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.


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!



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

Lessons from child’s pose

As we move further into this strange “lockdown” situation it’s hard not to reflect on the nature of this time. On the one hand I can’t believe it’s only been a month, as some days pass so quickly I hardly get anything done. Yet on the other hand, some days feel never-ending and are full of stress and tension.

It’s been a challenging time and no doubt there are many of us trying to cope with these alien circumstances without access to our normal coping strategies. Mine usually involve seeing friends, having a massage and getting a lot of fresh air! Thankfully I can still do yoga which is also high on my list of things that help me to de-stress. And it’s actually something that happened during yoga recently that prompted me to write this blog.

Last week I was doing a yoga session via Zoom, and my teacher suggested we move into child’s pose. I duly did so but within less than a minute I felt a wave of emotion and started to cry. For anyone who isn’t familiar with child’s pose, it basically involves curling up on the floor with your bottom back towards your heels and your head on the floor in front of you. It is a very restorative posture, and it isn’t the first time that being in this posture has led to a release of emotions!

So what was going on? I think curling up away from the outside world allowed me to let go of what I was carrying, it enabled me to surrender a little bit, and let my emotions come out. We spend so much of our time facing out to the world, meeting head on what comes towards us, absorbing so much external stimulus, that sometimes it becomes overwhelming. It is essential, therefore, that we give our minds and bodies a regular break from this.

Even now, when many of us are spending a large majority of our days inside and physically away from people, we are still facing out to the world – whether that be over Zoom, Whatsapp or whichever video calling option we are using! We might also be trying to put on a brave face. It’s a lot easier to pretend that we are OK via a video call than it is in a real life, face-to-face interaction with our friends or colleagues. It’s also easy to reply to a text asking how you are with a vague “I’m fine”, even if you are not fine. This can be exhausting and it takes up a lot of emotional energy, so it’s no surprise that we might be feeling more stressed and overwhelmed than usual!

So, going back to my child’s pose experience. As I said above, it is a very restful posture, it allows us to shut out the world and listen to ourselves. I think there is something very powerful about turning inwards. It allows us to release whatever we might be holding onto. It’s like we can breathe out without fear of judgement, because no one can see us. It also allows our nervous system to rest and feel soothed. And it actually reminded me of how I feel when I go for my monthly massage. Having that time and space to just stop, and let go of everything else, is like a little haven from life.

I see this with my own clients too. When people come to me for a massage or reflexology they know they can just be. The pretence can be dropped and they can breathe out. I often notice this even before I start the treatment. Clients come in and sigh, I see their bodies physically start to relax. As a therapist this always makes me smile inside as it confirms that I’ve created a safe space for them, but also because I know they have prioritized some much needed time just for them.

Although people have many different reasons for coming to have Reflexology and Massage, I strongly believe that just having time to switch off from everything is really important for improving our well-being. If we can give our nervous system time to be soothed, we can start to relax and this can have a really positive effect on both our body and mind.

I would advocate this in “normal” times, so right now I feel that it is even more important to be carving out some quiet time for ourselves as we move through these strange weeks full of uncertainty. And this is one of the many reasons why I’m feeling sad that I can’t see clients right now. I would love to be able to offer my usual space for clients to breathe out, let go and just be.

I really am looking forward to the time when I can provide Massage and Reflexology again. Until then I hope that the story of my child’s pose experience helps you to remember the importance of finding a way to give yourself a break from the outside world.

And if you would like to keep up to date with when the doors to my treatment room will be open again, then do please sign up to my email list here.


Photo credit: Katiee Lue from Unsplash

Image of aromatherapy oils

Aromatherapy and the menopause

Too many women experience menopause in silence, with a sense of quiet shame at their changing bodies and emotions. Why is this, I wonder? Surely a profound change that’s experienced by half the people on the planet deserves attention? Thankfully, I think the conversation around menopause is slowly changing, with more women, employers and health care professionals no longer seeing menopause as a taboo subject. About bloody time (excuse the pun!).

Last year I took part in a workshop about the menopause, with lots of useful discussions about what menopause is, how it can affect us and what we can do to help ourselves through it. I spoke about how essential oils can help, and I thought I’d share the main points here too.

What is the menopause?

We reach menopause when we haven’t had a period for 12 months or more. However we start to experience menopausal symptoms when the balance of the body’s sex hormones begins to change. This is known as the perimenopause. The ovaries stop producing as much oestrogen and we no longer release an egg each month. Changing hormone levels, particularly a decrease in oestrogen can have a big impact on a woman’s body. We can start to experience a number of symptoms, for example:

  • Dry skin
  • Hot flushes
  • Low mood or anxiety anger or irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Night sweats
  • Bloating
  • Heightened sensitivity to stimulus

These symptoms are often interlinked, for example: night sweats can lead to disturbed sleep and tiredness which in turn can lead to low mood and anxiety which in turn can lead to more tiredness – then the cycle continues…

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to improve our physical and emotional well being. Essential oils are extracted from plants, trees and flowers and possess many different therapeutic properties due to their chemical makeup.

They can be absorbed into our bodies via the skin and through the nose and work on both a chemical and psychological level.

The oils interact with the chemistry of our bodies. Our hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters are all chemicals, and receptive to the chemicals in the oil. This can affect how the body works. For example if you are feeling stressed you could use an oil with relaxing or sedative properties. That could help to relieve the symptoms of stress by changing the impulses sent around the body, resulting in slower breathing, a slower heart rate and your muscles relaxing.

They also work on a psychological level because each oil has a distinctive aroma and our sense of smell is very much linked to memory. Certain smells can cause particular responses. For example jasmine reminds me of warm summer evenings so that has a positive impact on me. Even if you don’t have an existing association with the smell of an essential oil, by using it in a therapeutic way you create a positive association for yourself, which you can return to every time you smell that oil.

There are a number of essential oils that could help with menopause symptoms. Here I’ve chosen five to talk about and have summarised some of their properties:

Rose (Rosa centifolia)

  • Hydrates and soothes dry and mature skin
  • Works with the nervous system, can lift depression, calm nerves, ease insomnia and stimulate positive emotions
  • Works with the reproductive and endocrine systems, so can calm premenstrual tension

Neroli (citrus aurantium)

  • Helps cell regeneration so is good for dry and mature skin
  • Works with the circulatory system – can ease palpitations
  • Works with the nervous system – lifts depression, relieves stress related conditions especially insomnia and anxiety, calms the central nervous system, can soothe emotional states such as irritability and tearfulness
  • Rejuvenates body and soul

** Caution- this can be very relaxing so be careful using it if a clear head and concentration is needed**

Cypress ( cupressus semipervirens)

  • Controls water loss and oil and sweat production so good for excessive perspiration
  • Good for mature skin
  • Regulates menopausal problems- hot flushes, hormone imbalance, irritability
  • Can have good effect on painful and heavy periods
  • Can be diuretic, helping with water retention
  • Can have a soothing effect on anger
  • Can have cooling properties

Clary Sage (salvia sclarea)

  • A warming and relaxing oil that can uplift and promote a feeling of wellbeing
  • Works with the endocrine system to help hormone balancing
  • Can help with excessive perspiration

**caution – very sedative so don’t use before driving and don’t use with alcohol**

Geranium ( Pelargonium graveolens)

  • Works with the adrenal cortex – lifts the spirits and relieves anxiety, depression and stress
  • Regulates hormones
  • Can help with depression associated with menopause
  • Balances both mind and body
  • Stimulates circulation

**caution- don’t use on very sensitive skin**

How to use

Firstly, remember that essential oils are volatile, extremely powerful when neat, flammable and soluble in oil. They should never be used internally or drunk. If you’re in any doubt about whether to use an oil, consult with someone who has been trained. They can be applied in a variety of ways including massages, baths, inhalations and compresses.

For Massage

Use 8 drops of essential oil in 20mls of carrier oil for body massage. Use 1-2 drops of essential oil in 5mls of carrier oil for facial massage. Essential oils will last 3 months if in a carrier oil.


Need to be mixed with a small quantity of emulsifier. This can be a fragrance free mixture or in a few drops of milk (any variety) this is to ensure that the oil does not just sit on the surface of the water. Use 1-6 drops in a bath, or 1-3 drops if you have sensitive skin.


Follow instructions for each individual diffusers as they can be different but as a general guide add 1-2 drops of essential oils into the water.


Soak a cloth in 100ml of water and add 1 drop of essential oil. Squeeze out excess water and use on your body.

Steam inhalation

Add 1 drop of essential oil into a bowl of hot water and inhale. For a stronger effect use 1-3 drops.


Put 1 drop on a tissue and inhale or 1 drop on your pillow. For a stronger effect use 1-3 drops.

It is always a good idea to talk to someone trained in aromatherapy to ensure you are using the oils safely and with maximum benefit for your symptoms.

I offer 60 minute and 75 minute aromatherapy massages. We have a full consultation before treatment and I make a bespoke blend to meet your needs on the day. Just contact me to discuss what you need.

Being Mindful in Nature: a January challenge

You may have seen on my Facebook page that for the last part of January I set myself a challenge to spend ten minutes mindfully being in nature.

My reasons for doing this were because quite a few people I spoke to at the time were struggling with the long, cold and dark feel of January, and wanted the month to be over quickly! I felt differently. I had realised half way through last year that, although January seemed to last an age, the rest of the year seemed to be speeding by. I vowed that next time, I would make the most of January. I wondered whether focusing mindfully for a few minutes each day would slow the month down for me, and whether it could put a more positive feel on the month.

So what did I learn? Here are my main reflections:

It’s only ten minutes, right?
It wasn’t as easy to spend ten minutes being mindful as I thought it would be. I really did think “ten minutes, that’s nothing”. It turns out that ten minutes can seem like a really long time! I found it particularly difficult when I was standing still. For example, there was one day when I spent the time in my garden. It took my mind at least five minutes to settle and stop thinking, “how long is left?” Interestingly, once my mind finally accepted the task, I didn’t want the time to end. It made me realise that I can probably achieve more than I think in “only” ten minutes after all!

Make it a habit
It was easy to find time outside whilst in my usual routine. On the days I was dropping and picking my children up from school, it was easy to take a slow stroll through a little patch of woodland, and to linger watching flowers and listening to the birds. But on the days that I was doing something different, it was much more difficult. Having to ask “where can I go to get my mindful ten minutes”? made it much more of a challenge. What I learned was that being mindful, even for ten minutes, needs to be planned until it becomes part and parcel of daily life.

Awaken your senses
Once you tune into the wind blowing, the trees rustling and the birds singing, you really hear them and start to notice them more and more. Being more mindful and purposefully listening out for things really did sharpen my senses.

Calming down
Taking ten minutes out from a busy day made me feel calmer. A slow walk after a stressful school run really helped to clear my head. I was able to let go more easily, felt more relaxed, and was ready for the next thing.

Final thoughts
There is so much evidence that being outside is beneficial for our health and well being. In his book The Stress Solution, Dr Rangan Chaterjee talks about the positive impact that “nature bathing” can have on our mental health, and mentions research which shows that even looking at pictures of trees and nature can lower our stress levels.

I was already a strong advocate for getting outside into nature, but this little challenge served as a reminder to keep on doing this, even in the dark winter months. At this time of year, we probably need it even more.

This challenge for me also reinforces the importance of taking some time and space for ourselves. Being on our own, taking some deep breaths, stopping for a few moments and slowing down are all really important for our well being. This is a topic that I feel passionate about.

Finally, as a Massage Therapist and Reflexologist who spends much of my working time helping to soothe the nervous systems of my clients, it is clear to me that taking these mindful moments out in nature can achieve just that. Time in nature will remain high on my list of self care tools. I hope you feel able to add it to your tool box too.

Keep calm and carry on learning!

When you’re a complementary therapist, does your passion and motivation matter? Yes, it does. I believe your reason for being in business and your values play a huge part in how you can serve your clients. You can read more about my story here.

Do qualifications matter? Yes, they do. When people literally entrust themselves to your hands it’s vital you know what you’re doing! Complementary therapy training has been a part of my life for a long time now, and I thought I’d share some of that here.

My training to become a Massage Therapist began way back in 2008. That feels like a lifetime away to me now. I was working as a Social Worker in a job I loved, but was finding increasingly frustrating. I decided to reduce my hours and return to college. Having worked in the social care field for several years I had seen how music therapy, massage therapy and aromatherapy had helped the people I worked with. I wondered whether those therapies offered a new route to helping people in difficult times.

I embarked upon the ITEC Level 3 Diploma in Holistic Massage. This included studying Level 3 Anatomy and Physiology too and I was fascinated to learn how my body actually worked, having not given it that much thought up until then! I completed 36 case studies (36 massages) as part of the course. I passed my exams then had my eldest son, so my career as a Massage Therapist was put on hold.

Fast forward to 2016. I now had two boys and had relocated to York. I had also found that regular massage with a wonderful therapist was a way to help me stay grounded and weather the storms of early motherhood.

Once my youngest was four I felt I needed to focus on myself again and the question of returning to work kept coming up. I knew deep down that I didn’t really want to return to Social Work so started to look for a refresher course for Massage Therapy. I did a one day course and found that I was still very much interested in massage.

My next challenge was to find a longer course so I could brush up my skills and refresh my knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology too.

This took a while as I needed it to fit in with my children but I eventually decided to do a VTCT Level 3 Diploma in Complementary Therapies. This was a course covering Massage, Aromatherapy and Reflexology and Anatomy and Physiology over twelve months.

During this course I fell in love with Reflexology and also learnt a lot about essential oils, which is something I had already been interested in.

The course was thorough and intensive, requiring 100 case studies for Reflexology, 40 case studies for Massage Therapy and 60 case studies for Aromatherapy. I also made essential oil-based products for my case studies to use.

On top of the case studies there were practical exams and a theory exam paper. It was like being back at school with all the studying! But it was worth it. It meant I knew when I was treating people I was doing so with up to date skills, knowledge and experience.

But learning never stops, does it? And I’ve found that because I’m doing something I genuinely believe in, the learning isn’t a chore, it’s something I can’t get enough of. (Honestly, I can’t tell you how in love with reflexology I am!).

Since qualifying I have completed some CPD courseshere’s a few of them to date: 

Hagar Basis Reflexology for Women’s Health

Sally Earlam Maternity Reflexology 

Hagar Basis Reflexology and Stress

Next year I am doing a two day Reflexology Lymphatic Drainage Training course with Sally Kay who has been researching the effectiveness of this treatment for clients with lymphoma at Cardiff University.

I also plan to do some Massage Therapy CPD training in the early part of the year and a course about menopause and aromatherapy.

Menopause is a topic close to my heart. Like the relentless, tiring nature of motherhood, it seems to be one of those topics that’s been brushed under the carpet for women to just crack on with alone. I hope times are changing, and I want to be part of that change. There’s probably a pun I could make here about ‘The Change’ but I’ll leave that to your imagination.

So I hope this allows you to see how seriously I take my training and my continuous professional development. There is always more to learn.

You might have seen this graph already, it’s been doing the rounds on social media:

Sadly I don’t know the originator of this graphic to credit them, but it’s spot on. After my years of training and working in this area I can definitely testify that it’s complicated! I feel there is so much to learn about our bodies and how Massage, Aromatherapy and Reflexology can impact on them. And it’s never a one size fits all solution either, that’s why every treatment starts with a full, personalised consultation.

If you’d like to book in for a massage or reflexology treatment, or want help deciding what’s best for you, feel free to contact me. I also offer gift vouchers. 

Have Yourself A Calm Christmas

Have Yourself A Calm Christmas  

Now that birthday month has finished in my house I can let my head get around the fact Christmas season is upon usAgain! Already! I’m not the most Christmassy person around, I admit. There’s lots to love about the season, for sure, and also plenty that sets my teeth on edge!  

find the commercialisation all too much and the pressure to have a perfect day overwhelming. Too many things we should be doing or buying! And all the waste – the paper, the plastic, the food. It gets me stressed just thinking about it! 

But I also know Christmas can be a time to reconnect with what’s important to us. It doesn’t have to be a full on commercial juggernaut. It is possible to do Christmas your own way, and feel good about it.  

Here are my tips for surviving the mayhem and actually enjoying Christmas this year: 

Stay grounded 

Ensure you protect some time to step away from all the busyiness and doing. I’ll be doing this with my monthly massage and weekly yoga class. One of my favourite yoga practices is Yoga Nidraan amazing guided meditation practice that can help strip away all the unnecessary shoulds in your head and connect to the present momentYou can find some free yoga nidra meditations here. 

When you are feeling stressed, or simply in need of slowing down, focus on your breathing. Deep breathing will soothe your vagus nerve which helps to reduce your heart rate. Associate Professor of Neurology Lucy Norcliffe-Kaufmann notes that breaths of 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out are optimal for stimulating the vagus nerve. It takes deliberate attention, but longer, slower breathing is a tool we all have available to us, free, whenever we need it.  

Frankincense is a really helpful grounding essential oil – use it in a diffuser or put a couple of drops on a tissue and put it under your pillow at night or in your pocket when you’re out and about. It has a lovely Christmassy feel to it too.  

Have an early night 

It might sound obvious but getting enough sleep can make everything more manageable. And this time of year is about rest. Before electricity, we would all have slept more during the winter months.  

If you’re having trouble getting to sleep you could try using some Neroli or Lavender essential oil in a diffuser or put a couple of drops on a tissue under your pillow. A warming bath with two or three drops of Lavender oil can also help. Just remember to mix the essential oil in an emulsifier first (such as milk) otherwise the oil will just sit on top of the water and you won’t get the full benefit. 

Your brain can get into sleep time mode more easily if you develop a routine of turning your phone off at least an hour before bed. The blue light and stimulation from social media/news/internet/messaging friends can hamper our ability to get to sleep. Though your phone can also be useful for bedtime – set an alarm or reminder each night to turn it off and go to bed 

But whatever you do, it’s important to value sleep enough to prioritise it. That means choosing it – not watching another episode on Netflix on autopilot or staying out for another drink when you’re tired. 

Eat Well 

For many people a big part of Christmas celebrations is feasting – treats and indulgences aplenty. And of course, it’s time to relax and enjoy. But your body, mind and emotional health will suffer from weeks of eating only beige food. So make sure you don’t forget the immune boosting foods that help us stay healthy at this time of year. Eat a rainbow of foods – winter veg such as red cabbage, sprouts, parsnips, squashes are all delicious if prepared well.  

And don’t forget to keep hydrated! Yes, have the gin or the mulled wine, but make sure your water intake stays high too. We can often dry out without realising if we’re spending lots of time inside, in centrally heated rooms with lots of other people.  

Spend your Christmas wisely 

Do you really need to buy that extra present, extra cake, extra decoration? Why are you buying it? What would happen if you didn’t buy those things? People have so much stuff these days and many of us are decluttering 

Giving to others and creating special memories is a wonderful feeling, but be conscious about how you are doing it. You don’t necessarily need to buy more stuff. By making the decision not to buy for friends and family, you may be taking the pressure off them too. Rather than exchange gifts no-one really wants or needs, you could go for a walk together, or if squeezing more events in around Christmas adds to the stress, plan a special trip for the new year. 

Say No 

We are often pressured into doing things we don’t really want to do because ‘it’s Christmas’. You may feel honour-bound to stay for after work drinks, or spend time with people you avoid the rest of the year because they make you feel stressed. It’s ok to say no.  

Or if an outright ‘no’ feels a step too far this year, put some clear boundaries around your time. Rather than a weekend with extended family, have a lunch or brunch together. Rather than feel bulldozed into a big night out with work mates, say you’ll stay for a drink then head off (and it doesn’t have to be alcohol if you’re not into drinking booze). 

There’s nothing wrong with buying gifts, or having lots of parties, or participating in any of the hundreds of Christmas activities on offer at this time of year. Just check in with yourself that you’re doing it for positive reasons. 

And if you end up doing something that makes you feel anxious or upset then be kind to yourself and ensure you have something to look forward to afterwards. Give yourself time to decompress.  

I still have some appointments available in December so it’s not too late if you need some time out this festive seasonI also have some beautiful gift vouchers available – hot off the press this week!. The perfect present for anyone who has plenty of stuff but desperately needs their world to slow down for a little while (and if that’s you – me too! I hear you!). Just get in touch here. 

Beyond the Bubble Bath

A few weeks ago I had a really tough week, my childminder was on holiday, my husband was working away and I was feeing ill. I knew I would benefit from some help but I found it almost impossible to ask for it. Fortunately for me a friend took the initiative and asked if I wanted her to bring my eldest child home from school. I hesitated but answered yes and immediately felt a huge sense of relief.

This got me thinking about why I had had to wait for an offer of help instead of just reaching out and asking for help myself. During a chat with my friend the next day I said “Why do we find it so hard to ask for help?” She replied “Because it makes us look vulnerable”. And she is right. Needing and asking for help can make us feel like we’re not coping, it can open us up to being judged and no one likes feeling like that.

Showing vulnerability is something that many of us try to avoid, asking for help can seem like weakness, especially when it feels there is so much pressure to cope, to get on with things and just manage ourselves. In her book Daring Greatly How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, Brene Brown states that “Going it alone is a value we hold in high esteem in our culture.”

However, showing vulnerability by asking for help, ultimately leads to greater connection with each other. Yes it means we have to admit we can’t do everything but that is not a bad a thing. It’s ok not to cope sometimes and it’s ok to ask for help.

Imagine how liberating it would feel if we could shrug off the worry about how people might see us and just reach out for that human connection that comes from asking for help. Being honest about how things really are is also a lot heathier on both a physical and emotional level. Pretending that everything is ok can be hard work and can sometimes lead to added stress within our bodies.

To me self-care means taking care of ourselves and it can take many forms, whether going for a massage, doing yoga, singing, meeting a friend, going for a walk or just taking 5 minutes to step outside and look at the sky. It is doing something that makes us feel better. And yes, having a relaxing bath can feel great but sometimes we need more than a bubble bath! Asking for help can certainly be classed as an act of self-care as far as I’m concerned.

When I accepted that kind offer of help it created some space for me, it allowed me extra time to rest and meant I could manage the rest of the day a lot better than I would have done otherwise. It also made me feel relief, joy and gratitude. All things I would expect the above list of usual self-care tools to provide.

The connection aspect of asking for help should not be underestimated. People are always happy to help if they can, I know I am and this can lead to a deeper relationship. I love how Brene Brown writes about connection. She defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

To me being seen, heard and valued are vital for us as human beings. If asking for help can lead to us feeling seen, heard and valued as well as getting the help we need with a particular issue then it’s a win-win situation.

If you take the plunge and ask for help, the chances are there will be people willing to say yes and it will have a positive impact on both yourself and the person you ask. When I accepted help I felt so much better. And it spurred me on to actually ask for help the next time I needed something. And guess what? I found someone only too happy to help out.

I still don’t find it easy to ask for help but I am getting better at it. How good are you at asking for help? Has there been a time when you asked for help and it really worked out well? Or has there been a time when you didn’t ask for help even though you needed it? What stopped you from asking? I’d love to hear your experiences.