What does it mean it to you? A spa weekend and some retail therapy or is it the simpler (but not easier) things like monitoring your self talk or looking at why you find it so hard to take care of yourself?
What forms does self care take? And why is it hard for some people?
The more I understand about self care, the more I have come to appreciate that people are very different.
Probably due to early conditioning, at one extreme there are people who only know how to be self critical. Possibly they grew up with a lot of critisism, or parents with low self esteem. They don’t feel worthy of anything better and this continual harsh self talk only serves to do more harm. “What would you tell yourself if you were your own best friend?”, I often say. Sometimes we need to be the nurturing mother that we never had.
Others who find it easier to love themselves and show themselves kindness and compassion tend to be better not only at identifying what they need, but prioritising those things. They consider their physical, emotional and mental well-being, to be of paramount importance, and they take the time and invest the money in that. They feel worthy of self love.
The role of Craniosacral Therapy in self care
When people first come to see me, they can be at various stages of connection, grounding, resource and ability to process trauma. Craniosacral Therapy is the best way I know to meet your system where it is at and to gain a better understanding of what it is that you need. You are likely to become more and more aware of what your needs are as your treatment program progresses (i.e. your self awareness will improve).
My role is to support you in this process. I will listen to your system (with my hands). Your system knows what it needs and I will follow your body’s own inherent treatment plan, in order for you to move closer to health.
What are your reasons for seeking help….?
How self-care got me to my first ever 5k at 46 years old!
Anyone who knows me well, would tell you that I’ve never been a runner. I’ve been a wanna-be runner.
My dad ran marathons into his late 70s (he used to get automatic entry into the London marathon, his time was so good).I’ve tried to get into running several times over the last 4 or 5 years and never got very far. I even had a personal trainer at one point. Seriously, every time I tried, I’d either get injured or ill and had to stop. It was crazy. I came to the realisation that, for some reason that I didn’t understand, I would never be able to do it.
However, in recent months, I had been paying more attention to the fact that generally in life, I have always been pretty hard on myself and getting a better understanding of that. How, being driven, determined, and focused had served me well in life and got me through situations that otherwise I certainly would not have. However, where was that nurturing mother part of me? I was super comfortable looking after others, in fact its probably my favourite thing to do(!), but looking after myself, hmm, I still find myself squirming slightly at the idea.
And in amongst this self reflection came a thought… what if all the struggle with running was down to my lack of self-care? That idea that I HAD to push myself, that I could succeed against any odds and didn’t need to go slowly (I must be fairly fit surely?!). What if that was the problem? How would it be to approach things as if I was being my own nurturing mother? The answer was, I realised, that I would follow a gentle program like ‘Couch to 5k’. To the letter. No skipping out the first three or four weeks, or skipping anything out in fact. Just….. going…. slowly. Then I’d really know if it was possible for me to run a 5k.
So I did. I started ‘Couch to 5k’ and I can honestly say that the hardest part for me was the going slow. Sticking rigidly to the program, arrggghh, so hard to do!! I had to getting back in touch with that nurturing mother part of me
But here I am, week 9 and running 5k, three times a week. I honestly cannot believe it! And what’s more I’m really enjoying it and whilst there’s that urge to push on and do more (surely 10k isn’t that much!?), I’m going easy on myself and sticking with this for now.
So, self care for me isn’t just about booking a spa weekend or treating yourself to something new, it starts with the way you talk yourself. And I challenge you to look at that very seriously. Just observe and then ask yourself what you would be saying if you were own nurturing mother? For me its an ongoing process, but one which I know will be good for me and it is likely to be good for you too.
Many of us will have experienced insomnia at some point in our lives.
Acute insomnia is when you experience temporary sleep problems, the night before an exam for example or when you have suffered a bereavement.
Chronic insomnia is when sleep is disturbed at least three nights a week for at least three months. The result of this is obviously fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and decreased performance in work or at school.
Ultimately lack of sleep can have a drastic impact on our physical and mental health. It’s a big subject so I will be including just the most important facts in this article.
We need to sleep to sustain life, its as simple as that. Its important to remember thatyour system is programmed for effective sleep; its the most natural thing in the world! However, feeling pushed for time (have you ever cut short your sleep because there was too much to do? I know I have) and the habits of modern day life often impact on our ability to achieve good quality sleep.
If you think your sleep quality could be better, have a look through these two checklistsand what you can do to make things easier for yourself….
Keep a regular routine in terms of timings and go to bed when you feel tired.
Manage those stress levels (more on that later)!
Relax for at least an hour before bed
Your bedroom should be dark, quiet and cooler than daytime temperature (but not cold)
Exercise regularly during the day
Ensure your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable
Try to get 30 mins exposure to natural sunlight per day – this helps to remind your body which is day and which is night! Artificial light is not the same!
Have a hot bath before bed to relax, plus the drop in your body temperature will aid sleep.
Remove distractions from your bedroom: screens, phones, clocks
Do not smoke, or drink alcohol, tea or coffee at least 6 hours before going to bed
Do not eat for about 3 hours before bed, especially sugars / carbs
Do not exercise late in the day (that is, less than 4 hours before bed)
Do not watch screens in the 2 hours before bed – they block the release of melatonin by 23%, interrupting your normal sleep rhythms
Do not nap during the day
Do not sleep in after a bad night’s sleep – stick to your regular sleeping hours instead
Do not drink too many fluids before bed as you will need the loo in the night!
Drugs – clearly recreational drugs will impact sleep, but often prescription ones can too, so speak to your pharmacist about this, it may be that taking your tablets at a different time of day may help
Don’t lie in bed awake. This breeds anxiety and makes it even harder to get to sleep. Get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.
Try to avoid sleeping tablets if you can, even those you can buy over the counter. They can help in the short term, but they do not induce natural sleep and can make the insomnia worse.
Back to the big issue of STRESS. Stress clearly impacts on our ability to sleep and then insomnia tends to increase our stress levels further – argghhhh!! I quite often see people suffering with insomnia and Craniosacral Therapy often helps them. In fact, people often report that their sleep has improved since they started Craniosacral Therapy, even when that was not the main reason they started coming to see me!
The point is, that when our systems are hyper-vigilant, or in fight, flight or freeze, of course it is often hard for us to ‘switch off’ at night. A good example of this would be a man I worked with a long time ago who had been in the forces for many years who had big sleep issues. He said, ‘When you’ve slept with a gun in your hand every night for so long, its kinda hard to get any kind of deep sleep’. And many of us (albeit for other reasons) have systems which are equally on ‘high alert’.
The best way to address the stressed / hypervigilant system is to show it how to down-regulate from ‘fight, flight or freeze’ to ‘rest and digest’. This is of the main things we do in Craniosacral Therapy. The system is being shown the ‘off switch’ and little by little, it gets easier and easier to access the ‘off switch’, until the system is generally much calmer and sleep becomes much easier. Plus of course, the person feels less stressed / anxious generally!
If you have taken board all the suggestions above and are still struggling with your sleep, please do seek the advice of your GP.
There are many facets to Craniosacral Therapy, but my favourite and by far the most profound is that of dynamic stillness. Nearly all of you who have been me for therapy will have some understanding and experience of this. So what does it mean to you? Why am I always banging on about it? What is it exactly and why does it matter?
I like this description of Michael Kern’s from his book, Wisdom In The Body…..
“Dynamic stillness can be experienced as something that is universal, beyond the duality of subject or object. It has no defining characteristics or qualities, as it is the realm of our pure unfabricated nature. Consequently there are no words on concepts that can adequately describe it. At this level of our being there is no inertia and no conditioning, just the presence of peace, luminosity and stillness. It may be perceived as a sense of Grace. When we emerge from this experience, something has changed – for we never come out the same way that we went in. We become touched by our deepest nature.”
Some people will simply experience stillness simply as a sense of calm (usually unlike anything they have experienced before). We all need to be able to access a still place. It is essential to health (of mind, body and spirit). It can be tricky to access, particularly when the system is overwhelmed or dissociated. However, I often view stillness as the gateway to everything because once a client’s system is shown how to access stillness, big changes tend to take place. The resources of the system build too. Michael Kern talks of the 7 different levels of stillness and how each level “brings a settling of some further aspect of our life process“.
“It is the stillness of the Tide, not the stormy waves that bounce upon the shore that has the potency, the power.” William Sutherland.
My experience also is that once the system gets practiced at accessing stillness, clients report that they are better able to access a calm place at other points in time and that they are coping better with life, feeling less stressed, anxiety lifts, they sleep better and so on – see why I love it so much!!
Mindful Meditation and Stress – Studies show that mindful meditation results in more activity, or communication, among the portions of the brains that process stress-related reactions and other areas related to focus and calm and the effects last for months.
This particular article details a study where brain function has actually changed, in those participants who had practised true mindfulness.
In a world which is so fast paced, our systems often have very little time to just “be”. Indeed, in my practice, I regularly come across people who have little or no ability to quieten their system. Craniosacral Therapy is often used as a tool for teaching the system how to down regulate. There is great power in that shift from “fight, flight or freeze” to “rest and digest”.
This article gives a good overview as to what Craniosacral Therapy is about, what it’s like and how it works. The author states, “Overall, CranioSacral Therapy is a highly effective light-touch therapy that works with the source of pain and dysfunction and the whole body simultaneously.” If you have never tried Craniosacral Therapy before and you are wondering if it might help you, why not give it a go! Apart from anything, most people really enjoy their sessions!