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By West Norwood Therapies Team, Jan 16 2019 09:00AM

WNT founder Jennie Duck considers our new year habit of making resolutions and shares how she is resolving to resolve by employing the philiosophy 'just start again'

Happy new year!

It’s that time of year again where we all make resolutions to make ourselves better in some way. For a long time I resisted making resolutions at New year, feeling like it was a setting up for failure – we are coming off the back of Christmas indulgence: indulgence in food, drink, spending, resting, family or friends. If it is a generally happy time for us then we splurge. If it is a sad time for us then we can feel overwhelmed. Then the new year comes, with its sprinkling of optimism and ideas that we can change and do better this time…then the glitter fades and by the end of January we are in the midst of a cold, dark, dreary winter with no Christmas on the horizon to distract us. The wheels come off and we feel worse than we did before.

But I feel differently this year. 2018 was a tough year for me, but it was also the year that I stepped into yoga in a more committed way than before. I discovered Yin yoga and the calm and self-awareness that I could find within it, which was a revolution to my tendency towards head-led determination and pushing myself. Yoga gave me space when I needed it most and has helped me – is helping me – navigate some difficult emotions and challenges.

Over the past year I have explored all sorts of yoga, lots of lovely Yin and also more dynamic and creative session and two things really stand out for me as big general life lessons:

One, how to listen to my body and respond rather than impose onto it what I think it should want or need. As a massage therapist who has spent years working with bodies under the assumption that their minds and bodies are one and the same, you’d think I would do this already! But as per the second point, we are also conditioned to strive and aim to make ourselves better rather than accepting who and what we are at any given point.

This second lesson is the subject of this blog – Just start again. I’ve actually had a painted sign with this up at home for a few years now, but only this year has it really started to feel like something I can really let happen. It’s a core principle in meditation and I see my yoga practice as meditation. Such a simple principle – when your mind wanders, just start again.

What we often do in life when we lose focus or drive is not that but beat ourselves up, get frustrated, implement harder rules or drivers, tell ourselves we are ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘not good enough’. Then our resolve becomes a carrot that needs a stick to beat us towards it, rather than an internal drive to be better.

To ‘just start again’ we actually need some self-compassion and understanding. We need to appreciate that we are trying, we are ok, we are inherently good, right and good enough. That can be a BIG challenge.

Here are a few examples from my own experience over the past few weeks:

- Oversleep and wake too late to go for a run.

o Chose not to berate myself for ‘obviously being inherently lazy’ and rather acknowledge my body must have needed sleep, I’d had a stressful day the day before and I could just go for a run tomorrow – just start again

- Decide to cut way back on refined sugar after Christmas had ramped it from an occasional part of my diet to a (more than once) daily habit…Find some chocolate money in the door of the fridge and chomp through it with guilt-tinged delight

o Bit of regret here, but rather than hang on to that and assume that I had failed and was beholden to sugar forever now, I focused on the fact that it tasted nice but I know I feel better without it and I can start being free of it again now (especially as the chocolate is now finished ;-)) – just start again

- Withdraw from my partner rather than sharing with him when I felt exposed and fearful

o Yin yoga saved me here, where I was able to tap into what those feelings really were rather than just reacting to the ‘bad feeling’, then I could step back towards him to explain – just start again

So here’s to resolutions – small, frequent, kind and considered resolutions to keep trying to become better people.

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Dec 12 2018 10:00AM

WNT founder Jennie Duck shares five things she's learned this year about grief.

Over the past 18 months I have experienced my first major bereavements and been thrown into the world of grief, it’s quite an experience! And, I believe, no two experiences will be quite the same. Relationships differ, ways of death and any ‘preparation’ for it differ, where you are in your own life when you experience it differs.

My story is this: my dad died very suddenly 16 months ago – an ostensibly fit, healthy 64 year old he died out running with his (now our) dog, Jack. My mum had just been diagnosed with breast cancer two months earlier and she declined rapidly to die in February this year. I was in the midst of other big life changes as this was happening – becoming a parent and moving from a London flat to a smallholding down a rural Scottish track, ironically to be closer to my parents and other family, with big changes in our work lives too.

So these are just a few things I have learned through my own particular journey so far. I think it will be a lifelong journey…

1. Grief is isolating – I am not an isolated person: I have family, friends and support around me. I also have people around me grieving the same people too. But I wouldn't say it's something you can really share. It is so personal and something I almost feel protective around. Relationships are unique and your experience of letting go of that person must therefore be unique. This can be extremely painful and make you feel very lonely. Feeling sad can make you want to withdraw, especially when you feel like people just want you to be ok again and you’re just not. It can also be hard for people close to you to understand, it can be hard to support someone with a bubble round them, but I think that bubble is necessary protection for our grief for a bit at least, which means it simply is isolating.

2. Grief is visceral – I heard a psychotherapist say “grief feels like fear” and I totally agree with that. It comes with heightened anxiety and can take over your body, tense your jaw and churn your gut in particular. It is therefore really an embodied feeling, which can mean back pain, stiffness, upset stomach as well as anger and bubbling frustration. Another bereavement specialist told me “you can’t deal with anxiety cognitively” and this was so helpful a reminder that our bodies are our minds and vice versa. The routes out of anxiety for me are the same that are helpful for managing symptoms of grief - Yoga, massage, acupuncture, running, hugging (see Erika’s blog on oxytocin for reasons this helps so much), meditating, talking, sleeping, playing hide and seek with a toddler…

3. Grief is unavoidable – Grief comes with death so is unavoidable for that reason. But I also say this in that grief is something you actually do have to go through when you experience death. Early on a friend told me "No one escapes the full grief experience " and this has chimed with a lot of anecdotal evidence from, for example, interviewees on Griefcast who tried to avoid the experience and it comes back to haunt them later on. But it’s not something you go through then finish! It’s something that you have to create space for in your life, to examine and process and ultimately to learn to live with. Grief changes you and you have to adapt to absorb those changes.

4 Grief is not all bad – if you said this to me on some days I would feel like punching you! I sometimes feel like that is untrue, but in my more rational frame of mind I see it like any injury - if you attend to it, if you go into it and explore it you can learn a lot about yourself and life. If you just numb the pain then it will just hide there and give you greater trouble down the line. Grief is a sign that you have really loved and that is what makes life worthwhile, so if you can bear to let the process happen it can help ground you in your priorities and focus on what really matters.

5. Grief is Really F*&£$ing hard!! – Because it's isolating, because it’s visceral, because it’s unavoidable and even because it’s not all bad (really you’d rather have them back!) – all these things and the adapting to the change the loss brings make grief hard. It is a complex beast, it’s absorbing and intense at times. It is like childbirth and chronic pain, these are things that everyone acknowledges are tough and painful, but until you experience them yourself you won't really ‘get it’.

I wanted to share these experiences as I have found it helpful to hear other experiences, particularly through listening to Griefcast and also through Griefworks. While it is such an individual journey, there are so many common aspects, emotions, tensions and challenges. I have found solidarity, understanding and support through these channels and they’ve helped me make sense of some of the reactions I’ve had, which is invaluable on this confusing, anxious, sad and important journey.

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Nov 14 2018 09:00AM

WNT founder Jennie Duck and absentee massage therapist writes a blog about blogs and encourages you to have a browse of historic blogs to get a feel for individual practitioners' approaches

One of the things we do as a team at WNT is contribute towards a monthly blog. This is partly to offer some tips, insights and ideas to all of you lovely clients, but it is also to help give you a flavour of us as individual therapists.

Choosing a therapist to go and see can be a bit daunting – ideally you want someone you warm to and feel safe with. Of course you want a treatment that fits your needs and preferences, but arguably the connection you have with the practitioner is a strong determiner of this. I have had massages where my enjoyment of the company of the therapist has made the after effects of the treatment last way longer - I think this is because I have been more relaxed during the session, because I have felt able to laugh, moan or cry as needed in that environment, because I have felt understood and some sort of solidarity, and also because all of those things have meant my body was able to trust the therapists hands to do what they needed to do!

I know each of the practitioners well and what I love about the blogs is that they really reflect the personalities and treatment approaches of the practitioners. I have spent several hours of late putting links to historic blogs on the profile pages of each practitioner and it has taken all the longer to do that fiddly task as I have been re-connecting with my colleagues and friends through reading their words. Which has made a mundane task a nourishing experience!

If you have any uncertainties about who to see and / or you’re interested in finding out more how one or all of our practitioners works then I urge you to go and have a browse. There is a wealth of information in there and you can really get a feel for the individual approach and personality of our varied, lovely, thoughtful, wise and skilled team of practitioners.

Find our blogs on our profile pages- click on a practitioner to get to their profile page

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Apr 4 2018 09:00AM

West Norwood Therapies founder Jennie Duck shares a phrase that is in the forefront of her mind this springtime.

Lately this quote has been buzzing round my head. It seems to originate from Plato, though google has a few sources claiming it!

It feels important to me to keep this in mind at the moment. I know so many people who have been having a rough time of it, with all sorts of challenges to face and crosses to bear. And that’s just in my little orbit, there is a whole world with people living with pain, in poverty, in conflict zones and the list goes on.

All of our little interactions with people matter – in fact I’ve been listening to some interesting research lately that shows that the quality of our relationships and interactions can literally have an impact on our physicality and longevity, of course more so in our intimate relationships, but also those day to day snippets of conversation, eye contact, smiles and acknowledgements. (Elissa Epel and The Telomere Effect)

And how do we know what is going on in the world of each person we pass in the street, each shopkeeper we buy from, each car that pulls out in front of us and makes us want to honk and yell? Perhaps when someone is grumpy or careless they are simply rude or annoying, but perhaps they are sad and in pain, perhaps there is something they are struggling with that is making them distracted or out of sorts and they are not coping. Perhaps they don’t have a suitable outlet for their feelings and so it slips out in other ways.

Kindness can essentially show compassion, even if we have no idea what is going on for someone or have any real understanding of what their life is like. I think it also makes the giver feel better, a positive way of engaging with the world and often a smile will trigger a responding smile so we might spark off some joy.

My colleagues Audra and Philippa wrote their last blogs respectively on Spring detoxing and Spring into Life – both of the saying that Spring is more of a ‘new year’ to them than 1st January. So perhaps we can make a ‘new year’s resolution’ to step out with a little more kindness and see how it makes us feel.

Welcome to our blog where we share tips, advice and thoughts from our fantastic team of experienced practitioners

Historic blogs can be found on practitioner profile pages - they are a great way to get to know us!

NB some old social media links bring you to this page, so please use tags or profile pages to find older blogs