COPING IN TIMES OF STRESS
by Kylie Gates
When I first met my husband, Grant, he said to me, “Wow, you never sleep.”
At the time, back in 2009, I was working many big jobs, and also teaching 10 to 15 classes a week. Teaching really was my whole life. Of course, I loved it! I worked, I taught, I socialised with the members and other Instructors… but I got very little rest. My cortisol levels were consistently high, as I was pretty much in that high stress state of fight-or-flight for much of the time.
Eventually, my lifestyle changed. I changed my role with Les Mills and cut down on classes. The biggest thing was that I got more sleep! This had a huge impact on both my body and my mind. I actually lost weight, and found that I became much calmer and more emotionally resilient. I became a yoga teacher and that ensured that I made my yoga and meditation a regular practise.
Sleep your way to a healthier brain
I wanted to share this with you now because, at this point in time, we are likely experiencing high levels of stress. Our routines may have changed, our sense of what is “normal” has likely changed, and we may be experiencing anxiety over our finances and the health of ourselves and our loved ones.
When we are in this heightened state of stress, it can become harder to make good decisions. Our sleep is likely affected, our weight can fluctuate, and of course we may end up training in a state of fatigue; when what our body really needs is a good rest. What I call self-care!
For those of us who normally teach a high number of classes every week, one of the first things we can embrace about isolation is the opportunity to get more sleep and physical recovery. It can be common for us to be up at the crack of dawn to teach, and then end up going to bed pretty late if we are also teaching in the evening. And of course, our teaching schedules may mean that we have extremely high volumes of training – and not necessarily in the order we would choose for results. One of the benefits of isolation is that you have the opportunity to dictate your own training schedule, as well as hopefully allowing yourself to have more physical recovery and sleep.
Want to know how to sleep like an athlete?
I, like all of you, have some anxiety over the future. Here in New Zealand, Grant and I have been in self-isolation for four weeks since we returned from Canada, and at the time of writing this we have at least another two weeks to go (as does the rest of the nation). None of us knows what the next 12 months looks like, or what the fitness industry may look like in five years’ time. The biggest thing that is helping me right now, outside of listening to my body and ensuring I am eating nutritious food and continuing to train, is to practise yoga and meditation.
I love BODYBALANCE because of the movement to beautiful music. We know that there are so many proven benefits to yoga, including: being comparable to psychological treatments such as meditation, massage, and group therapy in the management of anxiety and depression. It can help combat stress, and improve strength, cardiorespiratory function and balance in older adults.
Learn more about the science of yoga
My daily meditation practise means setting aside a period of time to just sit with myself and allow stuff to come up. I honour those thoughts and emotions and allow myself to feel them. Because I know that if I don’t do that, if I push those thoughts and feelings down and don’t acknowledge them, they are likely to manifest themselves in other forms.
Right now, there may be few things in your world that you can control. Pick those that you can control – your diet, movement, and your response to what is going on around you – and see if you can cultivate an attitude of acceptance towards your situation. When you stop resisting the change and allow things to “just be”, the experience is transformational.
Kylie Gates is Creative Director and Head Program Coach for Les Mills International. She is a regular presenter on BODYPUMP® and BODYBALANCE® / BODYFLOW® Masterclass, and is also a qualified yoga teacher. Originally from Perth, Australia, Kylie is now based in New Zealand. Follow Kylie @kyliegatesfitness