Today, as usual, I asked each of my clients and class members, ‘how are you feeling?’. The answer from pretty much everyone was either ‘stressed’, ‘too busy’, or ‘exhausted’. It struck me that around 90% of the people who I had been with for the majority of the day seemed to feel this way. The pace of life is so incredibly fast these days, yet we have exactly the same amount of time as our forefathers. Along with the speed, the amount of pressure and the variety of pressures seems to increase as Society develops. There is currently a lot of research being conducted on the impact on our bodies and minds of our 21st century lives. We will not know the full picture for a good few years, however I can see it reflected in the way people walk, how they stand and behind their eyes.
Our bodies are designed to move and be active. Our minds are designed to think, evaluate and ponder. The need for food is designed to nourish and enhance the performance of our body and mind. So why are these the first things to go by the way side when we are too busy or too stressed? These are the times when in fact we would benefit greatly from a hillside walk, a moment of meditation/self reflexion or relaxation and a large nutritious (but still delicious!) salad. It is like a self perpetuating cycle which is difficult to break out of and very dangerous. Cortisol is a hormone which is released into your system when you feel stressed as part of the fight or flight response (also naturally released for other reasons). A prolonged release of cortisol from stress has many negative effects such as lowering your immune system, storage of abdominal fat, higher blood pressure and psychological changes. Research has also shown that periods of chronic stress can result in cortisol staying in the body for over 2 years!
It is important to acknowledge the pressures we feel and the emotions they stir, but even more vital to take action and do things in your life to create moments of ease and movement at these times. The body and mind are inextricably connected. One directly effects the other. So what small practical things can we do when life gets on top of us?
1. Daily movement and exercise – leisurely walk, Yoga at home, cycling into work, gardening for the summer, countryside or coastal run, swimming in a peaceful environment, one to one Pilates session, spinning class, rolling out the body with a Pilates roller
2. Moment of calm – 5 minutes of meditation, writing in your self reflective journal, deep breaths whilst commuting to work, afternoon nap when the baby is asleep, hot bath before bed, massage at a beautiful salon, an uplifting and moving novel, switch off ALL electronic devices for a short time so you can ‘shut down and re-charge’
3. Fresh, healthy food – fresh vegetables, lean protein, regular slow release energy snacks, range of colourful fruits like pomegranate and grapes, raw nuts, herbal teas such as fennel or camomile
Try these small things or even just one when you feel the pressure mount up. Tell someone you trust how you are feeling and what you are going to do to ease your way through this particular time and they can do it with you or support you in breaking the cycle. Choose to look after your body and boast your health, even through the difficult times. This will help you to face life straight in the eyes and enjoy the ride for all it’s worth!