Health, self-care, an intentionally cruisey Christmas, puppy walks, professional development and more...
What a year!
I’ve had my health challenges, as well as advocating for my daughter through her autism diagnosis and mental health challenges. At work, I continue to learn and grow as a massage therapist and coach – and develop new skills and techniques to support you and your family’s wellbeing.
December’s always a good time to reflect on the year that’s been and consider the highlights and lowlights, the lessons you’ve learnt, the insights you’ve gained and the people you’ve been able to serve.
Here are a few of my triumphs, challenges and insights from 2023.
1) My professional development: Deep brain reorienting course and conferences
This year I discovered deep brain reorienting and completed two levels of the course. I find this therapy model profound and life-changing, both personally and professionally.
This modality resonates for me because, unlike other therapies which ask you to relive your worst moment to work on desensitising you – which, let’s be honest, can be tough – deep brain reorienting starts at the point when you first noticed something was wrong. You don’t have to revisit your traumatic experiences.
You pick a topic or scenario where you feel stuck or face difficulties and you’re asked to imagine you’re in this scenario or situation while noticing different tension points in your body.
The results can be amazing – you can literally feel and see the body processing and releasing distress.
At the end of the session, you’ll usually end up with a different perspective on the situation. It'll either be softer, or completely changed.
What I love is seeing people’s posture alter – their shoulders drop, the tension goes, the range of movement increases. I’m noticing it’s a valuable technique for pain management.
I've had the work done on myself, and I always leave feeling more regulated. I have an amazing sleep that night, and I tend to move more freely and I’m energised. Whatever I’ve worked on is either no longer bothering me or the impact is softened.
Trauma-informed approaches continue to be a core focus for me. In late February/early March I attended the NZ Trauma Conference at Ōtautahi/Christchurch, organised by Frontiers of Hope. Many parts of the mental health system are struggling – there are more clients/patients than there'll ever be therapists. Lots of therapists are disillusioned, burnt out or struggle to get sufficient training in New Zealand. The conference was to give us all hope, bring us together and discover new ways of approaching therapy and supporting our clients.
During the conference, I ran a workshop on my charity, The Brain Garden Trust.
Here’s some exciting news on the 2024 NZ Trauma Conference – Dr Bessel van der Kolk, who is one of the world’s leading experts on healing trauma and author of the bestselling book, The Body Keeps the Score, is the keynote speaker. I've done a workshop with Dr Bessel online, but this will be my first time meeting him in person.
Key lesson: When we’re losing hope in the system, it’s great to remind ourselves of the amazing work trauma specialists are doing around the world and there’s always new modalities to explore and learn.
2) Navigating my daughter’s health challenges
My daughter finally has an autism diagnosis. We went through CAMHS – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, but I needed to find her another therapist outside of that.
CAMHS are doing their best, but they’re overworked and under-resourced. Navigating the system is tough and you can end up stressed. That’s why we need to teach parents how to advocate for themselves and their family. They need a place they can go to for resources that sits outside the main system that’s so overstretched.
I created Soothing Sundays this year for this very reason. Through Soothing Sundays, I offer a free massage to parents with neurodivergent or high-health-needs children. For many, it’s the first massage they’ve had in ages. It’s not only the massage that’s important but having someone hold a safe space for them to let go. If they cry, they’re held. If they want to talk, they’ve got someone safe to talk to.
My daughter has turned a corner this year – she’s doing well. We still have moments, but without my training and lived experience on how to advocate effectively, I know we’d be worse off. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping parents who are in a similar boat.
Key lesson: We need to care for the carers and have compassion and support for parents who are navigating the system. We need to hold space for the advocates as it is draining and difficult work.
3) Doubling down on my self-care practice and acts of kindness
I’ve been through my own health challenges this year. I had my hysterectomy surgery in February (just weeks before the trauma conference I mentioned). I went through menopause and ended up with a terrible rash.
These events got me asking deep questions about myself and figuring out who I am. I’m turning 49 this year – I never thought I would live to this age so it’s a real honour and privilege.
That said, it’s been a challenging year figuring out which medication works and doesn’t.
Recently, I’ve been trying to come off some medication and find other ways to look after myself. It’s early days and I’ve done this in a managed way. It’s not one size fits all or something to consider without speaking to your GP first.
I've made sure my sleep hygiene is really strong and I’ve been taking some supplements and monitoring how I feel.
I know most of my clients have felt the effects of uncertainty and the tension that comes from feeling we’re in a holding pattern – even wishing time away or hoping for things to return to “normal” – due to global conflicts, economic instability, and political tensions.
More than ever, I’ve noticed that focusing on small, actionable things – drinking enough water, getting to bed on time, getting regular exercise – creates a sense of control.
People are often frazzled at this time of year and that’s where small acts of kindness and self-care practices go a long way. We can all be kind to the people we meet – saying thank you to the people who serve us at the shops, your barista at your local café or your postie – and buying thoughtful gifts for ourselves and others.
Key lesson: Random acts of kindness and daily self-care practices can be the antidote we need in this unsettling, uncertain and disruptive world. We don’t have to do major things. Small acts of kindness can have a big impact.
4) I’m very grateful for my clients
I've been in business through Covid and through being sick. And through it all I’m so grateful for my loyal, supportive clients.
I’m not scared to ask clients what's working and what's not. Whatever's going on, I'm still really busy, I remain grateful to be in business and love my work.
Especially as my daughter’s had some medical challenge this year, I’m grateful I can work my hours around appointments and appreciate my clients’ understanding when I've had to move things.
Key lesson: Being in business needs to work for everybody – me, my family and my clients. It’s important to recognise I need to be in a good place if I’m going to hold space for others. I’m incredibly grateful my clients understand this.
5) Planting seeds
I'm learning to plants seeds and nurture them – to do the work and not focus only on the outcome. There are times when I feel like everything is falling in my lap – this month I got interviewed by Mindfood! But I’m learning to say, “No, I’m not lucky. I have worked at it. I have planted the seeds and they are starting to germinate.”
Key lesson: overnight success can take years behind the scenes. Results of your efforts don’t always appear straightaway. Keep planting the seeds and showing up anyway.
6) Walks with my puppy Jess – what she’s taught me about curiosity and appreciating the little things
Every morning I take my dog Jess for a walk before I start the day. We walk by the ocean and through a section of bush. Jess goes to say hi to other dogs and at the end of the walk I stop for a coffee.
It’s a great routine – we go out whether the sun is shining or it’s raining. It's a lovely reminder because that view changes every day. And that's how our brain works.
Some days we feel like the sun is on our back. Other days we're getting tossed around by the wind. Some days it's freezing, other days the rain pours.
Key lesson: Keep showing up, keep walking that path. Jess does the same walk every day and she's always curious, always sniffing out something new. We can learn from her to stay curious and be in the moment. We need to plan some things but it’s also okay to surrender control and accept the moment we’re in.
7) Adapting my work schedule and closing my Kāpiti practice
As much as I liked my Kāpiti practice, it meant I was working too much and it wasn’t thriving as much as my other practices. So, I made the hard decision to close the practice.
Having said that, residents at the Lotus Centre asked me to go back, so I’m doing one Saturday a month for them and they're filling up. It’s been lovely to be wanted and invited back.
I'm learning I love working from home. At the moment I have two days in town, but I have changed my working hours to include my daily walks with Jess. It’s one of the best things I've done.
I might have lost a few clients, but I’ve gained much more.
Key lesson: Change in business can be tough, we don’t like to feel we’re letting anyone down. But if we learn to listen to what we need we can be flexible. Although I lost a few clients, I’ve gained much more.
8) Not buying into the pressure of going all out at Christmas
There’s so much pressure to create the perfect Christmas but I do all I can to resist this! Simple is best.
I used to give my kids too much. I would run around, trying to make everything perfect, but I didn’t get to enjoy the day.
As you can imagine, our puppy Jess and a big Christmas tree don’t mix. Instead, we have staple gunned tinsel across the windows and walls, and we've hung Christmas decorations from the tinsel. And it's so cool! I think it feels even cooler because you generally should not be using a staple gun!
To the parents who are feeling the pressure to go all out – don’t! Seriously!
I've given my kids a budget and said “This is how much money I'm spending on you. You choose, tell me what you want and I'll get it, you can have surprises, or order online and I'll give you the money back.”
We all know how much we’re spending and we're having a cruisey Christmas day. And so far, all we've got is desserts. So, it might be a dessert Christmas at the rate we’re going. It's about spending the day together.
My son has just left school, it might be his last one at home. And I refuse to get stressed. My birthday's a week before so we are going out for a lovely lunch. My gift is we get to spend time together.
If we're rushing around, how present are we? The present is being present.
Key lesson: It’s tempting to want to do Christmas perfectly – but I encourage you to focus on a cruisier Christmas and keep costs under control. Think about simple and fun ways to celebrate Christmas: a shared meal, creative decorations, or other ways to make it easier for you to be present.
Thank you so much for your love and support of Emma-Kate Wellbeing
Overall, I'm super proud of my growth and how I keep showing up even when things get hard. I also extend that feeling to my clients and my children who’ve had to navigate challenges and upheavals.
You too will have things to be proud of and celebrate, things you’ve overcome and learnt about yourself – if you can’t think of any ask a loved one what they’ve noticed in your life. Even if you can’t see tangible results right now, remember you are planting seeds.
Keep taking small daily steps to move closer to your goals, keep up with your self-care rituals, and remember to take some time to rest and reflect over the next few weeks.
Wishing you a merry – and cruisey as can be – Christmas, and a happy and mindful New Year.