The Truth About Stress

This Thursday the BBC will launch a new programme 'The Truth About Stress'.  In this programme Fiona Phillips will explore some of the very latest scientific research behind stress and demonstrate a number of techniques designed to decrease common stress factors.  They will ask the question "is stress inherently bad for us?", and will explore the notion that stress in small doses can actually be quite good for us.  This has certainly piqued our interest.  We have taken the opportunity to also consider how stress affects us by looking at how our bodies respond to stress, where we can learn from this and turn it into an advantage.

Going into the Lions Den!

Our bodies are built to deal with stress and given the right terrain, are very capable vessels.  During a stressful situation adrenaline and noradrenaline are released to prepare us for fight or flight.  Blood sugar levels rise as stored glycogen is converted to glucose, the heart pumps faster to get more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, respiratory passageways dilate to increase the airflow and even blood clotting agents are mobilised in case we are wounded.  If a lion was to enter a room our bodies would respond by directing blood away from our gut making digesting that quinoa salad we had for lunch pretty low on the agenda!  Nowadays the lion is more likely to be an angry boss or delays on the commuter line but the physiology remains the same now as it did in the Stone Age.  This highly sophisticated stress response is actually protective, not harmful.

Stressors are a normal component of life and can be a positive influence on the body when appropriate mechanisms function well.  Stressors may stimulate growth and strengthen neural connections in the brain. They provides the body with a temporary immunity boost and heighten our sense of awareness driving us to success.   But it is when we no longer feel in control of a situation that stress has a negative impact on our health and wellbeing.

Spiralling out of control

Cortisol is a stress hormone which plays an important role in the immune system, maintaining blood pressure and improving mood. However, produced in excess, when stress becomes chronic, can lead to raised blood sugar and weakened immunity, leaving us vulnerable to colds, flu and their immune related disorders.  Chronic stress also leads to poor gut health as digestion remains perpetually low on the priority list when the body's stress response is constantly heightened and blood is being diverted elsewhere.  When a stressor is severe and the body is unable to adapt, the body's systems become more disruptive and a vicious cycle may occur when the original stressor remains and the effects of this stressor prevent the body from coping with new stressors.  This adds to the person's stress lessening their coping capabilities even further. In the same way ignoring the stress or eating unwisely are likely to add more problems without removing the original stress factor.  Introducing and maintaining personal coping mechanisms is therefore essential...

There is light at the end of the tunnel

Laugh out loud!

Laugh out loud!

  1. Laugh out loud!  A good belly laugh doesn't just lighten the load mentally, it lowers cortisol and boost our endorphins making us instantly feel alive.
  2. Tune in!  Lighten up mentally by tuning into your favourite TV programme, read something funny or make a call to a friend you can guarantee will make you smile.
  3. Decompress.  Place a warm wheat or cherry stone pillow around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes.  Close your eyes and relax your face.  Remove the pillow and use a tennis ball or foam roller to massage away any tension in these areas.
  4. Reaching out.  Your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress.  Talk to others, preferably face to face or at least on the phone.  Share what's going on.  You can get a fresh perspective while keeping your connection with your friends and relatives.  You may also consider reaching out and stepping into a talking therapy such as life coaching to help you explore the foundations of your self-limiting beliefs and move though the fears which are causing your stress in the first instance. 
  5. Relaxing treatments.  Book yourself in for a relaxing treatment.  Treatments such as massage, reflexology, facial therapy and reiki are all proven to reduce tension in your mind and body.  We recommend a minimum of one treatment every month will give you the opportunity to take time out of your busy and hectic schedule to strengthen and reconnect.
  6. Become inspired.  Blow the stress away by turning the stressful energy into mindful action.  Make a to-do list starting with one action that will move you away from your current negative thought process.  Maybe that action is to make more time for yourself or book a holiday you have been meaning to do for a while.

Sarah, Sam and Karenanne x

Raynaud’s Syndrome Follow Up

We would like to say a big thank you to all our lovely friends who responded to our recent article on Raynaud’s Syndrome. We were overwhelmed with the level of interaction and want to thank you sincerely for sharing your experiences on our Facebook page. Like many of you, we have been surprised by the prevalence of Raynaud’s and whilst there may not be a ‘cure’, we hope it brings some comfort to learn that others too, are experiencing associated difficulties and to know that you are not alone in living with this condition.

My aim was to consolidate some hints and tips in a bid to help alleviate some of the symptoms for those living with Raynaud’s. However, my findings proffered that, as individuals, we are all affected in different ways and that there is no one size fits all solution.

For example: for some, weight gain relieves symptoms; for most, weight fluctuation makes no difference whatsoever. For others, exercise exacerbates symptoms; for some, it is cited as an alleviant.

Similarly, thick gloves and socks seem to help some sufferers but for others, simply make the symptoms worse. Naomi Bunker says, “I used to think layers of thick gloves and socks would help but realised that only made my fingers and toes worse.”

Thin Gloves can be purchased from the charitable retailer, Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK:

“I now have a pair in the pocket of every coat and find they are quite effective. You can even use your phone with them on!”

It is clear from your comments, however, that you are united in citing the main antagonist of this very painful phenomenon as the cold. Chilly, damp conditions seem to trigger symptoms for all and whilst we might like to think that the warmer months of spring and summer offer some respite, patients can still be exposed, for example: in the chilled aisles of the supermarket.

There is some medical treatment associated with the treatment of Raynaud’s but there is little evidence that symptoms can be helped. T. Levien in her text, Advances in the treatment of Raynaud’s Phenomenon, states that “In patients with primary [Raynaud’s Phenomenon], nonpharmacologic lifestyle modifications remain the first-line therapy. Calcium channel blockers or topical nitrates may be considered for those without an adequate response to lifestyle modification.”

We know that regular massage is effective in boosting the body’s circulation and alleviating stress. For those suffering from Raynaud’s Syndrome and other circulatory conditions, we have created a hand and foot massage that uses a blend of black pepper and ginger to gently nourish and provide relief to your hardworking extremities.

By Sarah Tomlin 


National Mother Earth Day

Today, 22nd April, is National Mother Earth Day. In 1970, Earth Day was created when a US senator, having witnessed a massive oil spill in California, sought to highlight the devastation of air and water pollution and drove environmental policy onto the US political agenda. This put the subject of the environment on the Western map and later led to the creation of Mother Earth Day, established in 2009 and celebrated here in the UK. Today, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become all the more real.

We all have a responsibility to protect our beautiful planet. Many of us have taken some important steps already such as recycling as much as we can, switching to energy efficient lightbulbs and never leaving the house without our Bag for Life! There are even more steps we can take such as creating a compost heap in our back gardens, turning TVs and computers off at night and cleaning the back of our fridge – dusty coils can increase our energy consumption by 30% would you believe!

 It is also best to choose organic wherever possible. Organic farming avoids the use of artificial nitrogen-rich fertilisers, potent sources of greenhouse gas emissions and supports biodiversity. Not to mention the huge personal benefits we gain from eating organic produce, rich in nutrients and antioxidants and free from nasties such as growth hormones and antibiotics which we unwittingly ingest via meat and poultry.


Choosing organic doesn’t stop at food, however. In many of our treatments at Haelan Therapy, we use Neal’s Yard Remedies organic products. These products use sustainably and ethically harvested wild ingredients and are packaged in fully recyclable dark blue glass which blocks damaging UV light allowing the products to contain minimal preservatives. The plastic bottles are produced from post-consumer recycled plastic and the paper and card are from sustainable managed sources and printed with vegetable based inks.

 As well as their positive impact on the environment, the organic ingredients contain higher levels of essential fatty acids, vitamins and up to 69% more antioxidants which directly benefit us. Find out more at where Neal’s Yard Remedies products are available for purchase.

Healing the earth by being kind to it makes perfect sense. So why do we all too often forget to apply this concept to ourselves? This lies behind our fundamental belief at Haelan Therapy. By being kind to ourselves we can start to heal. Eating good, organic ingredients, applying good, organic products and allowing ourselves time out of the busy routine to really connect with our inner Mother Earth is a great place to start. Visit to make a positive change today.

By Sarah Tomlin

'Fine' is more than just a four-letter word

Do you ever find yourself answering the words 'I'm fine' when asked how you're feeling (even though you may be feeling utterly down about yourself) for fear that the next question will lead to you having to engage with how you're actually feeling and therefore make it all become real that you're not really fine at all?  We've all been there, I certainly have and so has Prince Harry.  


In a recent podcast he gives a very frank and honest interview about the death of his mother, Princess Diana, how it affected him and the support he received through talking therapies such as counselling, to help him understand why he was not always feeling 'fine'.  By sticking his head very publicly above the parapet he is helping to lift the lid on mental health and bringing it to the forefront in the hope that it will encourage many more people to do the same. This is a massive step forward for our mental health which is just as important as our physical health.

Taking to Bryant Gordon he says, "What we are trying to do is normalise the conversation to the point where anyone can sit down and have a coffee and just go ‘you know what, I’ve had a really s--- day, can I just tell you about it?  Because then you walk away and it’s done." 


You can listen to Prince Harry's podcast in full here:

Here at Haelan we also understand that is ok not to be ok...and that it is also ok to put your head above the parapet and let people know you're not ok....and even more than that it is also very ok to seek support to help you understand why you're not always ok.  If this resonates with you, please be in touch with us to find out how our therapies including Transformational Coaching and Equine Facilitated Coaching can help support you too.

Love your bump!

Expecting a baby can be one of the most exciting times of your life. But there is no denying it can also be both physically demanding and emotionally challenging.  Massage therapy during pregnancy is a great way to relieve many of the side effects such as swelling and strain on your joints.  As well as Mum benefiting, baby will benefit from the increased blood flow, nutrient exchange and endorphins released during the massage.  It is also a wonderful opportunity to take some space and time to connect with your baby too.

Other benefits include:

  • easing strain on joints, ligaments and organs
  • postural improvement  
  • reduced swelling
  • aids restful sleep
  • helps to avoid varicose veins
  • relieves constipation and haemorrhoids
  • emotional support
  • easing birth process

At Haelan we offer Mums to be a warm and welcoming environment in which to relax and really connect with your baby through a truly nurturing experience.  If you are a mum-to-be or know of a mum-to-be that could benefit from a massage during their pregnancy then please be in contact and book your treatment with us.  Quote the code Mum2Be when prompted and you can receive a 10% discount off your first treatment.

We look forward to meeting you

Karenanne & Sarah xx