10 Steps for a (slightly more) Stress Free Christmas!

So, for me at least, the holiday season is here; I can officially listen to Christmas songs, and my elf pyjama’s and slippers have come out of hiding.  While Christmas might conjure up images of an snow covered idyll on television, for many of us the reality is very different, signalling a time of aches and pains, stresses and strains.  So how can you make your Christmas a little more stress-free this year?

The following 10 steps are tactics that I’ve adopted over the years: they are not a hard and fast guarantee of a stress free Christmas, and are not a definitive list, but I can promise you that they don’t involve any mindfulness or change of diet.  They are just things that you can do with little effort, in any order or quantity you chose to ensure that you have the merriest Christmas possible.

  1. Prevention is better than cure:  If you’re already starting to get stressed, stiff shoulders, headaches, or back twinges then consider getting support for it now, before it get’s any worse and spoils the Christmas season for you.  I’m biased of course, but treatments like Bowen and Reflexology can make a huge difference – but you might respond to to another complementary therapy so just try something rather than push on through the pain.
  2. Stop buying so many presents: Have a think now about cutting back on unnecessary presents – the ones where you end up giving a bottle of wine and receiving a bottle of wine.  Talk to your friends and agree not to buy Christmas presents, or perhaps just to do a Secret Santa in order to keep your costs down? Talk to other family members about whether or not you need to exchange gifts.  You may be surprised about just how many people feel the same as you and thank-you for bringing the subject up.  And it’s not too late to do it – even if you’ve already bought gifts you can return them.
  3. Balance your shopping bags: If you are going out shopping then balance your bags to avoid unnecessary stress on your back and shoulders. Don’t forget to take your own bags with you, and even consider taking a rucksack.
  4. Wrap standing up: Do your wrapping standing up at the kitchen worktop.  This is a much more natural position, and will put less stress on your back and neck.
  5. Re-think the Christmas food shop: Christmas is now a time of excess, but it doesn’t have to be – it is, after-all, only the shops who are encouraging us to buy more and to stock up for Christmas. And let’s be realistic – it is only one day where the shops are shut, so before you go out and fill your trolley like the world is about to end, remember that you are only going 24 hours without access to a food shop.
  6. Reconsider your Christmas dinner: If the idea of cooking Christmas dinner already gets your heart racing with the cost and the effort, then re-think it.  Does everyone actually enjoy the turkey with all the trimmings and having to eat it for days on end?  If not, then why not buy something smaller, something that is quicker to cook like a Guinea Fowl, or a really nice local reared free-range chicken?  Think about cutting down on the amount of food you actually cook for Christmas Dinner, and ask for help with the preparation and / or cooking – it is a sign of strength and not weakness to realise that you can’t do it all on your own.
  7. Move around: Christmas day itself can be sedentary affair so make sure you are getting up and moving around – a walk might not be something you want to do, but getting up and moving around for 5 minutes in every hour can make a difference. Not only can this prevent aches and pains, but it will aid digestion too.
  8. Avoid the lull: Especially when you’ve got kids, Christmas can be over before it’s even begun, with everything unwrapped before breakfast, leaving the rest of the day feeling a little lack-lustre.  Why not spread the day out?  Stockings before breakfast, presents from FC after breakfast, and presents underneath the tree after lunch? You spread out the excitement and anticipation slowly over the course of the day rather than crash and burn in a few minutes and a flurry of wrapping paper.
  9. Say No: If an endless round of Christmas visit’s or parties just add to your list of things you have to worry about, then say no.  Yes, I know it easier said than done, but sometimes you just have to plunge in and test it out – you may find that the world doesn’t stop, that people won’t miss you or be offended, and that you might, just might actually feel a lot better for that bit of unexpected peace and quiet.
  10. Eat and drink well: We’ve already mentioned the excesses of Christmas food and drink, and it can be tricky to manage this over the festive period, but what we put into our bodies really does affect our health and well-being.  Don’t be too hard on yourself, but instead slip in that extra glass of water in between drinks, and serve yourself up an extra portion of fruit, veg, or salad, just to keep your fluid content up, and those toxins down to a minimum.

If you know the affect that Christmas and all that it brings, the good, the bad, and the ugly, can have on you, then now is the time to be proactive.  Don’t let yourself be pressurised and don’t judge yourself against the Christmas sold to you by all the Christmas adverts and the endless ‘home-made’ / ‘home-cooked’ Christmas programmes.  Have the Christmas that you want this year,

For more information about how a Bowen or Reflexology treatment may help you, then please contact me.  I offer treatments from my treatment room in Woolpit, or at Neal’s Yard in Bury St Edmunds (where you receive 15% off in the shop on any purchases made on the day of your treatment).

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Everyday sexism: the girl on the train

Last night at about 10.30pm I was travelling home by train and had to ask a group of men, who were clearly a little worse for wear after a day at the races,  if they were getting off at the next stop so that I could get to the door.  It turns out they weren’t, they were getting off at the stop after, “But”, and I felt a light tap on my shoulder, “I’d love to come home with you.”

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The group was made up of men from their late 20s to 70 plus, and the comment came from the 70 plus section. Although I felt my brain click into high alert, my initial reaction was ‘don’t panic, chill out, they all look ‘mainly harmless’ with their shiny suits and sweaty faces, engage in some independent woman banter with them, especially because he’s old and probably doesn’t mean it,” but very quickly the outraged side responded,  ‘Err, WTF!!?  What has his age got to do with it, and after everything that’s been happening lately, you think that’s okay for him to say that?’

So, I stood up for my own self-respect and for all other women who’ve been ‘paid a compliment’ by a drunken man saying something along the lines of “you can take me home love.” I also stood up for the other men in that group who, for some reason, didn’t feel that they could reprimand one of their own.  I tried to make my response as ‘bantery’ as possible, turned round slowly and looked down at the man in question with disdain (which is very hard when he’s much taller and wider than you), “Erm, I don’t think so – on your f’in bike mate!”, at which point his mates all laughed and jeered at him.  “And” I continued, “that’s not something you should be saying to me in this day and age.” Nervous laughter, “Err, yeah, well, yeah, fair play”, said one of the younger ones from the back, “That’s slightly changed the atmosphere”, piped up another, “He can’t help it, he’s old” said a final member of the group in a feeble attempt at defence. “I don’t care how old he is – age is irrelevant,” the train doors opened, and off I got.

My husband, when I related the tale back to him, initially thought I’d been a little unfair, pulling out the ‘it’s just banter’ and ‘he was old’ cards, and back in the day, i.e. last year, I would probably have said ‘yeah, you’re right, it’s just banter,’ but today after everything that’s been in the news I feel very differently.  Why should I or any other woman have to put up with some drunken man saying he wants to come home with me, clearly for a sexual encounter? Why should I or any other woman have to put up with feeling intimidated by a group of drunken men?   Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that the gent who made the comment would have run an absolute mile if I’d have grabbed his hand and said, “Why of course, please do come home with me”, but that is as irrelevant as his age.  We just shouldn’t have to put up with this everyday sexism anymore, full stop.

I did what I did for my own self respect, and for all those women who feel unable to because of fear, intimidation, lack of support or lack of confidence. But just as importantly I stood up because maybe the next time those men go out for a day at the races or a night on the town they might behave a little bit differently, and who knows, one of them might just stand up before me in the face of everyday sexism.

Asthma and Bowen

Asthma is a common lung condition that affects around 5.4 million people in the UK – 1 in 11 children and 1 in 12 adults. There is, as yet, no cure, but a treatment pattern of inhalers has been developed which allow many people to manage their symptoms successfully, yet, unbelievably, an average of 3 people a day die every day from asthma [1].
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Causes of asthma vary, as do the triggers which bring on a worsening of symptoms, and cold air and infections like colds or flu were the triggers for my son’s asthma. This time of year, with colder days setting in, would normally mean he would get every cough and cold going, and invariably this would lead to a chest infection and increased use of his inhaler. But this has all changed since we have been using Bowen, a holistic technique that works on the connective tissue (fascia) of the body. Through a sequence of light and gentle moves on specific areas of the body Bowen treats the person, not the condition, and effectively kick starts the body’s own innate ability to heal itself through making the small adjustments necessary, where they are necessary. Working holistically, looking at the client as a whole as opposed to his or her particular ailment, condition or situation, is particular important given that the asthma triggers for each individual are going to be different and could be myriad – including allergies, exercise, smoke, pollution and cold weather, infections like coughs and cold, stress and anxiety, emotional trauma, etc.

As a result of Bowen treatments both before ‘hayfever season’ and just as the cold weather sets in, my son has only had to use his inhaler on two occasions in the last two years (and he’s also seen a reduction in the use of hay-fever tablets). What’s even more impressive about Bowen for asthma is that I have taught my son, and other clients, a very specific move that they can use on themselves, and others, when they begin to feel their chest tightening. In fact my son used this move only recently when feeling tight chested as a result of a cold he had caught, alleviating his breathlessness almost immediately. I also know of other Bowen therapist who have used this move in emergencies and have saved lives as a result.

My own personal experience has been born out by anecdotal evidence from other suffer’s, and by the Bowen Technique National Asthma Study conducted from 2002-2004. In the study 24 adults diagnosed with asthma received Bowen treatments and were monitored over the course of 12 months, keeping regular diaries about the amount of attacks, the severity and use of medication etc. The results were pretty amazing with all participants experiencing a positive change in their symptoms, 7 “dramatically”, 14 “substantially” and 3 “slightly.”

In summary:

  • In the first 6 months 84 attacks were recorded, with only 26 in the second 6 months, with 75% experiencing a reduction in severity of attacks.
  • 75% reported a reduction in the need to use their medication*
  • 15 out of the 24 participants used peak flow meters and all reported an improvement in readings
  • 22 of the participants also recorded a reduction in secondary health concerns, which included back, neck and shoulder problems, and anxiety, stress and depression.

Dr Claire Pickin, a Warwickshire GP, said about the results of the study [2]:

“I am pleased though not surprised to see the patients in this trial benefiting from the Bowen Technique…The fact that such a simple, gentle, non-invasive technique can reduce the distressing symptoms of asthma deserves attention. The results of the trial are impressive.”

So, my advice to you is if cold weather and infections like coughs and colds are one of your asthma triggers, seek some support for your asthma now so that your body has time to respond to the treatment. Most of my clients often find they experience a positive change in their condition or situation in as little as three treatments, and where there are issues with the respiratory tract I will always teach a specific move that they can use safely at home.

You can find more about Bowen on my website: www.sarahwoodhousetherapy.co.uk, and from the College of Bowen Studies , where you can also find a registered CBS practitioner in your area.

*It is extremely important to note that a Bowen therapist will never advise any changes to medications, and will always advise that clients should consult their own doctor to discuss any changes that they might wish to make.

References and further reading

[1]https://www.asthma.org.uk/about/media/facts-and-statistics/

[2]http://www.bowenbristol.com/pdfs/The_Bowen_Technique_National_Asthma_Study.pdf

What is more important, your health and well-being or a haircut?

Why is it that we think nothing of having our hair cut on a regular basis or buying new clothes throughout the year, but think twice when it comes to paying for a complementary therapy to help support our physical and emotional well-being?

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How many times have you thought about accessing a complementary therapy, but either haven’t, or have abandoned your treatments after a couple of months and decided to ‘put up’ with your condition / situation instead?  I’m going to guess that for a lot of people the answer is possibly “yes”.  I’d also like to guess that the two main reasons behind this decision are cost and commitment, and if that is the case, you’re not alone.  For many the idea of having to pay £35, £40, £50 per complementary therapy session can be really off-putting, especially when you feel that you are going to have to commit week after week, month after month, year after year.

Let me pose another couple of questions.  How often do you get your hair cut, and how much do you pay? What about clothes – how often do you buy yourself an item of clothing that costs £35 or more?  I’m going to hazard a guess that, without even blinking an eye, most of us go for a haircut every 6-8 weeks, and depending how much you love your clothes shopping it could be anything from once a week to every 3-4 months.  “But Ah!”, you say, “Sarah, these are essentials – these are things that I have to do in order to make me feel good about myself, to ensure I’m smart for work, to keep me warm, complementary therapies are completely different, they are a luxury!”  Um…..are you sure?

We think nothing of making ourselves look and feel good through a regular haircut or buying clothes that we like, yet when it comes to how we feel physically and emotionally we seem happy to “make do” because we don’t want to pay for professional help.  Why?  Is not how you feel physically and emotionally as important, if not more important, than how you look on the outside?

The truth is that looking after your health and well-being isn’t a luxury item, it’s an essential – a necessity.  And you don’t have to commit week after week, month after month, year after year.  In my own experience I have many Bowen clients that experience a rapid and profound relief to a variety of emotional and physical conditions and situations within 3 session, and often this is all they will need.  I know Kinetic Shift and EFT practitioners who have experienced the same.

Therapies like Reflexology, Massage, Reiki, and Gong Baths are equally as valuable to improving your health and well-being.  It may be that they require slightly more regular treatments over a longer period of time to feel the benefit, but then you go every 4-6 weeks for some maintenance, or however often you feel you need to go.  Like many of my Reflexology clients, it may be that once your ‘original’ physical / emotional needs have been addressed you come back for regular treatments because you value that safe space, that time to relax, that opportunity for your body and mind to stop and just be, helping you to cope and deal with the stresses and strains of modern life.

My point is don’t let cost and/or commitment be a barrier to your health and well-being, stop looking at it as a luxury, but instead look at it as something that is a necessity – just just like the clothes on your back and a decent haircut.

 

Wired: Is it time to re-think your bra?

Underwire bra’s – a help or a hindrance?  I was firmly in the help category – a nice underwire bra to keep those babies looking as pert and firm as they could, considering the ravages of time and breast-fed children.  And, since discovering the wonders of a properly fitted bra that looked fabulous, I was pretty much happy wearing bra’s. That was until I started by training as a Bowen therapist and began to really take a look at what was keeping my babies up.

Have you looked at the underwire in your bra – not just felt it, looked at it?  Check it out:

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This is not just a thin piece of wire, this is a very strong, thick piece of scaffolding.  At this point there are some that will start discussing underwire bra’s and cancer, but I don’t know enough about it, there is not a strong enough body of evidence that I can find, and I actually think it’s detracting from some more fundamental and basic issues about how wearing an underwire bra might affect women, and that don’t need science to prove them right or wrong.

Issue #1: The undue pressure it is exerting on your lymphatic system

If you don’t know anything about your lymphatic system, then I suggest you do some reading as it really is quite fascinating and VERY important to the functioning of your body. Basically your lymphatic system carries away toxins and debris, brings in important things like white blood cells, and helps us fight infection.  Most of you will have felt swollen glands around your neck – these are in fact swollen lymph nodes, and you have these nodes throughout your entire body, but more so where there are creases and movement.  There are a concentration of lymph nodes around the area of the breast, and yup, every time you wear an underwire bra you are potentially squashing those little nodes and the system that supports them.

Issue #2: Saggy boobs

The major muscle of the breast area is Pectoralis Major.  This is a muscle, a muscle.  I repeat this because it’s important.

Question for you: What happens when you don’t use a muscle?

Does it remain firm and pert? No it doesn’t, it gets saggy, floppy, and loses tone and strength, that is a scientific fact.  So, given that the breast is made of muscle, what do you think is going to happen to it if you effectively take any strain or tension from it by putting it in a sling to hold it up?  Yup, you got it, it’s going to get saggy, floppy and lose tone and strength.  The breast muscle is there for a purpose – if you didn’t wear a bra / wear a bra as much, who knows, you might lose some tone and strength due to ageing (only natural), but would they be as saggy as you think they are now???

Issue #3: Your boobs do not exist in isolation

Your boobs do not exist as a separate entity.  They are part of your entire body and so have an impact on your entire body, just as your entire body has an impact on them.  The Pectoralis Major is connected to your diaphragm, it’s connected to your shoulder, to your neck, to your upper arm, to your back and beyond via a whole heap of other muscles, tissue, and tendons.  Surely then the logic follows that if you are compressing this muscle with an underwire and / or an ill-fitting bra, and not allowing it to do it’s job properly, this is going to have a potential knock on effect to the rest of your body, leading to strains, aches and discomfort.

I’m honestly not saying get rid of bra’s, they are very useful things, all I’m asking is that maybe it’s time to have a re-think, and rather than listening to the old arguments about why you should wear an underwire bra, listen to your own body and what it is saying to you.  There are four really easy steps you can take:

Try and have some down-time.  Seriously.  Try not to wear a bra when you don’t need to.  It may feel weird at first, but you’ll get used to it and your body will thank you for it.

Make sure your bra fits you properly.  The University of Portsmouth has done some excellent research around breast health, and they claim that more than 70% of women in the UK wear the wrong bra size, which can lead to all sorts of health issues including back and shoulder pain, skin damage, bad posture and abrasions.  They have been researching breast health for more than 12 years so they know what they are talking about, and say you need to search for a bra that matches your fit, not your size.  For more information take a look at their helpful video showing you how to get your fit right click here.

Seriously consider bra’s without wires in.  Lots of outlets are now making beautiful bra’s with no wires in.  I fall into the mahoosive boob category and always felt that I needed underwire to support them, but not even my husband noticed when I changed from underwire to non wire.  Sure, there are some dresses and tops where I need to wear an underwire to get the fit right, but day to day I don’t.  And, this may be wishful thinking, but I really do feel as though the muscle tone in my breast has improved since spending more time in a non-wired bra.

Get to know your boobs.  This is slightly off topic, but it needs mentioning. Get to know your boobs – feel every inch of them, get to know them and love them so that when something is wrong you will know and can report any changes straight away to your GP.  Breast cancer can be treated really effectively if it is caught quick enough.  The charity Prevent Breast Cancer have some excellent information, as well as a leaflet, that you can download here.

So, if you do anything this month, devote a little time to what my mother calls ‘your breasty substance’, get to know them, learn to love them, and allow them to run free!

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© Gemma Correll

May: Why use plastic when wood would do?

It suddenly struck me that May is almost finished and, as yet, I haven’t had a chance for my regularly monthly plastic rant.  So here goes, this months rant is about plastic household items, we’re talking bins, brooms, etc.

Our old broom finally reached the end of its life and, last week, was consigned to the recycling bin.  So the search was on for a new one – this time plastic free.  Blimey!  I didn’t realise it was going to be so hard – in just about every broom I looked there was a plastic something involved.  This was echoed when I went to Weird and Wonderful Wood at Haughley Park this weekend and managed to buy a completely wooden broom from a lovely lady who hand painted them, “That’s the last one; I’ve searched high and low but I just can’t find anyone producing completely wooden brooms at the moment.”  Neither of us could find a completely wood broom with natural bristles for indoor use anywhere – well at least not the £4.99 kind we used to be able to buy from the local hardware store.

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As it turns out, there are companies out there that do produce totally natural products, but these are products that are more about the craft and creating something that will last a lifetime – and so with it does come a bit of a price tag.  One such company is The Oxford Brush Company who stock some beautiful, handcrafted, household products.  Yes, they may well be more expensive, and in some cases a lot more expensive, than your average household plastic items, but putting your money where your mouth is is sometimes the price you have to pay to do your bit.  I have to confess that I did place an order with them for a couple of things that I thought hadn’t gone through, but on Wednesday they arrived, and I’m so glad they did – the household brush and the cobweb brush are both things of great beauty, functionality, and I suspect will still be doing their thing long after I have gone.

Having just moved house we’re also in need of some new bins for recycling and household rubbish – again, why do these need to be plastic?  You can buy galvanised steel bins from most hardware / country stores in a variety of sizes from 10″ upwards.  We also need some new loo brushes – and guess what, you can buy them made from wood and with natural fibres too; you just need to look a bit harder and spend a bit more.

I know it’s hard to begin to replace plastic items (once they have worn out) with non-plastic items, and I know that sometimes it can mean spending (a lot) more money.  But, to misquote a famous ‘beauty’ company, ‘You’re earth it.”

Foodie Friday: Changing a mindset

Food has been playing on my mind today. I’m packing up after a week long holiday in Wales, and this is the food that we’ve still got:

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The picture would be the same if I was at home, except add to that the cupboard I’ve got full of baking stuff, herbs, spices, teas, and condiments.  Why do I have that much food in the house at any one time?  Fear, fear that there won’t be enough choice, fear that someone will go hungry, fear that I won’t be able to put a meal on the table, fear that there is not enough healthy food, and fear I will not be able to feed the 5,000 should they drop by unannounced.

This fear has been fed by the media and supermarkets convincing me I need to shop once a week, filling my trolley with food that comes with a healthy portion of guilt  – are you feeding your kids the right things, is everything fresh, organic, sustainable, locally produced, is it healthy, are you eating the right amount of vitamins, minerals, proteins, the right fats, the wrong fats, the right sugars, the wrong sugars, why are you eating sugar at all?  I’ve been totally suckered in, ensuring that my cupboards are fit to bursting at the beginning of a shopping week and pretty much full at the end.

I know it doesn’t have to be this way.  All of this is just an ideal that I have bought into over the years, and if I want a more complementary approach to food I can have one, although it will mean that I have to make some changes, some of which might not be popular in our house.

Changing my shopping habits

  • Rather than buy for the week, I’m going to try only buying 2-3 meals ahead, getting what I need rather than what I’m being sold.
  • Use the local shop: while it might be a few pence more expensive, I figure I am less likely to be drawn in by the bright lights, advertising, the vast array of choice, or the special offers, so may well end up spending less.
  • Buy non-perishables in bulk: On-line retailers like Suma are not just for businesses, and persuade a couple of friends to buy in bulk with you and you will easily reach their minimum order requirements.  You can even buy eco cleaning products in bulk containers which has the added benefit of reducing plastic consumption.

Redefine ‘a meal’

What is wrong with beans on toast for tea one night?  What is wrong with serving up the same meal two nights in a row, or turning that left over spag bol into a chilli?  The hard work is going to come convincing the husband and the kids, but I’m prepared to try.

Chill out about time

Freak out less about having the ‘right’ food at the ‘right’ time – this is something we have  already begun doing.  My kids will often have left-overs for breakfast, yesterday it was noodles today it’s salmon and salad, and sometimes they cook themselves rice and soy-sauce.  Who said you have to have cereal?

Stop thinking balanced, start thinking holistic

Balanced meals are a great habit to get into, but it can be exhausting, expensive and boring trying to ensure that every meal contains everything the government recommends on its ‘eat well’ plate.  So I’m going to ease up on myself and start thinking about food more holistically, ensuring that we have a balanced diet over the course of a week, or even a month, rather than just focus on each day.

Accept no-one is going to go hungry

No-one is going to go hungry, even if there is only bread and jam left in the cupboard.

So, here goes.  I’m going to try not to have enough food in the house to feed the 5,000, try alternatives to the weekly supermarket shop, insist we use up left-overs, get the family to accept that beans on toast is okay to serve as a meal, and learn, (and teach the rest of the family), that an empty cupboard at the end of the week is a good thing and doesn’t mean we are going to starve.

I’ve got to pack now and haul my food back from whence it came – 323 miles away.  Based on what’s left next weeks meals are left-over Butternut squash soup, cashew nut stir fry, roast vegetable frittata, and pasta and pesto.  If I follow my own advice I shouldn’t need to shop until Wednesday!