Tuesday 26 November 2013

'Tis the Season to be Merry (Nearly)

With the Festive Season almost upon us, this is traditionally the time when we eat, drink and be merry – but some of us do it a little bit too much! 

So here's a shout out to all those people who feel that they have over-indulged on food, alcohol, smoking or recreational drugs, and are in need of a detox.

A one-off treatment may be all that is needed to cleanse the system sufficiently to get you back on your party fee again!

And to all those to whom this doesn't apply (yet) - keep this one tucked behind your ear for Ron.


Thursday 21 November 2013

Have We Lost that Loving Touch?

Touch is arguably the most important of our five senses. An impairment or lack of hearing, sight, smell and taste may be inconvenient in the short term and debilitating to varying degrees in the long term, but generally it is possible to compensate for these losses and adapt behaviour accordingly.

However, the same cannot be said about the sense of touch. For many species in the animal kingdom, and for humans in particular, touch is essential in promoting and maintaining good health and emotional well-being. Scientific studies have shown that touch deprivation contributes to illness at many levels, including failure to thrive, increased stress levels, increased aggression, sleep difficulties, suppressed immune responses and a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease. (Suffering with any of these conditions? www.jobanthorpe.co.uk)

In many Eastern cultures, the sense of touch is embraced across the generations and is traditionally incorporated into daily routines eg Indian head massage, Thai body massage. Sadly, this is far from the norm in Western society. From the moment we are born, our tactile experiences become less and less frequent and are gradually withdrawn from our daily lives.

As babies, we have continual exposure to the comfort and nurture of our mother’s womb that surrounds us as we develop to full term. As infants, we are nursed as we are fed, but even at this early stage new Mums often feel guilty and are even discouraged from picking up their babies too often for fear of ‘spoiling’ them. Many toddlers and young children still enjoy cuddles and a story at bedtime (assuming these are offered), and will snuggle down to sleep with their favourite soft toy. But all too soon, stories and hugs are replaced by technology – many school-aged kids have a TV or computer in their bedroom and it is a DVD that helps them drift off to sleep, and all too soon snuggly toys are considered to be distinctly un-cool. So by the age of 10, many children have few genuinely loving and nurturing tactile experiences in the course of their daily lives.

By adolescence, touch takes on a whole new meaning and may come with sexual connotations and implications, whilst touch in adulthood can be associated with feelings of expectation that may or may not be appropriate, wanted or welcome, along with feelings of guilt which are associated with rejection or impropriety. Perhaps the most isolated and touch-deprived of today’s generations are the elderly. They may have seen children grown up and flown the nest, lost a long-term partner or be confined to a hospital bed or nursing home where the staff are far too busy for any ‘hands on’ caring. By this time, physical contact may be limited to the administration of medical procedures and a brief hug or peck on the cheek from the occasional visitor.

The irony of this is that even our Health Service recognises the importance of touch in the management of long-term illness and certain medical conditions - premature babies are often laid on fleeces to stimulate their sensory receptors and encourage them to thrive; ‘Pat Dogs’ are encouraged onto some wards, particularly in Geriatrics.

Touch is critical for learning, communication, comfort, reassurance and self-esteem. It is a fact of today’s life that fear of sexual abuse is so widespread that any form of touch is frowned upon and forbidden in some cases, particularly in the instance of adults working with youngsters. Children who experience little in the way of loving, nurturing and comforting touch in their developmental years learn to become self-reliant at a very early age, which in turn increases the tendency to become disconnected, numb and isolated.

As humans, it is our natural instinct to reach out and want to touch and be touched – both actions are necessary in order to maintain a healthy balance in our mind and body. However, in the touch-deprived person there exist simultaneously feelings of starvation and fear. There is a deep need and even desperation for physical and emotional contact, but this may be counteracted by the feeling of terror associated with the thought of the harm that may come if they allow themselves to relate to another person in any way. Our means of survival under these circumstances are to mask our needs, put up barriers, to convince ourselves that our needs don’t even exist and to keep people at arm’s length – just as we feel they are doing to us. In so doing, we become completely unreceptive to any lifeline that might be out there, and become incapable of reaching out.

The widespread use of drugs and alcohol also contributes significantly to the lack of receptivity to touch. Stimulants can make us feel cold and jumpy to the sense of touch; tranquilizers and alcohol can dull our senses and depress the system.

Getting back in touch with ourselves, our needs and our bodies is essential - and it is simple to do, but it does require a conscious effort and a strong degree of intention. The physical and emotional benefits to our health and well-being will become noticeable very quickly and will have far reaching, long term effects.

Simplest of all is to re-sensitise ourselves by touching our own body in a non-sexual, nurturing way. This enables us to re-learn how we like to be touched, either lightly, deeply, firmly, vigourously, moving or still.

Touch your partner – again in a non-sexual, nurturing manner. Talk about your experiences, your likes and dislikes, agree your boundaries, ask permission to gain trust and respect. The experience should be one of giving and receiving rather than giving and taking, and should always be without expectation.

Touch a friend – shaking hands, a hand of the shoulder and a big hug show support, speak volumes and can replace a thousand words.

Touch a four-legged friend – this promotes a two-way flow of unconditional love and affection, although dogs would really rather have your food – but at least they’re honest about it!

Allow yourself to be touched, both emotionally and physically. Watch a film or read a book that includes scenes of affection and love, and notice the feelings that resonate within you. Book yourself a professional massage and promise yourself to make more time for ‘Me Time’, because if you don't look after Number One, then who will?

Tuesday 12 November 2013

All I want for Christmas is ....A BABY

Traditionally a time for families, the magic of Christmas is just delightful when shared with little ones. It can also be an extremely stressful time however, particularly for women who are having difficulty with conceiving.
By far the most frequent enquiry I have in my Practice is from women who have been trying to get pregnant. Predominantly (but not exclusively)these are women in their mid to late thirties who have not as yet managed to conceive naturally,  may have suffered one or multiple miscarriages or are at varying stages of IVF. Most have gone through exhaustive tests with their partners, only to be told that there is no apparent explanation other than ‘it’s just not happening’. Distressing enough to find out that there is in fact a problem with either partner, but to be given no reason at all is perhaps the worst news that a couple trying for a baby could ever wish to hear. This is when disappointment, stress, anxiety and guilt are at their peak – and none of these emotions are conducive to conception.
So why is there such a high incidence of fertility issues? Undoubtedly stress is a hugely significant factor, as is lifestyle and diet. We work harder, longer and under greater pressure than ever before, we’re exhausted when we get home and make do with ‘quick fix’ processed meals. And then we go out and play even harder! It’s no wonder our bodies are feeling the strain.
Another factor is age.  A woman is at her most fertile at around 24 years of age, whereas a man can father children in his 70’s or older.  But nowadays it seems that couples are leaving it later and later before thinking about starting a family – and not surprisingly so. More than ever has it been necessary for both partners to be in full-time employment as house prices, student debt and general cost of living demand that this is so. Few 24-year old women these days would be anywhere near ready financially or indeed emotionally to give up work, settle down and raise a family. By the time they do feel ready, stress is often already an ingrained factor of their lives, exacerbated by the knowledge that their biological clock is ticking away fast.

Five Element Acupuncture offers a relaxing, drug –free approach to coping with fertility issues and may be safely undertaken in conjunction with conventional Western Medicine protocols. It aims to help the patient to find a better emotional and physical balance, so that the body is better prepared for conception. It also offers invaluable emotional support at a time when hormone levels may be very volatile eg before, during and after IVF, after miscarriage and failed attempts at conception.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Stoptober didn't work for you? Read on ...

‘No-one likes a quitter’ - we've all heard that saying.  Valid point at times, but in certain instances it’s good to be a quitter.

I’m talking about smoking. During last month's Stoptober campaign, many smokers will have taken the initiative to attempt to stop smoking. But now that we're into November, there will be several who may have lost momentum and who are now struggling.

Smoking is used by many initially as a coping mechanism for stress. Before long, the coping mechanism develops from being a hard habit to break into an addiction - and in turn may become an additional source of stress as well as being detrimental to our physical well-being. Prolonged stress leaves the body out of balance, and quitting will always fail if the source of stress is not resolved and the body remains in a state of imbalance. 

Five Element Acupuncture offers a safe, drug-free and relaxing way to de-stress and regain a better balance physically and emotionally, giving you a better chance of kicking the habit once and for all.

Lee’s Story – Part 7/7: Life’s Lessons

Experiences such as these touch us at the deepest level.  They leave us much changed, and by this change we are opened up to greater understanding of the needs of others. We must learn to put aside our own emotional needs at a time when those around us cannot easily meet those demands. We can allow ourselves to draw upon our own experiences of loss in order to empathise with others, despite the risk of re-opening our own wounds, in the knowledge that we are all the more strong for having been there ourselves. Above all, we must learn to trust our instincts – and to make time to listen without judging.

And a final note to close...

I do not consider myself to be a healer. I have no special powers and would never dream to assume that any of what happened here was down to any specific skill of mine. These were Lee’s choices every step of the way – he chose to fight for those extra five months, and he chose to stop fighting when he knew his work was done and he could do no more.

I have however been fortunate enough to have been drawn to a very ancient, simple yet powerful method of treatment which helped me immensely in my hour of need. It would indeed be selfish of me if I did not pass this knowledge on to others, in the hope that they will glean from it whatever it is they need to make the necessary transformations in their own lives, just as I have been able to do in mine.

I will be eternally grateful to my Tutor and Mentor, Nora Franglen, and for her mantra of 'the simpler, the better', for without her guidance and influence I feel I would not have been able to do my best by Lee.

Monday 4 November 2013

Lee's Story - Part 6/7: Tribute

The five months after Lee’s initial diagnosis until his death were a real roller coaster for him, both physically and emotionally. But I believe those five short months gave him time to put his emotional house in order enough to allow him to leave this world a better place than it was when he arrived. And what more can anyone ask for?

When things took a dramatic turn for the worse I felt so relieved in the knowledge that Lee’s suffering and strife would not be prolonged any further and that he would finally be truly at peace.

I feel very privileged to have been invited into this person's life. His very obvious Guardian Element was very refreshing to me, though not without its challenges to his nearest and dearest.  His thirst for information about his treatments and acupuncture as a whole was a delight - he was extremely open to the whole Chinese medicine ethos and it could be said that he was rather unorthodox in his beliefs and actions, and extremely proud of the fact he was too!

His openness, honesty and need for straight talking could have easily come across as slightly abrasive, but for me it made the whole subject of cancer and death very accessible. At a time when some would feel the need to avoid or skirt around what is a very difficult subject, I felt able to talk candidly to him without fear of overstepping the mark or holding back, in order to say what needed to be said.

My Tutor has often said that we as practitioners can learn so much from our patients. My relationship with Lee has been a very emotional, memorable and powerful lesson - but most of all, a very humbling experience indeed.