Written by Jennie from Natural Wellness Massage Therapy

Self care, mindfulness and meditation, the words that can no longer be avoided if we want to evolve into happier, stronger and healthier individuals. As a therapist I embrace the need to look after myself, I couldn’t do my job if I didn’t care for my physical and mental health, but as a society we have continued for too long, trying to cope with the demands of our hectic world. Finally a large number of us are realising that taking time to re-connect with ourselves may actually help us to function better.

As a child of the 70s I grew up relatively unaware of how to look after myself on an emotional level, I don’t think I was alone in this. It wasn’t something that we questioned and generally, people around me did not spend lengths of time discussing how things made them feel. Life was about getting on with things, regardless if they were good or bad. If I was sad or upset, I was always held and loved, but common phrases spoken amongst friends and family were, ‘keep your chin up’ or ‘go out and have some fun, you’ll feel better!’ These comments were a natural response to my pain, because the adults in my life wanted to help. In the short term it was a quick fix but when someone actually says to you ‘and how did that make you feel’ it allows you to identify and process your feelings. It completely changes the outcome of the situation. I can only speak from personal experience; that small things then become big things and that mountain grows as we grow up.

When I reached my 20s I had, what is best described, as an emotional explosion. Repressed feelings, misunderstandings, lack of direction all came to shake me up and make me feel vulnerable. Unfortunately, I had very little way in the way of coping mechanisms to help me understand and resolve things. At the time I was living with a lady, who I considered a very wise and spiritual being. She talked to me about Homoeopathic remedies and that’s when I began to research and discover the amazing world of complimentary therapies. There was a host of wonderful healing available to me if I was prepared to put in the work. I began to seek help from alternative practitioners, deciding who worked best with me and for me. I can happily say this is when my journey of self-development began but it didn’t come without pain or healing crisis.

This situation wasn’t uncommon amongst friends, we were all seeking help for the first time in our lives from Psychotherapists, Homeopath’s, Massage Therapists or Reflexologists to name a few! Even though ‘finding yourself’ is all part of being a young adult, what strikes me most now, as I reflect, is how different my 20s and the years before may have been if I’d had these means of help available to me as I was growing up.

This is where I am seeing a shift in my holistic massage therapy practice, I obviously can’t speak for all young people but 20% of my regular clients are young students. I chatted with them to gain a better understanding of what brought them to me and my practice. All of them have a strong knowledge of the mind body connection, capable of recognising that our mental health and physical health are intertwined. They understand that looking after their health on an emotional and physical level is hugely beneficial to them. All of them have either tried meditation or do meditation regularly and most monitor their alcohol consumption or don’t drink at all. Personally, this was unheard of when I was 18/19. I had a couple of friends whose parents practised meditation but they were in the minority. I certainly wouldn’t have thought to try it myself as a solution to deal with the high levels of anxiety I was experiencing throughout my A Levels.

Some of my student clients are from families where complimentary therapies were used as they were growing up, so they continued to pursue them for the benefits already known to them. Other student clients had never accessed complementary therapies as a child and had been encouraged by the Universities they are attending to try massage or reflexology for stress relief. However, both groups are aware how important it is to talk about how they feel, it isn’t seen as something unusual and more importantly they have the skills to express themselves. When they have their treatments with me, and we chat in their consultation, it fascinates me how much more engaged they are with their own emotions than I ever was at their age. I can remember being so stressed throughout my A Levels. I would just cry and cry and I honestly had absolutely no idea why! My GP asked me what I was so upset about and I just didn’t have any answers. The younger clients I treat have a strong sense of self and there is a definite awareness of the importance of taking time to nurture their well-being.

It is truly inspiring to see yoga, meditation and story massage popping up in schools. I know there is still a huge way to go but when educational establishments start introducing meditation instead of detention you know that things have got to progress in the right direction. Children’s emotional intelligence is being giving a high regard alongside their academic ability. It is wonderful to think how so many more young people will have stronger levels of emotional resilience that they will carry with them as they grow. My son is three and he already embraces clambering up onto my massage table and waiting for his treatment to begin. Of course he is in a lucky position, I’m a therapist and it’s available to him but I will encourage him to practise deep breathing when he is stressed or sad and I will ask him how certain situations have made him feel. And once he is old enough I would love for him to practice yoga and mindfulness. I hope with the increase in knowledge that we now have, he will be able to develop with self-awareness on his journey.

My personal hope is that young people won’t be afraid to ask for help and more importantly they will know how to access and utilise the help that’s on offer. Even though the next generation will no doubt be living in more turbulent times, possibly more isolated and lonely times, they will hopefully have the right tools to help them and others living around them. Talking about how a situation has made you feel, whether it was happy, sad or angry is an incredibly important part of connecting your mind to your heart. It allows you to deal with a situation or event and move on to the next step of your journey. I’m excited to see where massage therapy takes me and how far complementary therapies will be incorporated into all of our daily lives. I feel this is just the beginning of something very wonderful. Author: Jennie Stephens Natural Wellness Massage Therapy (This article is written from a completely personal point of view, merely an opinion of my own experience and others I work with.)

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