How are keeping? Well, I hope. I don't know if I mentioned it but I am due to start as a voluntary massage therapist for a charity called the Full Circle Fund at St George's Hospital. I will be working in oncology and haematology.
In the first training session we discussed the concept of grounding. A long time ago as a massage trainee I was taught to ground myself before and after treating clients to protect my own energy and to come back to myself after treatments. This is to avoid burnout and the idea is that it puts the therapist in the best possible place to treat someone, leaving their own issues at the door, and, since therapists are often highly empathic, compassionate people, the grounding process avoids them absorbing a client's emotional or physical pain.
I will confess to you that I have rarely felt the need to do this and that the action of massaging you is often reciprocally relaxing for me. However, in a hospital setting I do realise the need to protect my energy. And I'm not going to lie to you - the training session on cancer and all the many acronyms, treatments, side effects (plus the dreaded role plays) was intense and I needed to quickly ground before re-joining my chaotic family unit. What did I do? I stopped off for a single glass of red on the way home. Epic fail! Therapists are not saints!
In the meantime I have been researching less alcoholic grounding techniques and I thought you might find it useful too, either in daily life or to use next time you have a massage with me.
Firstly I have learnt that living in your head and your heart is not being grounded. Signs of this are that you are over ruminating, stressed out, tired, irritable, tearful or angry. You may recognise some of the bodily sensations associated with being in your head or heart - headaches, dizziness, tight chested feeling. Your place of grounding is apparently lower in your body, somewhere in your tummy just under your belly button. That is where you are centred and when you are centred you can go about life and its dramas in a calmer state while conserving your energy.
Here's my non-definitive, uncomplicated, easily-achievable list of grounding techniques:
Longer exhale, shorter inhale. Apparently breathing out for longer than your in-breath has a direct effect on your vagus nerve, increasing oxytocin release and switching on the parasympathetic nervous system instead of your fight/flight response. Apparently it takes practise but you could start out with breathing in for 2 and out for 4 before moving onto 3 and 6. You could try this during your next massage?
Be like a tree. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and really feel the ground, reach and sweep your hands and arms up above your head on an inhale and draw them back down to your sides on an exhale. Imagine your arms and hands are the branches of a tree and your feet are growing roots into the earth. Do this as many times as feels good for you.
Listen. When the world is crazy, close your eyes, breathe and single out a sound far away in the distance and pay attention to it. Slowly draw yourself back into your closer environment and listen to a single sound close at hand. I was taught this by a meditation instructor and the energy flow I felt afterwards was wonderful. In the massage room this could be a distant plane, the birds in the garden or even the sound of distant emergency vehicles or closer building works. Unfortunately it might also be the nearby whisper of my son heading to bed - "shhhh, Mummy's got a client."
Feel. At any appropriate opportunity slip off your shoes and socks and really feel the sensations beneath your feet. Yes, a sandy beach would be ideal but doing this under your desk could also shift your attention away from your busy mind.
"Not my circus, not my monkeys." A friend and neighbour once taught me this expression. As an empath, I first thought this sounded a little cold but I have come to realise in life that sometimes you have to consciously be aware of what is another's drama and what is yours. In this way we protect our energy and avoid being drawn in. As a therapist it simply means being aware that you can support but not cure.
Walk. Step away from the day and its dramas. Take a walk without gadgetry and use it to breathe and pay attention to your environs. Mine is sky watching and bird spotting.
Crisis management. In a state of high anxiety it can be helpful to ground yourself by bringing yourself back to yourself. For example; my name is Claire, I am 44, it is January 2019, I am in my house, in the dining room, sitting on a chair, typing a newsletter, the sun is shining, I am going to finish this and make some lunch.
Reflective practise. I mentioned in a previous newsletter that I jot a few notes about my day every night before bed. Reflecting on your day can provide closure on it. For me it helps that I write what I feel proud of, what made me feel emotions etc.
Energetic grounding. Stamping feet, running on the spot, jumping, clapping can really help draw your energy away from your busy mind and draw you back to the here and now. This may work for you, it's not one that works for me. Perhaps I'm doing wrong.
Lastly my favourite Winter one is to wrap up warm, go out to a balcony, garden, park or window, close my eyes and absorb the warmth of the winter sunshine on my eyelids. It's like a natural, wintery comfort blanket.
So, here I go wittering on again. What has this newsletter got to do with massage? Didn't I promise one on stretching techniques? Will anyone read it? Am I sending them to often? When am I going to be brave enough to video myself stretching? Wait. Breathe 2, 3; out 2, 3, 4. My name is Claire, it is Thursday, I am at the kitchen table, the pansies are wobbling in the breeze, I am editing a newsletter, a newsletter about well-being, massage is about well-being and well-being is connected to feeling grounded, I am in the business of helping people feel more grounded.
There you have it. I hope some of these techniques help you get more out of your massage treatments but also that the sense of well-being continues into your everyday life. And finally, on a research level, I am supposed to compile a list of ideas before my next training session and would love to hear about any techniques you use yourself which I can add to the list.
Wishing you well and hopefully see you soon,