Once again I couldn't resist responding to a recent article in the NYTimes that got me so passionate and sparked off a series of thoughts and projections around how we look after ourselves. The piece centred around a new service offering free talk therapy. It also contains a short film in which Princes William and Harry, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge so intimately opened up in the film about mental wellbeing, speaking from direct experience https://goo.gl/TZkLd5. Look out for the 'Healthy Minds' programme led by Dr John Pimm, Clinical Lead for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Healthy Minds service in Buckinghamshire - so many people out there could benefit from it http://www.healthymindsbucks.nhs.uk/.
I see evidence of the effectiveness of talk therapy with many of my clients. I will start by saying I am a massage therapist and not a qualified counsellor, however through my practice I am increasingly being asked by clients if I can listen to them before beginning the massage.
We start by sharing what's on their mind and later exploring mindfulness-based tools that may help them tune in and better cope with identified struggles. Then we move onto massage.
This structure has been met with overwhelming positivity, with one client reflecting 'combining the two has been inspiring and healing' and another stating 'I can't explain how much better I feel to have been able to offload and relax at the same time, my head feels clearer'.
Through integrating a talk element into massage therapy and working this way I have noticed that many people just need space to find the words to express challenging feelings and a pair of ears to listen, before physically relaxing. If they can have both, they feel one step closer to being able to cope, within themselves and their environment.
I really and truly believe that learning to spot feelings - physical, mental and emotional - and listening to them without judgement are the vital first steps to feeling less affected by them and more empowered to overcome those challenges..and dare I say even enjoy life.
But self-awareness and self-care both have an equally fundamental importance. Without them the chance of early intervention is greatly reduced, in other words ongoing emotional or mental struggles can escalate into more serious health problems if left untended. (Joining Up Self-Care in the NHS Report, 2006).
We are not always in a position to catch the signs and address them when they begin. Real life is not about looking, feeling, thinking or expecting perfection. As William, Kate and Harry say, it's about starting the conversation which alone, is like medicine.