You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along....You must do the things that you think you cannot do. 

(Eleanor Roosevelt)

Where it all started

 

My passion for health and wellbeing stemmed from an early age due to my own dealings with anxiety and digestive issues and fascination with the workings of the human body. Once completing high school however, feeling uncomfortable in my own skin and holding a belief that I wasn’t smart enough nor capable to pursue my interest in health any further, I instead settled for working in different areas such as hospitality, retail and customer service (sometimes a combination at the same time) without any plans or ambitions for my future.

 

Reality kicks in

 

At 22 years old I was given a hard hit of reality when my older brother was diagnosed with stage IV testicular cancer. Feeling completely helpless as I watched him go through the gruelling combined treatment of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation I learnt to appreciate the fragility of life and realised that it was too short not to take risks. As my brother came towards the end of his treatment (he survived by the way), I made the decision to enrol at Endeavour College of Natural Health and study Nutritional Medicine. I never looked back. The experience, although challenging, made me realise just how much I had underestimated what I was capable of and that no matter the obstacle, I could trust my passion and commitment to see me through.

 

The horizon broadens

 

Towards the end of studying my degree I found myself to be strongly attracted to the area of autism and mental health. Having a younger sister who was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and struggled with mainstream learning at school I was surprised to learn of the many biochemical disturbances that could happen beneath the surface of individuals with generalised anxiety disorders, major depression, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and behavioural issues (e.g. ADD/ADHD). I kept relating what I was learning back to my sister, from her delayed speech in childhood, her struggles to connect with her peers at school and her ongoing battle with obsessive compulsive disorders. Through my learning I hoped that I could assist her in having greater opportunities for the future, yet unbeknown to me at that point my attraction to that area was about deepen my understanding of not only healthcare but also of the interchange between struggle and potential, leading me along a pathway that has changed my life forever.  

 

Exploring it further

 

After completing my degree, curious to know more about autism I spent the next two years participating in early intervention programs designed to enhance learning, growth and development in children with ASD. As these children became more social and their behavioural patterns improved I was surprised to find myself humbled about what these children had taught me about the human potential and how love, care and support fostered its growth. 

 

Simultaneously I became increasingly aware of the how the efforts of their parents to provide the best opportunities for their children came at a cost to their own health and needs. Conversations with the mothers revealed they experienced an array of health issues such as poor sleeping patterns and energy, digestive issues, sugar cravings, weight gain, chronic stress, depression, anxiety and mood swings, chronic inflammation, frequent respiratory infections...the list goes on!  

 

Through my observations, research and self-reflection, looking beyond nutrition I found myself learning to understand the human body and mind at a deeper level in relation to chronic stress, burn out and emotional exhaustion. Although miraculous in its workings the human body relies on energy reserves that constantly needs to be renewed, renewal resources include but are not limited to rest, physical exercise, the food we that eat and nutrients that we are able to absorb, a sense of purpose, social connection and activities that we enjoy and fulfil us. This reserve of energy is constantly dipped into throughout our busy day, the amount used is influenced the consequential release of cortisol by our adrenal glands in response to perceived and physical stressors. If we continually dip into this supply and distribute energy outwardly to keep up with the demands of our daily lives and the challenges life throws at us in varying proportions, then without making a conscious effort to nurture and refill our reserves our health and mental wellbeing can spiral and as such, we become more vulnerable to illness. I noticed that some of us are more sensitive to this than others and dealing with my own issues with anxiety, intense sugar cravings and binge eating patterns, I started to understand their underlying cause.

 

At that point, after noticing the benefits on my own wellbeing after receiving massage during a time where my body felt completely spent, I made the decision to study a Cert IV in Massage Therapy so that I could help promote that mind body connection during physical stress.

Big Changes

 

A Melbourne girl at heart I had never planned to leave. However, life has a habit of surprising you and sometimes the best thing that you can do is find acceptance and move with its flow, no matter how tough those changes can initially be. 

In 2016, after a family diagnosis of terminal cancer my partner and I made a fast decision to move to Queensland leaving a job that I loved and my family and friends behind. Sadly, a few short months after I had moved my very much loved grandfather in Melbourne also passed away from cancer.

 

This change had been one of the most difficult of our lives so far and I was forced to understand challenge intimately, and as I’m sure you can appreciate, my feelings of stress, fear and anxiety were off the scale. Yet in a strange contrast to the unfortunate circumstances we were experiencing was a hidden inner strength that I had no idea of possessing.

 

I came to accept that challenges are an unavoidable, facet of life and everyone will have their own unique experience of them, so while we were struggling I found comfort in knowing that we weren’t the only ones. I also learnt that in amongst every struggle lies an opportunity for insight, self discovery and to reassess what’s really important to you, an opportunity so influential that it can often lead your life in a more meaningful direction.

 

My passion for offering support began during my time working with children with autism, however during our experience I became aware of how the effects of struggle can impact someone, especially in relation to adverse experiences such as the caring role family members can take on to support a loved who is chronically ill or disabled. Through this experience I decided that this is an area I would like to help make a difference in.

 

Where I am now

 

I was never quite certain of what exact direction I would go in when I started my practice back in 2014, however now as I sit here reflecting I realise that my journey up until this point has taken care of that for me. I hope that I can help to not only inspire and educate you on quality nutrition, it’s impact on mental health and the value of self-care in your healing journey, but to also empower you to have the courage in uncovering your own inner potential in the face of struggle.

 

I know that's what I’ve learnt so far and I’m sure I will continue to do so.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Sarah Hickson

 

Sarah a qualified Clinical Nutritionist and Massage Therapist with a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine) from Endeavour College of Natural Health and a Certificate IV in Massage Therapy with the Melbourne Institute of Massage Therapy. She is a registered member of Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA). Sarah has also completed a Graduate Diploma in Counselling with the University of Southern Queensland and is a qualified Counsellor.   

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