julie doing pilates for stress and anxiety

This blog post on pilates for managing stress and anxiety – a fresh perspective, is brought to you as part of National Stress Awareness Month.

I’ve been sharing some tips on my Instagram stories all around small shifts I’ve made to help me manage stress and anxiety on a daily basis. I like to think of it as a fresh, yet simple perspective, on the fight against stress

Back pain is what brought me to pilates, but the underlying cause of that back pain was stress, caused by years of not listening to my body when I was in the corporate world.

It took me a LONG time to work that out, and it’s only been in the last 5 years that I’ve joined all the dots together and started to turn things around. Up until that point all I was doing, was going round and round in a stress cycle, feeling tired, irritable, tense and low on energy all of the time.

Sound familiar?

Small changes, big impact

Pilates was a catalyst to me becoming so much more intentional with my health, but the surprising thing was finding out just how much of a BIG impact SMALL changes can actually have.

It has been the accumulation of these small changes that have made the biggest difference to my stress levels and how I feel each day.

So much so, that part of my morning routine is now actually all about asking myself that very question – how do I want to feel –  and then planning my day in a way that supports this. 

It is this concept of ‘how do I want to feel,’ that underpins The Lifetonic Club.

And here’s the really magical thing, the more you ask this question, the more you’ll start to notice the things that are taking you away from how you want to feel, especially those things that add stress and anxiety to your life.  It has been a real game changer for me.

The surprising question to ask yourself daily

There is growing evidence that subjective health is becoming one of the best predictors of long term health – asking questions like ‘how do I feel’ and ‘does this work for me’ and using them as a guide to shape the things around you, instead of fitting into a rigid plan.

This approach has worked especially well for me because it opened my eyes to the fact that our health doesn’t start and stop – there is no on the wagon / off the wagon when it comes to your health, it’s always on-going; shifting and changing with the different seasons and experiences we find ourselves in. 

This realisation has led me to have a more flexible approach to my health, which in turn has led me to understand my own personal drivers of stress and how I can then take quick action to control them better. 

Pilates for stress relief

For me, I’ve let go of the fact that I need to spend 60 minutes working out to get relief from the feelings of stress and anxiety.  Through many years of experimenting and trying every fitness regime in the book,  there is now nothing that lowers my cortisol levels and increases my endorphins faster than a 15 minute pilates workout.

Pilates can be incredibly powerful in providing a place for the body to relax, rejuvenate and release tension. It also provides a space for the mind to focus and become present in the moment.  The Pilates principle, breath, oxygenates the blood which triggers the brain to calm down. The breath creates a physiological response in the body that naturally decreases our stress and anxiety.

How stress manifests

Stress can manifest itself in your body in many ways from headaches, stomach aches, digestive issues, back pain, muscle tension, dizziness, even rashes and skin disorders. Stress compromises your immune system, disrupts your sleep, and creates tension in relationships. Stress leads to weight gain.

One of the best things we can do for our health is to better understand our health on an on-going basis, remain flexible with it and track our stress drivers so as we can get ahead of the game and manage them proactively.

For me, stress can often leave me super low on energy, particularly if I’ve been working on a big project for my business, so if I want to feel more energetic, then I‘ll make sure that I open my day with an affirmation that anchors this feeling for me; something like “energy flows to and through me.”  

I’ll select a short pilates routine from the TLC Bodytonic Library that has an energetic theme to it (our rejuvenation flow workout has been my go to for April) and I’ll make sure that my snacks for the day are going to boost my energy naturally instead of double dosing on caffeine and sugar.  

Mid-afternoon, I’ll whip up something like the strawberry almond protein smoothie from our TLC recipe bundles.

julie working at the laptop

On another day, I might feel that I need more focus or calm, so I’ll follow a similar process but maybe add in a bit of journaling, or a Guided Relaxation from the Mindtonic Library.

Simple but powerful changes that I flex and change as my stress levels and feelings of anxiety dictate.

For more, you can always read this article I wrote where I shared 5 quick and easy ways to relax and reduce stress.

Shortly I start my coaching certification in Stress Management and Wellbeing so as I can continue to develop The Lifetonic Club into a resource that will truly educate, support and transform your health; pilates but SO much more.

Pilates for managing stress and anxiety on YouTube

My latest YouTube video is in support of National Stress Awareness Month.  It’s a short but effective routine all about staying present and reconnecting to yourself – essential when you feel like everything else around you is out of control, which is in keeping with the theme of National Stress Awareness Month.

Find that 15 minutes for yourself and lower those stress levels now.

I would love it if you could leave a comment or thumbs up if you enjoy it.

It really does help me to keep making other useful videos for our community.

Love Julie

P.S. If you’re interested in trying pilates to lower your stress levels for yourself, then I created my FREE 21 Day Pilates Challenge especially for this reason. You’ll get a 10 minute video sent straight to your inbox for 21 days. All you need to do is roll out your mat at a time that suits you. You can sign up below to get started today…

I’d like to thank my wonderful friend, James for writing this fantastic piece about looking after your back! James is a man who knows a thing or two about backs – a graduate of Cambridge University, he’s a Consultant Spinal Surgeon with the NHS and is the man you’ll end up in front of it you don’t look after your back! He’s also recovering from covid-19, which he contracted whilst working during the pandemic. A true hero and legend – if you don’t believe me about looking after your back, then you must believe him!

Back pain is a major cause of health problems world wide with up to 70% of adults experiencing back pain during their life time. Despite the attempts of Marty Mcfly going ‘Back to the Future’ remains rather difficult, meaning we cannot predict who will have problems with back pain.

In the majority of people back pain is a result of wear and tear changes in the lower levels of the spine where it joins the pelvis.

Mr. james tomlinson, nhs spinal consultant, frcs

Spine wear and tear will affect 100% of the population by a ‘certain age’ and is a natural part of the ageing process rather than a sign that something is wrong. Improvements in standards of living and healthcare have led to increased life expectancy, and higher levels of spine wear and tear due to longer lives. The treatment of back pain remains a difficult problem – largely driven by the fact that we still don’t understand the underlying causes, and why some individuals are so badly affected. The levels of spine wear and tear in those with and without low back pain may be very similar, and some of those who have significant pain may have no or little degeneration in their spine.

Back pain is more common in industrialised nations, and it has been suggested this may be due to lower levels of physical activity and physical deconditioning with weakness of the muscles supporting the spine.

Mr James tomlinson, nhs spinal consultant, frcs

Physical activity and movement will keep the spine muscles working and reduce the atrophy or loss of muscle bulk over time in those who have very low levels of physical activity. Any form of exercise that strengthens the low back muscles is useful to try and keep the spine healthy, but it is important to increase activity levels gradually!

Medical treatments for those who develop low back pain are usually pain relief and physiotherapy in the majority of patients with a lack of successful medical treatments for most cases. Physiotherapy often focuses on reconditioning the spine muscles and establishing normal movement patterns in the spine.

There is evidence that Pilates may help with keeping the spine muscles conditioned and can both help prevent back pain developing, and also improve symptoms in those who have low back problems.

Mr james tomlinson, nhs spinal consultant, frcs

In the words of Desiderius Erasmus the Dutch philosopher ‘prevention is better than cure’. It is of vital importance that we maintain our physical condition and health as we live longer and longer.

Given the lack of successful medical treatments for low back pain, maintaining spine movement and conditioning is critical and may play a key role in prevention of low back pain so get moving!

P.S. In case you missed it, here’s my 8 pilates exercises to ease low back pain


This post was originally published on the 13 June 2020 at Ostarapilates.com/blog and has had over 132 views.