‘Most people walk through the world in a trance of disempowerment. Our work is to transform that into a trance of empowerment’
– Dr Milton H Erikson
Over the next few weeks I want to post some blogs about four areas of wellbeing that have been a huge influence on me during my cancer journey over the last eight or so years; hypnotherapy, mindfulness, meditation and NLP.
All three of these therapies have so many benefits but I wanted to break them down so we can get a better understanding of what they all do in their own space. When someone asked me what the differences were the other day, I started stuttering and feeling like a total fraud, realising I actually didn’t have a defined answer, so I decided to do a little homework!
If the word hypnotherapy conjures up images of a line of chairs on a stage with seven or so innocent members of a studio audience desperately wanting to grab their moment of fame while being hypnotised to do weird and embarrassing things that they wont remember when they ‘are back in the room’ at the click of a finger, then think again!
Having met Nicky Anstey a few years ago, for a reason totally unrelated to my wellbeing, our paths recently crossed again when I found out she was doing a new Stress Reduction course in my area. Any course name that mentions the word ‘stress’ usually lures me in like a magnet and since I seem to be able to sniff out a relaxation course from a mile away post cancer, I thought this would be the perfect thing to compliment the mindfulness course I have done (blog coming soon) as well as my sporadic meditation practice and growing knowledge of mind based therapies.
Nicky is very knowledgeable about this area and her expertise and background are commendable. I have been fascinated in hypnotherapy and how it can help our wellbeing; through weightloss, smoking, improved confidence, assertiveness, relaxing and generally being able to switch off and give ourselves permission for Me Time. To be able to work in a smaller group environment and have a class every other week was way more convenient than other courses I had considered, so I signed up with a friend.
Nicky trained as a registered nutritionist in 1997 but felt she wanted to expand her practice by studying hypnotherapy and NLP as there was little point giving clients advice on what diet to follow if there were not in the right mindset to follow it.
‘Once the root cause of the problem is worked on and removed we will stop self sabotaging ourselves and can achieve any goal we set of ourselves, in a relaxed, happy and balanced way.’
– Nicky Anstey
Hypnotherapy is a process where we can remove the emotional rubbish and limiting beliefs that manifest over our lifetimes that tend to throw us off course. If guided properly we can set new positive beliefs and values that are in line with our goals to be and feel the best we can. As soon as I read the course description I realised quickly that this would be a course that would include homework. As with many cognitive behavioural courses, we are encouraged to practice daily as according to some sources it takes sixty six days to form a new habit. Society today is a stress pressure cooker and it is manifesting itself through disease, bad mental health, physical breakdowns and poor wellbeing.
‘I believe any ways to help the mind stay resilient and strong is key in life as they pressures and stresses of life are ever increasing.’
– Nicky Anstey
The first word scribbled in my notebook on the first day of the course is ‘Tools!’ This was exactly why I was there, to find new tools for dealing with stress. My tool box is ever growing and they don’t always work at the right time but I don’t think you can ever too many! I am not going to make out that I am some high flying career hungry working mum who is juggling everything and the kitchen sink, but I am naturally a very anxious person and the irony is that I struggle more with the everyday stresses than the big scary ones. Weird right?! Like some new twenty-first century robot, I needed new programming!
The first session introduced the cause and effect equation and I started to feel empowered straight away. Just recognising that I could take control of these situations and ‘buttons’ that were sending me into overdrive, was a gem in itself and I have gradually become more aware of introducing my own filters and strategies to overcome those knee jerk reactions of panic, fear and negativity that so often circle overhead like vultures, ready to dive for the kill!
Throughout the course I loved learning about how our minds actually worked. I am no biologist but learning ways of tapping into my unconscious mind and starting to build an interactive link between the conscious and the unconscious, is gradually opening up pathways and a totally different type of healing process for me.
I have to admit though that my favourite part of the course was the last fifteen minutes of each class! We would all lie down or sit, and Nicky would perform an exercise of hypnotherapy, talking us through a visualisation to deeply relax and generally emphasise how important Me Time was. I found these minutes precious. I could lie there and listen to Nicky’s soft, slow voice and drift off, letting her words sink deep into my subconscious while sniffing a gorgeous aromatherapy scent on a tissue placed nearby.
I enjoyed the course so much that when it was over I met with Nicky to ask her about putting together a specific meditation for Samspaces and I am so excited to be able to share a link to it below. Many of you are familiar with my focus on recovery and healing after cancer treatment and this was a wonderful way of collaborating to bring together my fears, anxieties and worries that I had felt (and still do feel) during this period post treatment, with Nicky’s skill and professional tools to create a therapy to help at this vulnerable and sometimes lonely time.
(Click on the Moving On box, then go to Membership details, log in with Username; Movingon and password; Movingon)
Hypnotherapy is a very powerful tool in stress reduction and has been a huge stepping stone in my developing a more mindful lifestyle. It sounds mad but sometimes I am even grateful to cancer, for simply making me more aware of all these mind based therapies, as they have definitely changed my life! I might not have started a life long habit of tuning my mind out every day and being Mrs So Relaxed I Might Fall Over, but even if just for five minutes three times a week, I have started a life long habit of trying! If I can follow a visualisation where i am guided and I can focus on a voice that is calm and talks me through deep breathing, I am away with the hypno-fairies!!!
Being in a group environment and sharing stories, while learning so much about how our memories and experiences have trained and shaped our minds, forming habits that may not be so helpful to us now, is so empowering. Nothing is right or wrong. It is hugely personal and can be massively beneficial for some and maybe only moderately for others. It does take time and it does need to be worked at, but to have started exploring these areas of the mind, has been like opening a window for me and letting in a beautiful breeze that lifts and calms the soul.
Thank you to Nicky and if you are interested in hearing more about her services and courses, please look up her details on the Space to Learn page as well as www.elstead-hypnosis.co.uk.
While sitting with my daughter and helping her write her letter to Father Christmas this weekend, I remembered that there was one particular list I hadn’t written onto the website yet.
Being diagnosed with cancer at any time of year is horrendous but at Christmas, it can put a heavy tint on any festive glow, that can seriously dampen the spirits. Magic? What magic?
I was diagnosed at Christmas (exactly ten years ago this week) so I know how hard it can be and I wanted to post a little blog about the things I remember bringing a little magic back into my world, as I went through treatment.
A lot of people have asked me what they can buy friends and loved ones as they go through treatment or surgery. We can feel a bit useless and powerless to help, so below is a list of some useful ideas that might help bring some sparkle back!
1. A comfy pair of PJ’s or lounge wear. Nothing like a new shiny set of pjs!
2. A cashmere beany or lovely hat for anyone who is experiencing hair loss. (Accessorize is always a good one for this!)
3. A poncho or shawl to wrap up with or throw off depending on the hot flushes and seasonal heating!!
4. A lavender bag. One that you can heat up in the microwave and put around your neck to help stiffness, help keep cosy and calm and brilliant to have in hospital beds when you just can’t get the pillows right!
5. An itunes voucher or an amazon voucher.
6. Lavender oil; a multiple list of ways this can be helpful and I can’t live without it!
7. A few restorative yoga sessions at a nearby yoga studio or mindfulness course somewhere local. Get a few of you together and pitch in for an extra space and make it a group effort so there is something to look forward to each week in the new year.
8. A reflexology session with a good therapist or head massage. Some serious ME time.
9. A hamper of lovely home made food. Either make it yourself if you fancy yourself as a bit of a Jamie Oliver or buy a few select things at the supermarket.
10. Rosehip oil. Brilliant for treating scars and healing.
11. A Nutri Bullet for all those healthy smoothies!
12. Cashmere or cosy bed socks (good for the men too!)
13. A magazine subscription to keep those endless waiting rooms a little less tedious.
14. Some funky straws. After surgery it can be really lovely having your own straw to use when you can’t reach too far and want that slurp of juice.
15. The perfect card; these just know exactly what to say when you don’t. This website also has some fantastic ideas for gifts.
16. Skincare products. When we are taking care of our wellbeing through cancer we want to look after our skin with totally natural products. Any of the following are gorgeous and do exactly what they say on the tin! (Beauty Despite Cancer, Ruth Romano, Arbonne, Burts Bee’s) Male options available too! (Skin care blog coming in the new year!)
17. If you are buying for a lady, the Beauty Despite Cancer Recognise Yourself book is such a lovely bible to have to help anyone maintain their appearance and wellbeing as they go through surgery, chemo and radio. Really useful tips, beautiful photos and realistic advice. An essential book to have to hand.
18. An eye mask. Always useful!
19. A Coz-E-Reader huggable stand for tablet or kindle (male options too!)
20. Worthers Original toffee; a great way of taking that horrid metallic taste away and everyone needs a little sugar at Christmas! While on the subject, a few bars of Green and Black chocolate always go down well too.
Whatever you decide to pop in the stocking for someone close to you who might be unwell this Christmas, know that your love and friendship is the most important thing to that person. Knowing they are not going through this alone is the biggest gift of all. Believing in them, in my eyes, is what Christmas magic is made of. xxx
Pros & Cons of Reflexology
- Effective way of internal massage on vital organs and internal processes; Helping with circulation, energetic flow, digestion and balance and wellbeing
- Accessible and often provided in hospitals for free.
- Not too expensive
- Widely spread therapists through UK
- Can have alongside other treatments to compliment
- Not necessarily relaxing depending on the practitioner
- Need regular treatments to see results
- First few treatments can have side effects
- Not good in first few months of pregnancy or for DVT and some types of cancer
Reflexology is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work affects a physical change to the body.
If the thought of having your feet touched, let alone massaged, makes you squint and look like you’ve just sucked a lemon, your not alone! I not only hate feet and everything about them; weird shapes, discoloured nails and rough skin among others, but I happen to have the most sensitive feet on the planet. When it comes to my own feet the only good thing about them is that they keep me standing! However, having my feet ‘tickled’, as my daughter puts it, is weirdly one of the most therapeutic things that has come out of cancer treatment for me.
There is no doubt, Reflexology is a hugely powerful treatment. As a little bit of background for you (Warning, History alert!); It dates back to the ancient civilisations in Egypt, India and China. The oldest evidence of its use comes from a pictograph in the tomb of an Egyptian physician near Cairo but it wasn’t introduced to the Western world until the early 20th Century. Dr William Fitzgerald, an American ear nose and throat dude, came to London and introduced the ‘Kengtitude zones theory’ in 1916.
The re-discovery of some form of systemised foot treatment is accredited to Dr William Fitzgerald who called it Zone Therapy and drew it to the attention of the medical world between 1915 and 1917. It was in 1915 that an article entitled “To stop that toothache, squeeze your toe” was published in “Everybody’s Magazine”, written by Edwin Bowers, which first brought Dr Fitzgerald’s work on Zone Therapy before the public.
A guy called Dr George Star White and Dr Riley, his wife, went on to develop this theory, making the connections to the hands and feet but it was a women (of course!) Eunice Ingham, “The Foot Therapist’ who made the final connections, asking why not treat the hands and feet to treat the body. In 1934 the phrase Reflexology was coined. Ingham died in 1974 after devoting forty years of her life to reflexology. What a gal!
Reflexology has been used frequently in fertility, cancer and later stages of pregnancy as well as other major illnesses as well and as a regular treatment for general wellbeing. Clearly I am a massive fan but it was when I started having it as a complimentary treatment offered by the hospital where I was having radiotherapy, that I really began to understand the true benefits. It made such an impression that after treatment finished in 2007 I enrolled in an evening foundation course. Punchy for the old energy levels at that stage of recovery but I had been so inspired by my reflexologist, who had opened up this pathway and made me want to learn more. I met Lisbeth at Parkside oncology hospital, where she volunteers as a therapist, and she became my real life angel. Wings and all!!
‘Reflexology is not my job, it is part of my life. It is my passion. Its a treat for me to give it and see what it brings to everyone.’
– Lisbeth Doeff
I explored regular reflexology during treatment because, not only was it complimentary (always a bonus) but I really noticed that my body needed a helping hand in flushing out the chemo drugs, maintaining some wellbeing and helping my system heal as well as release negativity. Chemo and radio made me feel like The Marshmallow Man with jet lag; so weak and bloated and the fatigue seriously frustrated me. I was emotional, low and though doing my damnedest to put a positive light on things, Lisbeth had this incredible ability to tap right into this, recognising how draining that was in itself and helping me understand what was going on inside my body as well as my head. This, in turn, helped release other emotions so deepening my own healing process. It balanced me and transformed my ashen complexion to a rosy glow and I started to appreciate I was doing the best job I could.
Its not always relaxing! I was, and still am, frequently on the ceiling during treatments, and though this doesn’t sell it as a lovely fluffy relaxing treat, it is exactly what I need physically and emotionally. It is as if my system is getting a work out inside and out. I come away feeling rejuvenated, calm and energised. The discomfort I feel only reflects the tension I hold in certain areas of my body, namely my lower spine, digestive system and adrenals.
I have learnt so much from seeing Lisbeth. She has taught me that healing not only comes from relaxing holistic treatments but from a deeper spiritual understanding, a nutritional perspective as well as an emotionally balanced mind. Reflexology helps on all these levels. It helps digestion, it clears my thyroid and adrenal sluggishness, releases tensions and helps flush toxins. I am so much in my head it is a wonder I can hear anything other than the conflicting voices yelling at each other across what little mass of brain I do have, but having regular reflexology helps shut them up and brings some p & q! I love how I can feel the energy and attentions draining away from my head and into my feet.
Whether you are going through treatment for an illness or simply feeling out of balance, keeping your body functioning well on the inside is imperative. Seeing my foot as a map of my body seemed pretty bizarre but strangely fascinating. Im no scientist but there is a lot to be said for ‘itchy feet’! Lisbeth also practices massage, mindfulness and reiki but her intuition and patience are what makes her treatments such a profound experience.
She believes that
‘Different treatments work for different people and they have to try what they think will help them…..It is important as a therapist to know where your boundaries are and to do what is best for them as individuals……I am always training and still learning.’
Reflexology is good for anyone, unwell or not. I just so happened to discover it because of an illness. I am so glad I did and am committed to having it regularly. It isn’t going to stop me getting cancer but it certainly helps keep me sane and feel proactive in assisting my body deal with stress. Having had more than one diagnosis there are areas that I know Lisbeth will give special attention and because I have known her so long, it makes the treatment much more effective. If it is something you are interested in, look up The Association of Reflexologists for more information.
Anything you do during this healing time is for you and should be tailored to your wellbeing, no one else’s. Lisbeth’s most important lesson to me was to Trust. To trust in my instinct and to trust in myself and my own ability to beat this and that, whatever happened, I would be ok. More importantly, I trusted her and I would trust her with my life, not just my feet. After all, clearly they do more than just keep me standing!