The Power of Touch

And how touch deprivation affects us

Touch is the first since we develop, it’s our first language. When babies are born we recognise the importance of skin to skin contact and we massaged them and understand that this physical touch time is good for both them and us. We cuddle them when they hurt themselves and hold hands walking down the street.

But somewhere along the line we decide that too much touch is a bad thing, especially in our touch phobic society. We occasionally hug our friends and cuddle with our partners on the sofa. But if you live alone this might not happen very often. And as we get older, when our partners pass and our children grow up, and we live alone again, The opportunities for touch become less and less.

We are hardwired for touch. A study by mind.org.uk of the impact of the pandemic has had her on her mental health stated that “Loneliness has been a key contributor to poor mental health. Feelings of loneliness have made nearly 2/3 of people’s mental health worse” and “more than half of adults  (60%) And over 2/3 of young people (68%) have said their mental health got worse during lockdown.”

This past year has taught us a lot about what we really do and don’t need, and one main lesson I’ve learnt is that despite having never been more able to connect with so many people, I live in my body, and I crave physical contact. And I’m not the only one.

During my training in oncology adapted massage, I learned that cancer patients had reported reduced motivational and emotional fatigue, depression and anxiety scores. Not only that, but there was a significant reduction in pain intensity, pulse rate and respiratory rate. These benefits aren’t exclusive to cancer patients, or massage recipients. People with dementia are less prone to depression and irritability if they are hugged and stroked.

The thing about touch is that you can’t touch without being touched, so lots of the benefits are shared between both people. So will you consider a hand on the shoulder or touching the hand of someone you care about when restrictions are lifted? Or have you noticed any changes in yourself due to touch deprivation this year?

Would you say you and your family are tactile? Let me know in the comments.

How to recognise stress & 4 ways to manage it

Stress is all around us. It impacts all of us on a day to day basis, hour to hour and minute to minute. And while stress can be useful (anyone who has managed to scrape everything together just before a deadline knows what I mean), chronic stress and extremely high levels can really have a huge impact on both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Because we have become so used to being moderately stressed, it can become hard to spot until your levels have gone through the roof. Here are some signs to look out for today to draw your awareness to just how stressed you might be;

  1. Trouble drifting off to sleep, or staying asleep. Conversely, you might be sleeping too much because you feel tired all the time.
  2. Cold sore flare ups, mouth ulcers and acne breakouts.
  3. Indecisiveness, lack of focus and feeling overwhelmed.
  4. Headaches, neck and shoulder pain/tension.
  5. Irritability or restlessness.
  6. Digestive issues – diarrhoea, constipation, nausea

Now, if you recognise some of these stress indicators in yourself, you probably want to know what you can do to reduce or manage it….

  1. Get active – the answer nobody wanted to hear but it is the truth. It doesn’t have to be massively strenuous, a walk or a jog will work wonders. Even better if you can get out in the fresh air and sunlight, which will have a knock on effect to your sleep.
  2. Nutrition – if you are anything like me, all nutritional sense goes out the window the minute I’m slightly inconvenienced. But increases in caffeine, sugar and alcohol (and the likely reduction in nutrient rich foods) is adding fuel to the fire.
  3. Talk or write – they say a problem shared is a problem halved. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone about your mental load, try journaling. Just emptying your thoughts out on to paper can provide some much needed clarity.
  4. Learn how to relax – scrolling on Facebook while half watching the telly at the same time as eating your dinner and texting a friend is the opposite of relaxing. Put your full attention into one thing – learn to paint/knit/speak Mandarin, volunteer, spend time with friends, meditate, walk the dog. Having a massage is a great way to engage the mind-body connection and calm the nervous system, in turn helping to improve sleep.

If your stress levels have got to a point where they aren’t productive, book an appointment today for some judgement free escapism and leave feeling like yourself again.

National Complimentary Therapy Week

You probably don’t know, but it’s National Complimentary Therapy Week! So I thought I would let you know a little more about some of the lesser known therapies I can offer, to compliment your primary healthcare through your doctor or consultant.

𝗢𝗻𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗼𝗴𝘆 𝗔𝗱𝗮𝗽𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗠𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗮𝗴𝗲/𝗙𝗮𝗰𝗶𝗮𝗹𝘀/𝗙𝗼𝗼𝘁 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗛𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗧𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀

Many people have absolutely no idea that if they have had a cancer diagnosis in the past 3 years, their therapist won’t be able to perform most beauty and massage treatments on them without further training in adaptations. Now this doesn’t mean that massage or beauty therapy isn’t safe for cancer patients (despite the extremely outdated advice given at basic training), but it does mean we have to take certain aspects into considerations and adapt a little. So it’s about massage pressure, comfortable positioning post surgery or to accommodate PICC or Hickman lines, avoiding areas of sensitivity – but also being aware of treatment side effects and changes to the clients skin, nails and hair. If you are in active treatment, we need to consider that some days, you just might not feel well enough for it, be able to take a full session, or you may just need some more time before and after your treatment. The risk of infection and consequences are greater too, so we have to be hyper aware and prove to you that we take your health seriously, so that you can relax and trust us.

All of this is the extra consideration and skill that my further training ensures you as the client receive.

𝗠𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗪𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻’𝘀 𝗛𝗲𝗮𝗹𝘁𝗵

Most of my existing clients are women anyway, and moving forward I will be moving to a ‘new female clients only’ model, but many don’t realise that I can specifically help alleviate symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause.

As a woman who living with endometriosis, I not only have personal experience of many of the common symptoms of these female specific issues, but have also undergone further training to provide bespoke services that take into account the pain and discomfort associated with these natural processes, and work to soothe them.

𝗣𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗻𝗮𝗻𝗰𝘆 𝗠𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗮𝗴𝗲

One of the best things I ever did was get a pregnancy massage when I was pregnant. My babies were BIG and I’m quite small and it really wore me out. Having those massages not only made me feel physically better, but I reconnected with my babies and the wonderful excitement of it all during a time when I mostly felt ‘ugh’. Giving pregnancy massage is like getting a little invite into that world for an hour or so. I can’t lie, it’s magical. Massaging pregnant women is similar to the oncology patients in lots of ways – its perfectly safe with some considerations like positioning, restricted use of certain aromatherapy oils, and the physical and mental side effects of pregnancy. Pregnant mums who spend time tuning into their bodies and their needs, go into labour and parenthood much more relaxed and feeling in control.

What do all of these things have in common? They help COMPLIMENT your existing healthcare provided by medical professionals, whilst potentially alleviating the strain on their services and gaining a sense of control by taking your holistic health into your own hands.

7 ways to extend the benefits of your massage

One thing I often tell clients, is that massage is a bit like having a personal training session – if you just do your sessions with your trainer, your progress will be much slower than if you were to continue practicing on your own in between sessions.

The same applies when you are having massage for a particular ache or pain – the “homework” that you do in between will pave the way for how productive our subsequent appointments can be.

Try some or all of the following to help keep that post massage feeling;

1 – Hydrate

Massage has a flushing effect on the lymphatic system, which in turn causes you to urinate more. Drinking plenty of water after your massage will prevent dehydration which can help avoid headaches and phenomenons like DOMS and “healing crisis”.

2 – Stretch

Your muscles are warm after your massage and now is a good time to gently stretch the areas that have been tight before treatment, maintaining that relaxed feeling and achieving a more effortless, and often deeper, stretch.

3 -Soak

A warm (although not too hot) bath the evening of your massage will help continue the relaxing of tense muscles. I like to add some epsom salts as magnesium aids in over 300 functions of the body.

4 – Self massage

Using a tennis ball for hard to reach areas, or just your own hands to massage legs, arms and neck will keep circulation flowing, decrease that “tight” feeling and maintain progress between appointments.

5 – Movement

Prevent stiffening up after deep tissue work with some gentle exercise like yoga or walking to keep joints mobilised and encourage blood flow.

6 – Break the habit

A lot of the general aches and pains that clients complain of are down to posture. Take this opportunity to reset yourself, as returning to poor posture will immediately put strain back on the muscles that have just been relaxed.

7 – Re-book

Unless your massage was purely to relax after a one-off stressful week, then a standalone treatment is unlikely to resolve any issues. Booking your weekly, fortnightly, or monthly appointment in advance will help you stick to a routine that will see the most long term improvements.