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Complementary Therapy Awareness Week (22 - 28 March)

Looking after our well-being has always been important but the covid-19 pandemic and the challenges it has created, has made it essential that we take care of every aspect of health.

Rose Harris with therapist Klaire Craven 2 (cropped)

As part of this year’s National Complementary Therapy Week 2021, our Therapies team is hoping to give people a better understanding of the therapies they provide to patients and carers to help them to relax, improve energy levels, relax and sleep more soundly.


The team is also inviting everyone to try some of these simple and effective tips and techniques at home and see if they make a positive difference to their lives.



According to Chinese Medicine, we have energy channels running throughout our bodies, consisting of hundreds of acupressure points.  Each point will relate specifically to an organ or function of the body.




Put simply, acupressure is the application of pressure using the fingers or thumbs to an acupressure point.  When activated in this way, the parasympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for the body's rest and digestion response when the body is relaxed, resting, or feeding) responds by relaxing our bodies, enabling energy to be rebalanced and improving feelings of wellbeing.


During times of stress, it is vital to take time each day to unwind and calm. However, if we are feeling anxious, agitated, or frustrated it can be hard to “switch off”. 


Using acupressure on ourselves can be a simple yet effective way of restoring calm for both the body and mind. A great addition to our self-care at home toolkit.


Did you know?

  • The acupressure point “Yin Tang” or “Third Eye” is said to be one of the best points for stress, tension, anxiety, and sleep. 
  • It can be found in the centre of the forehead, between the eyebrows.
  • Use one finger to gently massage the “Yin Tang” point for a few minutes each day to help calm the mind, aid relaxation, and improve sleep.


Aromatherapy uses essential oils, extracted from the blossoms, leaves, roots, skin, resin, seeds, and bark of some plants, in a variety of ways for a therapeutic effect. 


Aromatherapy aims to bring balance to our emotional, physical, and spiritual health and can be used either topically on the skin (lotions, creams, and oils), or inhaled (diffusers).




Essential oils, like lavender, have many therapeutic properties beyond a beautiful scent. Lavender helps calm and balance emotions. It promotes sleep, improves mood, and reduces stress.


There is evidence that frankincense can ease arthritic pain, calms asthma, and boosts the immune system.


Rosemary improves cognitive performance and memory, relieves pain also improving appetite, energy levels, and mood.


Bergamot is famous for its emotional support. It is great for relieving stress, anxiety, and depression as well as facilitating restful sleep. 


All of these essential oils have antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, helping to help keep surfaces clean and purify the air. These are a very small example of the essential oils that we use here at Saint Francis Hospice.


Did you know?

  • A few drops of Lavender on your pillow at bedtime can help you sleep.
  • Lavender is proven to help relax and induce sleep due to its naturally occurring high level of linalyl acetate and linalool.  When inhaled, these compounds calm the activity of some neurotransmitters in the brain leading to a relaxed state.



The term ‘reiki’ is derived from the Japanese words ‘rei’, meaning ‘universal’ and ‘kei’, meaning ‘life energy’.  


Reiki is very difficult to verbalise as it’s intangible - receiving reiki is almost indescribable as it is a very subjective experience.


Generally, the reiki practitioner can either work “hands-on” with a patient or from a distance.  In simple terms, it is the sending of loving positive intention, which promotes balance within the body and mind by activating the relaxation response.




Its effects are gentle and nourishing. Patients often report that they feel deeply relaxed during their sessions, experience better sleep, improved energy levels, and reductions in pain and anxiety. 


Although it is difficult to explain the mechanics as to why these changes happen, it would appear that reiki really does benefit those who both give and receive it.


Did you know?

  • Reiki can be sent from anywhere in the world to anyone in the world.
  • You do not need to be in the same room as your therapist to receive the benefits of reiki.



Breathing is something that we do automatically and don’t really think about. However, having an awareness of our breath allows us to focus on and change the way we breathe. 


This can positively influence how we feel and react to certain situations. 


When we feel anxious, panicked, or stressed, we naturally and automatically breathe faster and shallower, increasing oxygen levels within our body. 


As a result, our heart beats faster which can in fact make us feel more stressed and more anxious.


By slowing down and controlling the breath, we are telling our body that we are ok - we are safe. This will calm the nervous system and reduce our body's response to feeling stressed.  This restores calm to both our body and our mind.


Being able to respond to your breath is a useful tool to have in your at-home self-care kit - it is free, requires no special equipment, and can be done anywhere. 


If you suddenly feel overwhelmed with a situation, anxious or panicked, focus on your breathing to help restore calm.


Did you know?

Breathing is the only autonomous system of the body that we can also consciously control - so while the body dictates the need for it, we can control how we do it.


Gentle/Positive Touch

It is common for patients who are seriously ill not to have experienced touch in a positive way for many weeks, or even months.


Every touch has been by a medical professional, by way of a procedure, examination, injection, etc. None of which are usually pleasant, and sometimes quite painful.




By providing complementary therapies such as gentle massage and reflexology, we are giving the patient the chance to experience touch in a positive way again. Therefore, rather than feeling anxious about the treatment, the gentle, caring, and calm way in which it is given encourages a state of relaxation and well-being.


We can also pass these skills on to relatives and carers to enable them to give a positive touch to patients, by teaching them how to do a gentle hand or foot massage for instance.


Very often, relatives may be scared to touch their loved ones for fear of causing them discomfort or pain. Sharing the art of gentle, positive touch can give family members the opportunity to maintain its benefits in-between treatments by a therapist.


Did you Know?

  • Positive touch can help people to feel calmer and more relaxed. Therefore, it works well alongside conventional medicine, as the effects are improved if the patient is less stressed or anxious.



The Oxford dictionary defines Mindfulness as The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

And: A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. 


Many patients under our care, and very often their carers too, are unable to focus on what is happening to them or around them in the present time because they are so consumed with memories from their past or fears of an uncertain future.




By providing Mindfulness sessions over the phone, we can encourage them to open their eyes once more to the people and things that are most important in their lives and taking place in the moment.


It gives them the ability to acknowledge negative thoughts, but not allow them to become all-consuming.


Did you know?

  • By learning to appreciate themselves and what is happening in the present time, they have the skill to turn negative thoughts or attitudes into positive ones. This in turn helps to relieve stress and anxiety, leading to a healthier emotional and sometimes, physical state of well-being.



Reflexology is a non-invasive complementary health therapy that can be effective in promoting deep relaxation and well-being.


It is based on the theory that different points on the feet, hands, face, and ears correspond with different areas of the body.




(photo taken pre-covid)


A reflexologist will gently work over these areas to help improve health problems by ‘rebalancing’ the body and mind.


Whilst it is not scientifically proven that reflexology has a positive effect on a person’s health, the fact that for a period of time, the person is sitting in a comfortable position and receiving a treatment, where the therapist is completely concentrating on giving the treatment, seems to have a positive effect on an individual’s well-being.


Certain symptoms such as pain, anxiety, constipation, and insomnia to name a few, can become exacerbated when someone is feeling uptight and stressed.


When a person has these symptoms, of course, they can be prescribed a suitable medication for it. However, if that person has heightened anxiety, for example, it can reduce the effect of prescribed medication.


If they were to have regular reflexology treatments, the relaxing nature of the therapy would help to enhance the effect of medication, leading to an improvement in the overall well-being of the individual.


Did you Know?

  • Five health benefits of regular reflexology treatments include improved nerve function, increased energy levels, improved circulation, reduced frequency of headaches and elimination of toxins.

Find out more about the Complementary Therapy services here at Saint Francis Hospice.