Time. It truly is a precious commodity.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I prioritise my time and the activities I dedicate it to. Professionally, I’ve devoted a lot of my working week to my clients this year —all wonderful, talented, truly inspiring brands that I’m excited to be working with— which has meant far less time to spend on my own, personal passion, projects.
I’m not complaining though. In the past, when I’ve been working full time I’ve spent a huge chunk of my ‘downtime’ on my blog and other sideline pursuits, but this year I’ve been far more introspective and instead dedicated my downtime to just that: slowing down.
Whereas once I used to come home late in the evening and sit back down at my laptop for several hours crafting blog content, this year I’ve been more inclined to sit down on my sofa with a good book or a Netflix series on the telly, and allow my mind to unwind. Maybe it’s because I’m not in my mid-twenties anymore, or maybe it’s because I no longer live in a city that thrives on a ‘rat race’ mentality, but I’ve started to cherish my free time in a way I never did before, because I’m truly allowing it to be ‘free’. Free from structure and deadlines and the pressure to be productive every single minute of the day.
Of course, this means that something has had to give. And for a while now, that has been this little corner of cyberspace. I don’t regret it, but at the same time, I’m not overly crazy about having neglected this passion project of mine, because that’s truly what it is: a passion. Over the past few months I’ve come to miss not checking in here as regularly as I used to, and with that realisation I’ve been questioning why it was I hit pause in the first place. With a little time away I’ve been able to assess what matters to me in this little space and what I want to be sharing and why.
So, a new type of ‘normal service’ shall now be resuming and I hope you’ll all still be here to follow along and share in my journey. Because —would you believe it— this little blog will be 10 years old next year, and I’ll be damned if I’m throwing in the towel before that milestone is met!
So, to kickstart a new schedule of content here on Fabric of my Life, I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve been doing in my absence from this space, and hopefully encourage you to think about your own priorities when it comes to your free time (and to those of you spending it reading my blog, thank you so much!)
It’s one of the biggest buzzwords of the past few years and one I wrote about recently when I shared my thoughts on current wellness trends and how to find your own balance. I mentioned that I’d been spending some more time this year with my nose stuck in a good book, and I’ve also been overhauling my exercise and beauty regimes a little lately.
But today’s post focuses on a couple of physical wellbeing activities I’ve been treating myself to lately..
A few months ago, at Manchester’s first wellness festival, Float, I met two fabulous wellbeing practitioners, Polly Fowler, a masseuse and yoga instructor, and Hannah Tappenden, a clinical reflexologist. Both have been hugely influential in my life since then, and I’m excited to share some of their insights into the world of massage and reflexology with you all today!
As someone who often works remotely – or hunched over my desk typing on a tiny laptop when I’m at home – I carry a huge amount of tension in my shoulders and upper back. After being suitably impressed by the effect a quick 15 minute ‘taster’ massage with Polly had on my shoulders during Float Festival, I was quick on the uptake to book in a couple of full body massage sessions, and my oh my, did she work wonders – not just on my body but also on my mindset when it comes to massage.
We all inherently know that massage is good for us, but it can be difficult to fully understand why, and truly appreciate the long term effects that devoting a good chunk of time —and money!— to regular massage sessions can have on our overall wellbeing and everyday lives.
When I fired over a few quick questions to Polly whilst researching this blog post she came back with some hugely informative, and wonderfully persuasive answers, which I felt simply had to be shared in full:
What does massage do for the body?
Simply, it helps you to relax (as long as you communicate with your therapist that the pressure suits you!). Massage can help relax the body by reducing your heart rate, breath rate, blood pressure, stress hormone production (adrenaline and cortisol), muscle tension and soreness caused by a build up of lactic acid. It can release caught nerves, superficial and deep connective tissue, and effects the body by increasing circulation of blood and lymph to boost your immune system. Massage can help speed up recovery after exercise or part of recovery, which is brilliant if you’re training towards a physical goal. It can also help reduce chronic pain, headaches, migraines and improve your sleep with the help of endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller and feel good hormone. Massage provides your hard working body a chance to repair what needs repairing; like Savasana (corpse pose) in yoga, the body needs time to notice what has been happening to it within the physical and emotional environment.
How can massages benefit overall health?
Booking a regular treatment is an act of self care, giving you permission for a pocket of time to remove yourself from your go-go-go life or any difficult situation you may be going through. And perhaps massage can be used as a mindful practice, a chance to gain a different perspective on situations or narratives and repeating mental patterns that take over the mind. Using any bodywork treatment to relax the body so the mind can calm will allow you to take a seat in awareness noticing that you are not your thoughts; you have thoughts that come and go. offering clients this mindful approach can be very successful for those who suffer from anxiety. In my opinion, massage is stupendous for overall “wellness”. Although it feels like a buzz word, self care isn’t a luxury; if you want to give care to others, then why treat yourself any differently? I feel we’ve forgotten the benefits of touch and sometimes we just need a good squeeze!
How often should you have a massage?
I would firstly advise —and I know this can easier said than done, as massage can be a (worthy) chunk of your disposable income— to find a therapist you resonate with. Massage is personal and I find it an honour for a client to allow me lay my hands and heal as I know/feel how. If you want to introduce massage as part of your self care routine you don’t want to feel uncomfortable from the get go! Trust your intuition on who you click with.
Speaking for myself and other therapists, we are not offended if the connection isn’t there! Although beneficial in it’s own right, massage is not a quick fix one session wonder. It can still have numerous benefits, but the results won’t last too long, but the proof I have experienced is a positive change overtime in muscle tissues and overall wellbeing. The body is under stress all the time, that’s what life is! So regular massage acts as a body M.O.T. and a chance for you to check in. Obviously, depending on what is available for you in terms of time and investment, I would recommend for overall health and wellbeing, that a massage once a month is brilliant.
How should you recover from a massage?
“Recover” seems like you’ve been put through the mill!! But recovery starts from booking the treatment, dedicating the time to heal. You may feel like you’ve been hit by a truck depending on what physical and emotional niggles are found. Or you may feel like you’re floating on a cloud. Be aware you can feel anything and everything, and any emotions that come to the surface may catch you off guard as there is no where else to store emotions (energy in motion). after your treatment physical space will have been made, giving room for energy to flow through blockages and need to be released. Don’t be surprised if you cry, get uncharacteristically frustrated at the drop of hat or old scenarios come to mind. You may find you want to be on your own after your treatment to let things settle. This is all part of the healing process. Whatever you feel, be kind and meet whatever comes up with grace.
Physically you may feel sore in certain areas or all over the body, experience headaches, lethargy, runny nose, coughing, a slight fever, unquenchable thirst, rumbly tummy or increased visits to the loo. This is the body’s way of talking to you that it needs to filter out any nasties that have been laying dormant in your body and that no longer serve you.
Just like massage, reflexology is a deeply calming, hands-on therapy. At first glance, it may just appear like a dedicated massage session focused solely (pun-intended) on your feet, but the truth is reflexology goes a lot deeper than that. Just one taster session with Hannah was enough to convince me that reflexology is something I could benefit from investigating further and booking additional sessions, to target specific problem areas and tackle health issues in a holistic and natural way.
Reflexology follows the principle that the body is mapped on the feet, hands and ears. The application of pressure on these specific points can help activate the body’s own healing mechanisms in the required area, enabling healing to occur naturally. Through working specific reflex points on the hands, feet or ears, reflexology can help you find balance and restore calm, allowing you to quiet your mind and tune in to your body in ways you might never have imagined. Hannah’s sessions always begin with an in-depth discussion about your overall wellbeing and hopes for what reflexology might be able to target. For me, I’m always searching for ways to tackle my problematic skin and hormonal acne, so Hannah suggested we focus a chunk of the session on the pressure point in my left foot that would target my liver, which is often a underlying factor in ongoing acne issues.
The liver cleanses your blood you see, by eliminating harmful substances in your body like alcohol and other toxins. It also regulates the release of nutrients like sugars and fats to supply your body with a steady amount of energy, and regulates your hormone and body cholesterol. by focusing on the corresponding reflexology point on the foot (beneath the ball under your pinky and third toe), the massaging pressure helps to stimulate this internal organ to increase and improve its functionality. I’ll be entirely honest here and say that whilst I want to embrace this way of thinking, I’m inherently a little sceptical when it comes to alternative medical practices. When I confessed this, Hannah advised that I should be as open and positive about the potential success rates as I could during my treatment, and afterwards I can honestly say I saw a marked improvement in my skin, which lasted right through my usual monthly breakout cycle and several weeks more.
While not cheap, I am definitely planning to invest in a few more treatment sessions, in the hope of seeing a long lasting effect on my skin. Hannah tells me that sessions generally have a cumulative effect, and that most of her clients benefit from having weekly sessions over a short period of time. If the sessions aren’t having an effect on your targeted condition after two or three weeks, then the practise is unlikely to be effective long-term.
Have you ever tried reflexology, or do you have a regular massage routine?
Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear how these techniques have worked for you!