitation to relax that we so rarely give ourselves.

Massage is more than just time out though. The act of massage itself encourages your body to relax physiologically. During your massage I use a variety of techniques to manipulate your body into a state of relaxation. Your muscles loosen and stretch, releasing tension – which in turn helps to release psychological tension.

Having a massage also decreases your levels of cortisol (known as the stress hormone) and increases your levels of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. Having these ‘positive’ hormones circulating around your body helps to reduce your stress and anxiety levels, leaving you in a more relaxed state, not just during your massage, but afterwards too.

Massage for revolution

It probably didn’t come as a surprise to you to read that having a massage is a great way to help you feel more relaxed. And that, in itself, is a great reason to book yourself in! But massage for revolution? What’s that all about?

Here I’m talking directly from my personal experience, and that of my clients. Having a massage can lead to your life changing! Changing for the better. The very act of booking a massage can feel like an act of rebellion. In a society that rewards us for ‘keeping going’ and celebrating the juggle, actively booking in a time for pause and nurture is rebellious. It goes against the grain. It can feel self indulgent.

My two boys were young – in kindergarten – when I first started going for a regular massage. They wanted me with them a LOT. Giving myself permission to have a massage once a month was a reminder that I have my own needs too. And that if I want to meet other people’s I also have to look after myself. To be totally honest, I credit my monthly massage with preserving my sanity in those early years!

And once you make time for that pause, for a regular massage, space emerges. You find yourself questioning the everyday routine. You find yourself wanting more of that calm, grounded feeling. Your take on what’s important and what you can let go of changes. I found it easier to do my own thing without fear of other people judging me. It was my regular massage that prompted me to have the courage to refresh my training and set up my own complementary therapy business.

So booking a massage is revolutionary in that it’s taking a stand against the ‘faster, more, now!!’ messages that society throws at us – and especially throws at women. And, it can also be revolutionary in what it leads to.

Creating space for yourself to pause, for your body to operate from that dopamine/seratonin good place rather than the cortisol stress place can have a ripple effect. You can find yourself making new choices – ones that leave you feeling happier, healthier, and more ‘you’ than ever before.

Book in your massage now

So, yes, everything you’ve heard about a massage being relaxing is true. Time out for yourself is always a good thing. And the physiological benefits of massage mean your body and mind will release tension as a result of your time on the couch.

But don’t underestimate your massage; it’s not simply a pampering session! Regular massage has the power to reset you – to reconnect you to what matters, to release what’s holding you back and free you up to do the things you really want to do.

If you want to perform an act of tiny rebellion today – book in for a massage. We’ll talk through how you are and what you need to create more relaxation and revolution in your life – on the couch and beyond.


The vital work of rest

As the chaos of August gives way to the structure of September (for many of us), it’s more important than ever to think about rest. I don’t know how your summer’s turning out, but for me, the juggle of school holidays and work is anything but holiday-like!

That said, there is something about August – the fact that it’s the time of year many go away. That year-round activities take a break. That news teams call it ‘silly season’. It’s a time of year when society invites us to breathe out a little.

September though, that’s when it all gets serious again. Back to early rising and school runs. Back to that tighter schedule. So as we approach the turning of the season I want to remind myself, and all of us, of the vital work of rest.

The physical benefits of rest

Without adequate rest, our body can’t repair itself. And, we all need this vital repair and regeneration time – our skin, our muscles, our organs, our immune system all undergo continuous renewal. And they need rest to do it well. A big part of this rest is sleep. Most adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. And, most adults don’t get this consistently, I bet!

So, as we approach autumn, how can you make sleep a priority? Actively scheduling in ‘pre-sleep’ time without a screen can help your body get in the mood for sleep. So many of us have a growing dependency on screens for entertainment and distraction – it can feel like a radical step to turn everything off and pick up a book or have a bath instead. But your body will thank you for it.

Rest doesn’t always have to mean staying still. Gentle movement can promote the health benefits of rest. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are correlated with a rise in conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Unplugging and taking a walk, going for a swim or doing a stint of yoga can all help your body rest.

The mental benefits of rest

It’s common sense that we all need to switch off sometimes. Making time for rest helps relieve stress and anxiety. It can also increase your creativity and productivity.

Research from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – an international research body) has found that working more actually reduces productivity. Our brains need time off to play. It helps us process ideas, experiences and memories, which in turn can mean you are more effective when you return to work.

Aside from being a tactical move to increase your productivity, rest is simply important for enjoying life. For following joy and noticing the things that make life worth living, rather than having our nose to the grindstone all the time. We are more than productive units. All of us, you included, deserve to have time in peace, at rest. Which brings us to an important question. What does rest look like to you?

What does rest look like to you?

Have you noticed that you can spend an evening on your phone, losing hours, and still feel exhausted? It hasn’t given you any rest at all? And, perhaps other times, you’ve been on your phone and come away replenished? It all depends on why you’ve been scrolling.

There’s nothing innately evil about phones, of course. Used to connect with people we love, or find out more about things we care about, or even tick off annoying jobs that have been niggling us, our phones can be a force for great good. But they can also suck time and energy away from us.

That’s why it’s important to think about what activities we turn to in our down time. Are they things that replenish us? Or are they things that we do out of habit and convenience? I know I find it all too easy to reach for my phone when I have a quiet moment. But I also know that reaching for my knitting, or stepping outside into my garden, would be much more restorative.

Rest can be different for all of us, depending on our interests, lifestyles and abilities. A friend of mine runs triathlons to feel good. That’s not my cup of tea – but I have recently started outdoor swimming and love how my mind and body feel from doing that.

Take a moment to think about the activities that truly help you feel rested. Write them down so you have a list to turn to, rather than your phone.

How will you rest this week?

My invitation to you this week is to actively schedule in rest time – and to see whether you can start new habits ready for autumn. Whether it’s by making sure you aim for a decent block of sleep, by doing an activity you enjoy, or by heading outdoors for a walk. It’s up to you. But how will you do the vital work of rest? I’m always happy to talk about rest and self care, so if you’d like to chat, you can contact me here.


7 ways to meet your own needs over the summer holidays

As the school summer holidays are upon us, my thoughts turn to occupying the kids. How to keep them busy. How to manage my own work and juggle childcare. All the practical things. And I know I’m not alone in this.

‘Doing nice things’ feels especially important this year, after 15 months of on-and-off lockdowns. But with covid-19 still looming large decision making over where to go, what to do, who to see and when feels more complicated than ever.

Amidst all this, it’s easy to forget your own needs. They don’t go away just because the school term’s over. For many women the reality is that ‘holidays’ are a complete misnomer. They’re not holidays, at all – they don’t bring relaxation, a slower pace or a change of scene. Instead they’re a time of increasing demands and pressure.

And, of course, it’s natural and noble to want to create magical memories for your children. But don’t let that be at the expense of your own needs. It’s not just ok to think about how to keep yourself on an even keel over summer. It’s absolutely essential.

So in this blog we look at seven ways you can meet your own needs over summer when looking after the kids. I won’t pretend all of these will work beautifully for everyone – they don’t always work for me! But having some new approaches up your sleeve is always helpful, so see which of these might help.

The other parent

It should go without saying that if there’s another parent on the scene then they should also be pulling their weight looking after the kids. But, sadly, for most of my clients the emotional and practical load falls squarely on their shoulders. The other parent might need a gentle (or not-so-gentle) reminder that they have a role to play too. If you haven’t already set aside some time to discuss the balance of responsibility over summer. And just because it’s always been you doesn’t mean it always has to be…

Agree ground rules at the start

Whether you’re juggling work alongside childcare or are with your children full time during the holidays you’ll need to find a new rhythm while school’s out. It can be helpful for your children to know in advance what the expectations are.

Does it mean they’ll always remember and stick to them? No! But it does mean you have something to refer back to and reset when chaos reigns. The idea isn’t to create strict rules, but to create an environment where everyone’s on the same page. So at the start of the holidays, sit down and try to come up with some ground rules together.

You know your family needs best, but you might want to think about principles that cover expectations around:

  • When people are up and dressed
  • When you need to be left alone to work/rest
  • Keeping the house tidy
  • Food and snacks
  • When the TV goes on

Allocate choice days

If your family’s anything like mine the summer holidays can be filled with days squabbling over what to do. You might want to head to a park, child 1 wants to play lego all day and child 2 wants to go shopping. At the time you’re setting ground rules you could also try allocating choice days. So there are specific days when you get to make the decisions about what you all do, and days for each of the children.

As long as you set boundaries (in terms of time and money!) around activities, this can be a good way for everyone to feel heard and get what they want, while learning about being flexible and going along with other people’s wishes. (Or the squabbling might just carry on! But it’s worth a shot!).

Enlist support       

Are there ways to share the burden with friends and family? Childcare swaps, having a special auntie or godfather day scheduled in, or going on outings with another family can all be ways either to make time for yourself or have a co-pilot to share the load with. Get the dates booked in now.

Get outside

When I’m feeling low or frustrated I know I need to get outside. Even if it doesn’t work miracles it takes the edge off. So if you find yourself having one of those afternoons at home, get everyone out. Even if you don’t make it to a park or further than the end of the street. Just some fresh air will help. And if you can’t get outside, get them in a daytime bath or shower. Having a splash around can reset the mood.

Grab moments

Be on high alert for times you can steal for yourself. And try to use them for something restorative, rather than scrolling through your phone. Can you take a book into the garden with a cup of tea for ten minutes while they watch Danger Mouse? Are they playing with friends upstairs? What can you do for yourself while they’re occupied?

It might be worth making a list of quick activities that you know make you feel better and pinning it to a kitchen cupboard for reference so you can make the most of those tiny slices of time.

Plan in your September restoration now! 

If you know you’re not going to get much headspace for the next few weeks, it can help to have something to look forward to. I’m reducing my working hours over the school holidays but I’ve made sure I’ve got plenty of slots available for September. So do contact me now to discuss what times and treatments would work for you. Whether you’re a new client or a regular I’d love to hear from you!


A time for hibernation

New year resolutions?

January can be a hard month to get through. The sparkle and excitement of Christmas has faded, it’s cold, dark and here in the UK usually wet too. We are also bombarded with messages about making new year resolutions: “get fitter”,” lose weight”, “live your best life” “new year, new you”!

To me, January seems a terrible time for such resolutions. They often seem to fail and we’re left feeling negative before the first month of the year has even finished. Definitely not the way to start a new year as far as I’m concerned.

They also seem counterintuitive to what many of us are actually craving at this time; that is to rest. To slowly gather ourselves for the year to come, to have time to mull over ideas and plans, to eat warm wholesome food and snuggle under a blanket.

I was heartened to read that there is a good reason why I feel like this. Claire Davies, a writer from York, has explored the idea of “new year”.

Claire says: “If you’re struggling with the concept of new year resolutions you’re not alone. If the middle of winter feels like a weird time to start afresh then your instincts are right.”

Researching some of the history around this notion of “new year”, Claire found that “For centuries, the English new year began on March 25th, with the arrival of spring and the equinox…

The powers that be changed this with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1752, when we realised that the Julian calendar wasn’t working from a keeping track of the year perspective. While designing this new calendar, Pope Gregory XIII also shifted the new year to January. (For reasons that I can’t fathom in my research.)”

Claire goes on to explain that: “archaeologists recently discovered evidence that early humans (neanderthals) probably cave hibernated for months over winter. Actually laid down fat reserves and went to sleep. You read that right. HIBERNATED!”

No wonder new year resolutions can feel somewhat jarring!

The Long Month

The other thing about January is that it can feel like a really long month. This adds to the sense of having to endure and get through it. Last year I challenged myself to enjoy and savour the feeling of having a long month. The rest of the year always seems to go by quickly, so I thought if I tried to appreciate something about each day in a mindful way, then the feeling of having a long month could be reframed into a more joyous experience.

This year, it feels a little more difficult to do that. Not being able to go out very much, not seeing friends, and not being able to travel out of the local area have all left me wanting time to speed up. I hate that though. I feel uncomfortable wishing time away, even though it is understandable given the current circumstances.

Could you embrace hibernation?

But trying to look at it in another way, perhaps the fact that we don’t have all the usual things to do, or places to go, might make it a bit easier to embrace the idea of hibernating.

I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that my pace has slowed down a little Even my children aren’t waking up as early as usual (some sort of miracle). Although we are getting up for school at home, we don’t need much time to get to the “classroom / work space”.  So we can afford these extra minutes in bed, sleeping in later. It feels nourishing and much needed. We’re also having a bit more quiet time in the afternoons as the light fades. A sense of the day closing up earlier.

Of course, many of us are still having to leave the house for work, but perhaps by adopting a slower pace when we can – at the weekend, or on days off – we might be able to tune into the hibernation vibe of days gone by.

My top tips for embracing hibernation are:

  1. Go to bed earlier than usual
  2. Eat hearty, warming and wholesome food
  3. Draw the curtains as soon as it gets dark and light a candle or two
  4. Read a book or watch a film whilst snuggling under a blanket
  5. Daydream about things you’d like to do in the coming months

Hibernation doesn’t suit everyone, of course – so it’s also good to remember that the light is building as each day passes, and there is still growth and renewal happening out of sight underground.

However, it really is ok to enjoy this Winter pause. Don’t feel bad for wanting to slow down. Remember the urge to hibernate is part of our human history. Perhaps it is the fast pace of modern life that leads us to forget the value of resting.

As Claire Davies reminds us: “nowhere in our history is there evidence that it is human nature to be bright and perky, popping off to the gym before dawn and nibbling low calorie foods while we fix all of our so called personality defects ALL AT ONCE during some of the coldest, shortest days of the year.”

Maybe it’s time to reclaim our need for hibernation…


Into the forest

 

Topping up your self-care

I often encourage my clients to keep themselves topped up with self-care in between their massage or reflexology appointments. Whilst it would be fabulous to see clients every week, it is usually a case of seeing them every two weeks or once a month. So it is really important for them to have a set of self-care tools they can use in between appointments, particularly if they come to see me to reduce stress and anxiety levels.

This is true for myself too. I have a monthly massage and I always try and carve time out for myself in order to maintain the feeling of calm, lightness and relaxation that I experience after my massage. For me, getting outside in nature is high up on my list to help achieve this.

If I had to pick my favourite outside place to spend time, I would be torn between choosing a beach or a forest. As I live just over an hour from the coast, I probably spend a little bit more time in the woods, and this has certainly been the case recently when I’ve been unable to venture too far from home.

I have been searching out patches of woodland to get my nature fix in, which ultimately provides me with calmness and stress reduction. One evening I was in the woods and found myself totally absorbed in the sounds and smells all around me.  I felt really relaxed. It reminded me of an article I had read about forest bathing.

What exactly is Forest Bathing?

When I first came across the term forest bathing last year, I was immediately interested in finding out more. The concept originates in Japan, where it is called “Shinrin-Yoku”.  This translates as forest bathing, or forest shower. Researchers in Japan and South Korea have been studying the effects of forest bathing since around 1982, and it is absolutely amazing to read about the results.

Dr Quing Li, a researcher in Japan, has published many journal articles and books about his findings.   According to The Forest Bathing Institute, they show that forest bathing can, amongst other things, “reduce blood pressure, lower stress, improve concentration and memory, lift depression and boost the immune system”. Imagine benefitting in such positive ways simply from spending time in a forest!

Forest bathing involves using all of your senses to fully immerse yourself in the forest.  Dr Li talks about the need to take your time, and to remember that it is not a long forest hike. The aim is to cover only a small distance, and to do this over several hours. Slowing down, breathing in and really seeing, hearing and touching the forest is vital. Dr Li also believes that the aroma of the forest can have a big impact on our well being too. This aspect particularly interests me as an Aromatherapist.

What if I don’t have time to sit in a forest all day?

Reading this, you may be thinking that you don’t have all day to spend in the forest.  Perhaps you’re questioning whether you’ll still feel the benefits if you don’t have much time. As to this, Dr Li states that “The good news is that even a small amount of time in nature can have an impact on our health. A two hour forest bathe will help you unplug from technology and slow down. It will bring you into the present moment to de-stress and relax you.” Even a couple of hours will promote your wellbeing.

Slowing down

One of the things that really appeals to me about forest bathing is the slowing down aspect. Earlier this year, I challenged myself to spend 10 minutes mindfully outside in nature.  I found that the act of slowing down was an important aspect in feeling calm. I realised through this small challenge that although I spent plenty of time outside, I often rushed along.  I was thinking of my destination, rather than just being present.

I feel that many of us crave the need to slow down. Our minds and bodies can feel so busy and stressed.  It is crucial that we give ourselves the space to relax our bodies, calm our minds and let go of tension. As a Complementary Therapist, I also know the importance of calming the nervous system down, and this is very much the focus of many of the massage and reflexology treatments I provide.

Knowing that forest bathing can help to calm our nervous system down, and learning more about the other benefits it offers, has made me even more determined to get out into the woods regularly. And whilst I can’t provide treatments to my clients just now, I’m glad to be able to share another self-care tool to help keep your wellbeing topped up!

Do you already spend time in the woods? Do you think you will add forest bathing to your list of self-care? I would love to hear your thoughts.

PS

After reading more about the benefits of forest bathing, I’m seriously contemplating doing some training around it, so who knows – this time next year I may be offering forest bathing sessions alongside my massage and reflexology sessions!

 

References

The Forest Bathing Institute

“Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing” by Dr Quing Li

“Science of ‘forest bathing’: fewer maladies, more well-being” A film by Kirsten Dirksen