Meet the Tutor: Sally Earlam

Sally Earlam is a qualified nurse and has been a reflexologist for over 22 years, a qualified teacher for 15 years and works part-time for the Association of Reflexologists (AoR) as its Maternity Specialist and Head of Training and Education.

In addition to this fabulous career Sally has written articles on reflexology in pregnancy for Mother and Baby Magazine, Choices Magazine, Green Parenting Magazine, Juno and three reflexology guides for the AoR.

I spoke with Sally to learn more about her work supporting her own clients and empowering reflexologists to help theirs within the specialisms of the menopause and maternity care.

Article words by Kelly Hainsworth and Sally Earlam.

Hello Sally

Could we start by you sharing a little bit about yourself?  

Where to start? – I have been married for 30 years and have 2 children who are in their 20’s – and I have to say I love them all to bits (most of the time).  I am optimistic by nature and love having evenings of laughter with friends.  I thrive by being around like minded people – hence why I so enjoy the teaching I do.

I am also one of those strange people who love living in London (just outside actually);  I love the diversity, the variety of free activities available, the general buzz of life in our capital and our neighbours – we have an amazing road community! I do also make sure I have plenty of time out of the city and ideally by the sea.

One other thing you are about to learn in this interview is that I love to talk about subjects I am passionate about – and yes, reflexology is up there at the top. I feel so lucky and privileged to do a job that I absolutely love!

What was your first experience of reflexology and what led to the decision to train and create your own business?

After my father passed away I struggled with anxiety for quite some time, one day a friend suggested I try reflexology and I thought – well what have I got to lose.  The reflexology for me was like pushing a reset button and I had one of those magic reflex moments where I became instantly calmed and the constant anxiety and panic attacks were left behind in the past.

I loved my working life as a nurse but I had ended up in an academic research position and I knew after this I needed to get back to working hands on with people and that led me to learning the healing art of reflexology. I have to say I have never looked back.

Having created a successful business, what advice would you share with a reflexologist who is just starting out on their business journey?

The most important thing without a doubt is to believe in yourself and in reflexology.  It can be scary stuff starting out as a self-employed therapist, so I always say – put on your confidence suit.  I don’t mean a literal suit, but before a treatment spend 5 minutes preparing yourself if you feel nervous -pull back your shoulders and hold your head high, use affirmations to say something that resonates with you such as ‘I am confident in what I do and I believe the reflexology will allow the client space to heal’.  Use this alongside visualising yourself putting on a confidence suit or wrapping yourself in a confidence cloak, then finally some deep breathing work such as the 4-7-8 technique (Google it if you don’t know about it, it’s fab) and a grounding exercise. Then show your client your confidence suit and watch the therapeutic relationship grow with a strong foundation of trust.

Secondly, Dream your Dream – I would suggest you create an Action Board or Vision Board as using pictures can bypass the conscious brain thus preventing any inner doubts you have in your mind becoming saboteurs to achieving your full potential.  Place the board somewhere where you will see it regularly.

Put all of your dreams on the board as this then helps prime the brain to look for opportunities that can help you move towards dreams.  Don’t be scared to grasp any opportunity and to take actions to make your dreams become a reality.

You are well known within the reflexology community for empowering people during pregnancy and the menopause, what led you to specialise in these areas?

If I am honest, when I completed my training I still had doubts as to whether reflexology actually worked, I knew it felt wonderful and was relaxing – but was there any more to it than that?

It was then working in Women’s Health that allowed me to see the power of our wonderful therapy.  I saw women become pregnant who had been trying to conceive for years – one woman had been told she was more likely to win the lottery than get pregnant, pelvic girdle pain melt away, contractions begin on my treatment couch, night sweats stop instantly etc – how could I not.

I am delighted that you used the word empower.  The medical world has historically focused on men’s health, yet we are now in a position where women live longer than men but with more unhealthy years, which is quite shocking.  We still have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in healthcare but I believe as reflexologists we can help empower women to be the best version of themselves that they can be.  We support women by maintaining unconditional positive regard, non-judgmental listening, sharing knowledge when clients feel ready to take on lifestyle changes and knowing when they need to be referred – these skills will help enable women to be able to take more control of their wellbeing and of course we combine this with our wonderful powerful touch therapy.

If a reflexologist is beginning to support a client during the menopause what three tips would you share with them to help them get started?

First: Really listen to the client as they may not have had anybody to talk to about their symptoms as women sadly often feel embarrassed or even ashamed about how they are feeling.  Everybody’s experience of menopause is different – so show you are interested and that you care but use empathy not sympathy.

Second: Offer them some hope as this can improve outcomes.  Use anecdotes from other clients to reassure them that what they are experiencing is common and that they will get to feel better, although we cannot say when. Try and reframe menopause to highlight the positives, it can be a new beginning and an opportunity for transformation and growth.  A time for them to think about who they want to be for the next phase of their life and what do they need to do to achieve that.

Third: Research menopause so you understand the biology and the lifestyle factors that can affect symptoms and don’t underestimate the effect of stress on menopause. Try and encourage women to have regular reflexology and also to spend at least 10 minutes a day on relaxation such as meditation, a mindful activity, staring at a candle flame, breathing exercises etc – any activity aimed at getting them out of their head and into their body. Higher levels of cortisol are linked to an increase in menopausal symptoms.

You have a very busy diary working as a reflexologist, tutor and part-time for the AoR – how do you organise your week and make sure there is also time for self-care?

This is something that does need some work on as balance in my life has suffered a bit during the pandemic.  Getting my training courses online took more work than I could ever have imagined with too many late nights at the computer – not good!

I have however maintained my morning meditation at the start of everyday with either a cycle or walk every lunchtime, well most lunchtimes  – without either of those I very quickly notice an effect on my mood. I have monthly reflexology (although I would prefer fortnightly) and weekly Pilates classes. 

My resolution for 2022, Covid permitting, is to return to having long weekends alone by the sea to re-charge my batteries and have time to pause and reflect on where I am and where I want to go.  This has always been a bit of a challenge for me as I love to be around people, but actually once I get there I find it incredible for my soul – very special me time!

What is your hope for the reflexology profession for the future?

That is an easy one, I would want to see reflexology available as part of our NHS, yes in hospitals, but I believe we could make such a huge difference in the primary care setting for people living with long term conditions such as anxiety, chronic fatigue etc.  But going back to a previous question, I would, over and above anything else, want to see better healthcare available for women with more choice available for treatment options with reflexology being one of course.  It is time we were given a choice about our healthcare and for the power of touch to be recognised.

Quick Fire Questions – Get to Know Sally More:

What is your favourite place to go on holiday? There is too much of the world still to see I don’t tend to return to one place.  Highlights for me have been Norfolk in the UK, cycling through France and backpacking around Indonesia.

Coffee or tea? Coffee – but I have had to go decaf since menopause

How would you spend your ideal day away from work? – a cycle trip with my family which would include a picnic by water (ideally the sea, but any water will do).  Ending with a nice G&T when I get home!

Instagram or Facebook? – my honest reply would be neither – I am still very much a novice at this but if I had to choose it would be Instagram.

What is your favourite reflexology or well-being book of all time?  Oh, so, so many, but a book I think we should all read is The Stress Solution: The 4 Steps to a Calmer, Happier, Healthier You by Rangan Chatterjee – plus his podcast is a must!

Sally’s Business Tips for Reflexologists

  1. Believe in yourself
  2. Believe in reflexology
  3. Talk with passion and from the heart
  4. Actively look for work opportunities – be creative, what’s the worse that can happen? They say no and you move on to the next. One day it will be a yes! As my Dad always used to say – if you don’t ask you don’t get
  5. Do not under-price yourself and never feel you need to justify your price to anyone. People need to appreciate their wellbeing is worth it
  6. Set your own boundaries and working hours – and stick to them. If you try and squeeze people in you may end up resenting it
  7. Use a Vision Board as described above
  8. Set aside at least 10 minutes a day for relaxation techniques for building emotional resilience

On a final note, don’t forget the Law of Attraction, which states that the power of the mind can translate our thoughts into reality.  Simply put, open your positive thoughts to the universe and see what is attracted into your life.  It is unlikely to happen overnight, it takes work, but can make life so much more rewarding.

Sally Earlam
3 comments Add yours

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *