De-stressing tips from fitness experts %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%

You don’t have to spend too long reading the news to understand that we are living in seriously stressful times, from the current squeeze on our finances to the ever-present pressure of digital communications. It’s no wonder then, that 74% of Brits report being stressed and overwhelmed – if anything we are surprised it’s not 100%.

While there’s little we can do to control mortgage rates or the daily email deluge, one thing you can try to do is take steps to control your response to stress. From finding ways to decompress to practicing mindfulness, there are many tried and tested methods out there. Here, we speak to three fitness professionals – all of whom know a thing or two about juggling a busy, intense workload – about how they advise their clients to unwind, and what they’ve found useful for de-stressing in their own lives.

Joslyn Thompson-Rule

Joslyn has worked in the fitness industry for over 19 years, and is now a Peloton instructor in London.

Can exercise help you de-stress?

Yes absolutely, but it is very dependent on the type.  Exercise in and of itself is a stress on the system so, if you are highly stressed, doing an intense workout may be too much for your nervous system.  As a rule for me, moving every day in some way makes me feel good – on chill days this might be an easy walk or a stretch.

How else do you decompress after a particularly stressful day?

I try to instantly gain perspective if I feel overwhelmed- I ask myself, what am I nailing now that I wasn’t three, six or nine months ago.  It’s also useful for me to have an overview of what’s happening ahead, both in anticipation of increased stress and also to see where any breaks are coming – sometimes you can be so in the thick of it that you lose sight of what’s just around the corner.

How do you make sure you find time for yourself and your mental wellbeing?

I’m pretty good now and understanding things that will require more of my energy and I try to buffer around that. Planning is a big part of that, I don’t always get it right. I also try and put systems in place so that I am able to keep moving things forward when life gets hectic – that is a lot of trial and error but I enjoy the process

What advice would you give to someone who struggles to de-stress?

Check in on habits that may unknowingly cause you stress e.g. checking your phone first thing in the morning. Tweak what you already do in a day to make it a little lighter.

What does self-care mean to you?

Awareness of my mental, physical and emotional state and what impacts that.

What does your pre-bedtime routine look like?

I go to bed fairly early, around 9pm. I really like to read a book, usually fiction to really wind down as I am obsessed with non-fiction which keeps my brain whirring at night.  And then eye mask on to not let a peep of light in!

Are there any podcasts that help you wind down?

I often listen to podcasts about business, growth and productivity, so not really – I’m obsessed with learning so less of a wind down, hence my enforced reading fiction at bed time.

What would you advise someone who feels like they have no time for self-care?

First of all to understand the time and resources they have – full time carers for example have very little time, and often, resources for self-care and so it’s about seeing what they can do with the resources they have, and those access points are different for everybody.  I would advise to start with the lowest hanging fruit – what is the easiest thing to do, straight away?  Starting with as little as five  minutes of your choosing is a great start; a little goes a long way!

Jon Hosking

Jon Hosking is a Peloton Instructor and teaches tread classes from Peloton Studios London.

How do you decompress after a particularly stressful day?

Apart from exercise, I like to take time out for my hobbies. Painting and pottery have been an incredible escape for me, as well as playing golf with a group of my best friends.

Which habits help improve your mental wellbeing?

Once a week I’ll have a day where I turn my phone off. It’s helpful to feel that separation and to really focus on being present in the company of friends or with my hobbies.

What advice would you give to someone who struggles to de-stress?

Find a strong routine, and be as disciplined as possible to make time in that routine for you. Use that time to exercise or to practise mindfulness and it may then make you even more productive in the rest of your day.

What advice would you give to your younger self on how to deal with stress?

Be mindful to identify what it is specifically that’s stressing you – is it controllable? How can you work to negate/manage it? – while knowing that some forms of pressure and stress are a privilege and par for the course when you’re working towards or creating something you’re passionate about.

What does your pre-bedtime routine look like?

Ideally skincare, candles, diffusers and a good 45 minute wind-down. However when I’m busy it’s about getting into bed as quickly as possible and putting a football podcast on a sleep-timer.

What would you advise someone who feels like they have no time for self-care?

It is a battle. No one has it completely figured out and what works for one person may not work for another. But discipline is a form of self-care and you can’t hope to continually perform to the best of your ability if you don’t try and make time for yourself and find some form of separation and escape from work, responsibilities and chores. I’ve found taking time for my own self-care has then led to me being more focused and productive in the hours that I’m working. It needn’t be a huge act or last forever but just starting with some simple acts of self-care might become extremely beneficial. Don’t beat yourself up, be realistic, we don’t all have space and time for an hour of reading in the evening but there can be a lot said for 5-10 minutes of exercise, meditation, breath work or mindfulness. It can turn your day around.

Cody Rigsby

Cody is a former professional dancer turned Peloton instructor, who is based in New York.

What are your go-to de-stressing techniques?

  • Putting on music when I get home, instead of popping down and watching TV. I like to pair this with cooking or a nice warm shower and my nighttime beauty routine.
  • Stretching is still something I’m trying to get better at on a regular basis but it makes a difference to be able to bounce back the next day.
  • 10-minute guide meditation on the Peloton App; Ross Rayburn is like a lullaby and puts you to sleep.
  • Take some time to connect with loved ones. Chat with your partner when you get home, or Facetime your friend or parent. Feeling connected helps with anxiety.
  • Also don’t be afraid to give yourself a few moments of alone time when you’re home if you live with a partner or have kids. It’s okay to create and take that boundary.

For someone that hasn’t meditated before, what are your tips on getting started?

Start small – just five intentional breaths in a challenging moment can make a difference, and five minutes in the morning is a great way to build a habit. Start with guided meditations to develop skills, and accept that you’re never going to get it perfect so give yourself some time in the beginning and know it’s going to be uncomfortable and awkward at first.

How has mindfulness changed your day-to-day life?

It allows me to sit in discomfort and acknowledge that pain, sadness, anger and all those feelings we label as negative are part of life. Instead of trying to push them away or run from them I process and let them run through my system. Weird analogy but it’s sometimes like a fever, you just gotta let it run its course.

Do you find that reducing your screen time reduces day-to-day stress?

Doing things that connect me to myself and to the people I care about makes me feel much more joy and peace, whereas screen time makes me more stimulated and keeps me in the same toxic loop. Go into settings in your device and put a time limit on screen time. Also buy an alarm clock and charge your phone away from your bed or in another room so that you are not on your phone first thing in the morning!

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