In the last couple of years, a lot of people I know have had to deal with stressful situations in their life. This includes friends, family and clients whom I train. As a personal trainer, I have noticed how stress in its’ many forms can have negative effects on training to be fit and healthy. I don’t know much about astrology but I can only assume that there has been something in the stars that has caused so many people to face challenging times in their life and hopefully that it is all going to change soon.
I have had to deal with a lot of stress myself, and running your own small business can be very tough at times. People generally write blog articles when they have time to reflect and sit and think and put pen to paper, I am writing this one while I am facing a few challenges in different areas of my life, so I am putting these thoughts into this article to help myself and people around me as much as everyone else who will read it.
People probably like to think that Personal Trainers, Life Coaches, Meditation teachers and other people who write these articles lead a perfect life. However, everyone will face challenges of some sort throughout their life, and nobody is immune, no matter what their circumstances are. Unless people ‘wear their heart on their sleeve’ and tell you everything that they are dealing with you will never truly know what challenges people could be facing. This is where social media applications like Facebook are so misleading because people will generally put up a highlight reel of all the good things that are happening to them or places they visit etc, and they rarely post the challenges or issues they are dealing with.
As a Fitness Professional, it can be challenging at times to motivate people to get the most from their training if they are highly stressed or dealing with issues in their life, but properly prescribed exercise routines with a lot of mobility, flexibility, and stretching can be the best thing for a person to relieve some stress. Even just going outside in nature for a walk can do wonders. One thing that I have found to be very beneficial for my clients is to do deep breathing techniques where they take a deep breath through their nose for about 6-8 seconds all the way down to their diaphragm, (until the stomach expands), then hold for a second and take 8 seconds to breathe out, then repeat this several times, which can help relieve anxiety and stress.
Being as fit and healthy as possibly is a journey. Just like the journey of life, we will face challenges we must accept. We have no control over most obstacles we may face on both these journeys, but what we always have control over is how we respond to these obstacles and challenges when they arise, and this is an extremely crucial point to remember. Being in control of these responses will change your life for the better and minimize the amount of stress that ‘you’ put on yourself, because it generally isn’t the situations we are in but how we respond that causes the most stress, both physically and emotionally. Obviously, there are some situations where people are facing abuse from others or facing violence or far worse, and these are not the kinds of situations I am referring to, because they need to be addressed differently. The type of situations I am referring to are health conditions such as injuries that hinder training, financial stress, work related stress, and day to day problems that arise like twisting an ankle playing sports, straining a muscle or getting back pain when lifting something or losing a mobile phone or a computer hard drive crashing, or losing a bank card etc.
One very frustrating part of keeping fit and leading a healthy lifestyle is that from time to time you may pick up an injury, but sometimes an injury in one area of your body will make you focus on training another area that you have previously neglected. This means that when you do finally recover from the injury you will have improved the strength / stability / mobility of another area. You can also focus on strengthening supporting muscles around the injury to help it heal quicker, (this depends on the exact nature of the injury). The point I am getting to, is that there can be positives to come from situations that we perceive as being bad, this applies to life as much as it does to your health and fitness journey.
The title of this article is “Be the Flow,” based on the phrase “Go with the flow,” meaning go along with the flow of life and everything that comes to you whether good or bad. ‘Be the Flow’ means to be in the flow, in other words be in the present moment as much as possible, so when challenges arise you can look at the positive solutions rather than panicking and feeling like this is too much to deal with, and putting more stress on yourself. Never be too proud to turn to good friends and close family members for help especially as they would know that you would do the same for them if the situation was reversed.
Here are some tips on dealing with challenging times and “to be the flow;”
- Learn to take deep breaths and practice this regularly, (Especially when you begin to feel stressed).
- Learn a meditation practice. This can have a profound effect on your wellbeing. I do transcendental meditation and I find that when I practice it regularly it makes life much easier no matter what obstacles arise.
- If you don’t feel like exercising or going to personal training session, because you are facing stress, this is exactly the time when you should go. If you have a good Personal trainer and you explain that you are currently stressed, he / she will know not to put you through an intense session and will help you with stretching, low intensity cardio, mobility and breathing techniques that will bring you a sense of calm, which will help you feel much better afterwards.
- Get outside in nature as much as possible, and exercise outside as much as possible.
- The next time you feel a negative mind state coming on, just sit and monitor your thoughts for a few minutes rather than letting them take over your actions and emotions. This will help you work through things in a more productive way.
- This one is the most important, never make a major decision when you are stressed or angry, and never ever say negative things or pass judgement on a friend or loved one when stressed or angry, because you will say what you don’t really feel inside and then regret it after. As soon as you feel stressed, focus on deep breathing and the monitoring of your thoughts before getting into an argument or making judgements of other people or “blaming” them. With some time to reflect and to gain more insight on the situation you are facing, you will probably view it very differently.
- Learn to be grateful for all the positive aspects of your life, and always remember that there are people in other parts of the world that would give anything to be in your situation. Some people have to live in conditions that we just cannot comprehend, and the obstacles that we face will appear minor to these people.
- Try to help others, and be of service to them as much as possible. Whether in your job, business, or day to day to life, it’s very important to expect nothing in return for helping people, and carry out random acts of kindness.
- Don't worry about what other people think about you, this is always a pointless thought process. How often have you felt someone had certain thoughts about you, but when confronted you learn that you had misread the situation or their thoughts? Usually we create a scenario in our mind that just doesn't really exist.
- We must spend a substantial proportion of our lives working, but it is important to direct as much of our energy towards something you are motivated and driven to do. When you wake up in the morning to do something you have a passion for it does not feel like “work” anymore.
- Do more of what you enjoy!
- Don't be so hard on yourself, and make time for yourself as often as you can, because you cannot help anyone else if you don't help yourself first.
I hope that someone reading this finds it helpful, and you may think that I have gone off on a tangent here for a fitness related blog article, but as a Personal Trainer my approach is health first. You cannot have a fit and healthy body without a healthy mind. Everything is connected, and daily challenges or obstacles in life can hold us back, especially if we don’t deal with them in a constructive way. I hope everybody out there has an amazing day, and if you have been facing challenging times, I hope they improve quickly for you. Implement some of these tips and enjoy the journey, Be the Flow……
John Cawley is a certified personal trainer and fitness advisor. He founded his company, PlantBasedLife, in 2015 and has gone on to become one of Sydney's top go-to professionals for plant-based lifestyle and fitness training.