“76% of those who have had a beauty treatment in the last year agree that they promote mental wellbeing” quoted a recent report from the CEW, continuing the growing acknowledgment that a spa treatment is so much more than skin deep.
If anyone should know, it’s Director of Natural Therapeutics, Elaine Williams at the highly acclaimed Grayshott Spa in Surrey. Qualified in Osteopathy, Naturopathy, Acupuncture, Reflexology, Aromatherapy and Advanced Massage, Elaine is a registered general nurse. She also has a Bachelors (BSC) in Psychology, and is passionate about the role that spa treatments can play in supporting mental wellbeing.
So we asked her; how can spas and spa treatments help with managing mental health?
Grayshott Spa Hotel
Mindful eating and nutrition
Grayshott is health orientated in all ways and we see emotional wellbeing as a fundamental part of the picture. However, whatever the issue a client comes to us with, we always start with the gut.
The gut brain axis is increasingly recognised for its importance. If the gut isn’t working properly then can have direct links with mental health issues. That can mean anything from brain fog and mood to neurological changes. Equally, if you’ve been pushing yourself too hard, then the gut can become sluggish and you get that feeling that you can’t cope.
So we treat food as medicine. It is there to repair and to help create resilience. We’re also looking to extend the way we treat food, perhaps creating some silent eating areas for people who want to focus on mindful eating. We may also offer dining that is guided by nutritionists.
Being introduced to positive breathing techniques can be really helpful for mental health and anxiety. At Grayshott, for example, we practice breathing for many physical and mental health issues ranging from asthma to anxiety.
Sleep is the other thing that affects mental health, and of course, breathing, nutrition and sleep tie in together like a jigsaw. For example, if you’re breathing too much through the right nostril at night then you won’t sleep properly.
So we have pranayama sessions for example, that really look at your breathing and help provide you with the ability to control it, which in turn has an impact on your capacity to control your emotional reactions. It’s all about giving you the tools to help support mental health.
Spa treatments for mental health
Spa treatments themselves can also be a really helpful way to reset. We doing a lot with sound therapy, for example. It’s amazing how it works; you can almost get a reading of the body from the sounds and vibrations. People come out of the treatment feeling amazing.
Five element acupuncture…
…is also extremely helpful. It concentrates on emotions the emotions and how they correlate with different organs in the body. It’s based on the five emotions identified in Chinese medicine, and can have a really dramatic impact on how someone feels.
…is a treatment that I always see brilliant results with. It works on the nervous system and the connective tissue around the muscles, predominantly the fascia, which releases allowing the muscles to relax. Afterwards, the body feels looser and it’s as if the brain’s gone to sleep. We don’t realise how much tension we hold in our face, head and neck. It’s great for getting all the tension out of the body and calming the brain.
Emotional freedom therapy…
….has been extremely helpful for many of our clients as well. This is where therapists use a tapping technique on acupuncture points. People have real breakthroughs with it. I think I am right in saying there have even been studies where people have been put into MRI scanners during the treatment, and they can see different areas of the brain starting to function.
Of course, I don’t think you should ever underestimate the power of a massage of any sort…
…I think it’s one of the best treatments you can have. There’s something profoundly soothing about human contact, the power of touch. Also by draining the lymph and getting rid of all those toxins you do the body a huge amount of good, which impacts how you feel emotionally as well.
Grayshott Spa food
What common mental health problems do clients come to you with?
With burnout as much as anything. Obviously that’s a very general term for the symtoms that someone presents with, and the reasons for it can come from anything. Essentially though, it’s when you’re overloaded and then things go awry.
Some people get mental symptoms, some get urine infections, some get atrial fibrillation. Some people might just have too much work, some might have ill parents. That’s what’s scary is that you don’t know where the breaking point is. You get warning signs of course, irritability for example, but we’re all under pressure we take those signs as the norm.
Business people, for example, come to us, and they have really been pushing themselves to the point where they can’t really see what they should do any more. They eventually crash and have anxiety attacks.
Often during treatments people find that they have space to talk and work out what they need. When you’re on the proverbial treadmill, you can’t see the wood for the trees. When you calm down, you can think, take step back and figure things out. Treatments all provide that space in different ways.
As a therapist, you’re trying to get people to that point where they can hear their inner voice. Emotional mental health conditions, as opposed to those one rooted in the physical, in which case it goes back to nutrition, are often because someone’s got overwhelmed - you’re trying to diagnose how you’ve got into that condition.
COULD A GOOD SEX LIFE IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?