Understanding Your Stress Response.

Hi friends

Do you find yourself coming down with a cold or virus as soon as you go on annual leave?

You’re not alone! Research indicates that around 1 in 5 of us will come down with the common cold during a period of annual leave.

And this recent article by the New York Times cited that being under severe stress for more than one month but less than six months doubled a person’s risk of a cold, compared with people experiencing only routine stress.

But what is routine versus severe stress? And what does it have to do with us catching a cold?

Well, it’s all down to how you respond to the stress in your life and in this month’s lifetonic, we’re going to be digging deeper into what your stress response is, why stress can sometimes be good for you and how to look out for the ‘bad’ stress that’s not so good!

You’ll also learn about your three in-built responses to stress, looking at three of the most powerful ways you can control the physiological effects of stress with your TLC tools and resources.

So if you’re looking to book that annual leave for the Christmas Holidays and actually get to make the most of it, then this is the lifetonic for you!

What is stress?

Quite simply, stress occurs when pressure exceeds your perceived ability to cope.

This is really important to understand, because it’s not just about external pressures like hitting deadlines, but whether you believe that you can cope with a situation that you perceive as important or threatening.

That means stress is going to be different for every body!

The good news is, through experience, understanding your stress response and developing helpful coping mechanism, you can actually get good at stress and it can help to make you more resilient for whatever life throughs at you.

This line of thinking is rooted in positive psychology and is often called developing a ‘growth mindset.’

Understanding Your Stress Response

The stress response is a biological set of processes that start in the brain and body and are triggered once you become stressed (Palmer and Cooper, 2015).

It is important to note that there are two biological responses to stress; a short term stress response, which is a natural response to dealing with threating situations, and a long term or ‘chronic’ stress response, which can lead to a number of different physical and mental health conditions if left unmanaged.

The diagram below is actually a diagram I put together for my stress coaching certification. It helps to explain the long and short term stress response, including the main hormones involved.

The blue areas illustrate the short term or ‘acute‘ stress response. Acute stress is the ‘good’ stress or the healthy response to stress. This is the stress that protects you from the threat of danger and can help motivate you to get things done, achieve a goal or complete a project on time.

Here’s the cool bit – acute stress supports your immunue system. For example, the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline help to prepare your heart, lungs and major muscles groups for action (fight or flight mode), whilst fats and sugars are released into your blood to provide energy.

Combined, they’re actually working for you, helping you to stay safe or ‘get the job done.’ This response prepares you for action. When you take that action, or ‘get the job done,’ your using up that energy your body has given you to remove the stress, helping it to return to balance. This is called regulating your stress response.


Where we can run into hot water, is where we don’t take any action to regulate our stress system. Instead, we just let stress go round and round, taking ourselves into a cycle of chronic or long term stress.

The orange area illustrate the longer term, ‘chronic‘ stress cycle and is epitomised by the ‘always on’ culture. .

The chronic stress response is made in your HPA Axis (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal).

Constant stimulation of the HPA axis can lower the body’s immune system and increase blood pressure leading to hypertension and regular headaches and colds. 

And although adrenal fatigue is not a real condition, it goes some way to describing the ‘stress’ that the adrenal gland is put out during periods of chronic stress. Chronic stress puts it at risk of malfunction, which can result in tiredness, digestive difficulties, sleep disturbances, dizziness and a craving for sweet and starchy food.

Sound familiar?

Our in-built responses to stress

There are only three 3 ways your body responds to stress. These are:

In this lifetonic, we’re mainly going to be looking at the physiological responses but stand by for future lifetonics, which will look at important aspects of the other two.

Resetting your Stress Response

Whether you’re aware of it or not, the tools and resources that you have access to within the lifetonic Club offer you a mind / body / life approach to managing your stress response and boosting your wellbeing.

The only thing you have to do is to take action!

This is the hard part of most of us. No longer do we have tigers chasing us, so taking action on our stress response has become less about survival. It’s a mind set shift we have to make – it IS still very much about our survival, the long term survival of our health, our relationships and our life!

Let’s look at how some of the tools and resources with TLC are set up to support this:

Wellbeing Resources

10 minutes is better than none

One of the best known ways to lower your stress levels is through exercise (White, 2017,; Palmer and Cooper, 2015).  In his book ‘The Stress Solution,’ Dr. Raangan Chatterjee states that exercise is one of the best ways to pull yourself out of a “damaging stress state,” caused by too many “Micro Stress Doses” (MSD). 

This is a term he uses to describe the modern day ‘always on’ culture (texts, emails, alerts, notifications). MSD cause your body to pump out cortisol over and over again. Moving helps to use up that cortisol and sends a ‘safe’ signal to your brain, triggering the rest and digest response.

One of the best findings of recent years is that it’s no longer about duration or intensity, but the importance of moving your body as much as possible each day, and paying attention to how you feel before and after that can really have the most impact (Chatterjee, 2017).

Eat more anti-inflammatory foods

Maintaining a healthy diet plays an important part in maintaining a healthy body and mind (White, 2017).

Chronic stress increases chronic inflammaton in the body but the good new is, eating well can help reduce inflammation (Charterjee, 2017) and prevent things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and even cancer.

Central to this is eating a balanced, healthy diet. This can include things like healthy fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, oily fish like salmon), complex carbohydrates and foods that are high in fibre (green, leafy veg, wholegrain pasta, rice, bread, sweet potato and fruit), protein (lean meat, chicken eggs, lentils) and avoiding refined sugar, overly processed food and unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats) (White, 2017; Palmer and Cooper, 2015).

Did you know that anti-inflammatory foods can also help you to regulate your mood and perform better?

To help us dive a little deeper into this subject, I’m delighted to bring you a BONUS series this month called ‘Food for Mood.’

These short videos, (all under 10 minutes), have been created for us by our brilliant in-house nutritionist, Moira Newiss and you watch them below for some helpful hints and tips about how to use food for mood!

Learn to relax

There are many mind body techniques that can use used to help enter a state of calm and relaxation and reduce the effects of stress and tension, including meditation, breathwork, relaxation imagery and pilates (Chatterjee, 2018).  

All of these techniques work by enhancing the para-sympathetic nervous system helping you to access your ‘rest and digest’ state. 

Palmer and Cooper (2015) state that “mediative techniques can lead to 50 per cent fewer visits to hospital as either an in or out patient.”

In my opinion, movement that strengthens and nourishes your body, a diet that’s fulled by whole, real foods and taking time out to promote healing and relaxation in your body and mind are the holy trinity of controlling your response to stress at a physiological level.

Work towards building your own unique toolkit for respoinding to your stress by picking one or two things to focus on for this month.

I hope you are starting to feel the benefits of what taking small, intentional steps with your health can really do for you.

Have a peaceful October.


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Detoxifying Your Home

Hi Friends

This year, I’ve been on a journey trying to create a healthier home. It’s involved trying to understand what ‘toxins’ I expose myself to and then taking small steps to try and reduce this.

Toxins are harmful substances that are derived from food, water, cleaning products, and other environmental sources that we are exposed to regularly.

Many everyday cleaners, beauty products, and home goods, including cookware, often hide harmful chemical ingredients and an accumulation of toxins may become poisonous in the human body. Many of them have been linked to various health hazards including asthma, endocrine disruption, organ damage, and cancer.

how to detoxify your home blog post

The solution? Consider a home detox. And while it may not be impossible to go completely chemical-free (at least overnight), there are a few changes you can start today that can make huge strides towards a healthier home and a happier you.

1. Swap your cleaning products

Think about all that you touch in your home. Surfaces, showers, tubs, sinks, handles, etc. Now think about what you’re using to clean them. Are they safe?

If the answer is no, that’s your first step. Switching to non-toxic cleaners is one of the easiest things you can do!

I recently discovered Method cleaning products, which are all non-toxic and also offer product refills, making them more economical and environmentally friendly. On that note, you can read more about their story and mission here, which might spurn you on to give them a try as they’re also supporting a healthier, cleaner world.

Their cleaning products include:

And they all smell amazing!

I’ve noticed that it’s not the cheapest switch in the world to make (have you noticed how nothing good for you is ever cheap?!). So my other recommendation comes in the form of wearing PPE when you’re cleaning.

I had never considered this before covid, but the mask will protect your lungs from breathing back in the spray and the gloves will act as a barrier between the product you’re using and your skin. It’s a bit of a no brainer!

2. Read ingredient labels

Did you know that for decades Johnson and Johnson used asbestos in it’s talc powder? You should read this article by Reuters to find out just how big brands can sometimes make big profits at the expense of your health.

What you put in your body isn’t the only thing that matters; what goes on your body can impact your health, too. And whilst the market in the UK is much more regulated than in other countries like America, I’d advocate that it’s still important to stay educated on what harmful ingredients may be hiding in your favorite facial cleanser or sunscreens (these have come under wrap in the USA of lately).

One big step you can take towards smarter shopping: familiarise yourself with common ingredients that may be harmful to your health, like parabens (a preservative) and triclosan (an antibacterial agent) and know in what products they are often found in.

Buy organic where cost allows (it’s expensive!), avoid GMO products and consult the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists, which I’ve linked for you. Both of these detail the 15 cleanest and dirtiest products according to the pesticides used on them.

3. Burn all natural candles

If you’re a fan of burning a candle like me, then I recently made the switch to non-toxic candles!

I’m a big candle person and I didn’t realize that many of the regular candles I was burning were putting tons of toxins into the air in my home. I now make sure to buy only non-toxic candles.

My absolute favourite brand that I’ve discovered is Jo Jo Candles. This is a brand local to where I live, so it also feels nice to support a small business who’s doing some good!

I regularly buy her soy wax candles, which also have lead free cotton wicks, making them candles that are kinder to you and our environment.

Do a search on instagram and facebook to see who you can support locally – so many small businesses that are doing good have popped up over lockdown so let’s support them where we can!

Green plants in bedroom for blog post

4. Add plants to purify the air

A simple way to filter out some toxins from the air is to have house plants. Plants are natural air purifiers and are an amazing addition to any home. They also look really pretty and bring a very calming feel to your space.

I like to have plants in every single room if possible, specifically in the areas where I spend the bulk of my time. I’m just trying to get a home office / 1:1 pilates studio sorted, so I’ll be plant shopping for this space. My bedroom has lots of plants as does my living room.

5. Switch to non-toxic cookwear

Time to toss the teflon guys!

Materials and metals like aluminum, plastic, lead, and Teflon can pose serious risks to your health and are prevalent in a lot of cookware items

Teflon is the trademarked coating that makes non-stick cookware non-stick. It was a gamechanger for cooking when it was introduced around 80 years ago. The issue is that these coatings (which contain compounds like PFOA or PTFE), are highly toxic and have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, organ failure, reproductive damage, and other health issues (check out the film Dark Waters and the documentary The Devil We Know for a deeper dive into the health risks).

Newer nonstick coatings, like Teflon, technically no longer contain PFOA and PFOS, On top of that, high heat causes the chemicals to break down, releasing toxic fumes. Additionally, PFOAs and PTFEs don’t biodegrade – which means they can accumulate in our bodies increasing the risk of damage.

To wrap up this month’s lifetonic, here are some healthy cookware swaps for you…

Ceramic coated

Look for one that’s certified by third-party testing and free of PFAs, PFOA, lead, and cadmium. I personally have swapped to Green Pans and love them!

Ceramic

Ceramic is great as it’s completely inert—meaning it won’t leach any harmful toxins. Ceramic pans are generally free of heavy metals, polymers, coatings, and dyes, plus, they’re dishwasher safe! 

Stainless Steel

When shopping you will see numbers like 200, 304, 316, and 430, the higher the number the stronger, longer-lasting it is and the less nickel content it will have.

Glass

I’ve moved away from plastic for environmental reasons. Pyrex is the most popular cookware brand but there are many others!

Porcelain enamel

Enameled cookware is usually made of cast iron that has been coated in enamel (think Le Creuset). This is out of my price range but the perk of this cookware is that it won’t rust, in contrast, to cast irons, and should last you a lifetime!


Taking time to find out more about the products and things you use, is another example of how you can be intentional with your health; making decisions that are all going to add up in your journey to become the healthiest version of yourself.

Your task this month, is to pick one area from the five above, do your own research, and then make a positive change in your own life.

What one will choose? Will you share your journey with us in our Facebook Group? I hope so – it’s a great way to help us all learn on this journey!

Have a good month and be kind to yourself.

NB. This is NOT a sponsored post nor affiliate related. I do not personally know any of these companies nor do I receive any payment for recommending them. I just wanted to share a few recommendations to help you in your journey and would encourage you to do your own research.


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Brain health

Hi friends

For this month’s Lifetonic, we’re turning our attention towards focusing on a part of our body that we often don’t realise needs a lot of care and attention…

…and that’s our brain!

We rely on our brains to help us do everything we can possibly do in a day, making decisions, moving our bodies, talking to ourselves positively, interacting with others, problem solving, communicating.  Most of these things we do automatically and we can take our brain function hugely for granted, but our brains are an important part of our bodies to care for.

When we care for our brains regularly, we improve our chances of delaying or avoiding age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disorders. We can also improve our overall cognitive function.

But what does that mean for us?

Brain health is essential for long-term healthy living and daily function. While it’s important to start taking care of our brains early on, it becomes even more important the older we get.

That’s why this month’s Lifetonic is to focus on ways to boost our brain health!

Neuroinflammation, or inflammation of the brain, can happen over time, causing the brain to age or atrophy. Symptoms of neuroinflammation can include “brain fog,” slowed thinking, fatigue, and even depression.

While it’s necessary for our bodies to have some inflammation to fight illness, too much inflammation can lead to long-term diseases and declines in our overall health, including brain function.

Here are a few positive steps you can actively and mindfully take, to improve your brain’s overall health:


“Reducing inflammation is pretty much the most effective anti-aging strategy of all.” – Dave Asprey


As we get older, our bodies and brains change and adapt. That’s why it’s so important to take care of them as they go through this process.

Many people don’t notice the effects of their lifestyles until they get older. And while genetics do play a part in our overall health, we can make mindful choices to help us continue on the path to good physical and brain health.

I hope you’ll join me this month in caring for our brain health together. Taking intentional steps to care for your body and brain for long-term health benefits is truly empowering and helps keep us young!

Love Julie x

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The importance of rest & play

Hi Friends

The summer brings us all a chance to find a second gear and tap into our fun sides!  I think this year, finding time to play is especially important after a missed summer in 2020!

The mental and physical health benefits of play are HUGE, and we’re looking at some of them in this month’s lifetonic, PLUS I’ll give you a kick start list for some ways you might want to inject a bit of fun into the summer month’s ahead.

We’re also looking at the flip side of having fun, which is making time for rest. 

As we transition out of a full lockdown (fingers crossed), there can be a tendency to over commit ourselves!  So this month, I’m prepping you to find a balance between rest and play.

So let’s step away from any to-do list for July and make an intentional decision to nurture our health and wellbeing by having more rest AND play!

What are rest and play?

Rest is truly a time to do nothing. It’s a blank spot in your schedule to stop, reflect, and just be with you. It is also a time to sleep; it’s true we need sleep.  Rest can be a 10-minute break to sit outside at work, or it can be a few minutes to sit on the couch at home without turning on the TV, checking your phone, or hopping on the laptop!  It can be a short (disco!) nap, or a moment to just kick back and close your eyes.

Play is to do something just for the fun and enjoyment of it, with no goal or expected outcome. When we are in play, it opens us to being present, and it invites us to experience joy.  

For everyone play will look different; it might be reflected in your hobbies and interests or the relationships you have in your life. Play can be activities you do on your own, but it is also great when we can do them with other people in our lives. When we share in play, we strengthen connections with others; our children, our partners and even our communities, depending on what we do.

One of the biggest and best benefits of play, is enhancing bonding; either on a personal level or a social level.

Ultimately we can use it as a way to connect and forget about our worries, and that’s what can make it so good for our health.

Why are rest and play important?

Rest and play provide us the opportunity to clear our heads, process emotional experiences, and sort our thoughts.  Although we might not be directly focused on the processing and sorting of thoughts, quite often it happens indirectly.

Play inherently makes way for creativity and innovation, strengthening our ability to problem solve and navigate difficult decisions. Including more play in our lives also encourages us to be present and experience positive emotions like joy and laughter, which in turn helps to balance our lives when we are going through difficult times.

During rest, our brain is able to process with less influence from the cognitive functions that are active throughout the day, also giving that cognitive part of our brain a break. When we get sufficient rest, and sleep, we also increase our emotional resiliency, giving us a greater capacity to cope under stressful situations.

summer ice cream

What gets in the way of rest and play?

So why do we keep ourselves from rest and play?

For everyone it might look a little different, but for a lot of us we value productivity. Being a productive person means getting things done; when we get things done we see that as an achievement.

We lead busy lives, in part because we value those achievements, so to make time for rest and play would mean we would need to value our own well-being. Sometimes slowing down is worth more than finishing a task, and to play would mean we could allow ourselves to experience joy.

Making space for rest and play, if it isn’t easy to fit into your schedule, needs to be intentional. It needs to be looking at your day and making time to play, even if it is just 10 or 20 minutes (hello Bodytonic Calender for this month).

Taking a rest at work because you are having a hard time focusing can be as easy as doing nothing! Simply just be.

Ideas for more rest and play

Start to make a list of things you like to do for fun, ask the rest of your family or some friends to do the same, and see if anything overlaps. 

The overlaps are the things you can do to play together!

Am starting you off with a few suggestions for having FUN this July:

Please share in our Facebook community what you’ll lead with…I’d love to know!

Have a fun July!

Love Julie x


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Being present

Hi friends

Our Lifetonic as a community this month is to practice being present.

So, what does this mean?

Quite simply, it means focusing on the here and now. Paying attention to what’s in front of you in the moment rather than focusing on what happened this morning or what’s about to happen this afternoon (or what’s happening over on instagram or facebook or the countless other things that are now at our finger tips ready to take us away from the moment we’re in!)

image to support blog post on being present

In our current twenty-first century lives, being present is not easy. There’s always something coming up that we need to prepare for or anticipate, and our lives are so well-documented that it’s never been easier to get lost in the past.

Given the fast pace and hectic schedules most of us keep, a base level of anxiety, stress, and unhappiness can all too often feel normal for a lot of us.

The cure for this, is believed to be conscious awareness and a commitment to staying in the “now.” Living in the present moment is the solution to a problem you may not have known you had and can be the most effective thing you can do today as this Forbes article explains.

The psychology of being present

Being present, or living in the present moment, is a recognized and evidence-backed lifestyle that psychologists are quick to recommend for those struggling with anxiety and stress in their day-to-day life.

What is the Meaning of the Present Moment?

Being in the present moment, or the “here and now,” means that we are aware and mindful of what is happening at this very moment. We are not distracted by ruminations on the past or worries about the future, but centered in the here and now. All of our attention is focused on the present moment (Thum, 2008).

Why is Being Present Minded Important?

Being present minded is the key to staying healthy and happy. It helps you fight anxiety, cut down on your worrying and rumination, and keeps you grounded and connected to yourself and everything around you.

And it’s backed up by good science!

“Being present and exerting our ability to be mindful not only makes us happier, it can also help us deal with pain more effectively, reduce our stress and decrease its impact on our health, and improve our ability to cope with negative emotions like fear and anger”. (Halliwell, 2017).

june  mindtonic quote on being present
Save your monthly mindtonic as your trigger to be more present this month

Why being present can be difficult in today’s culture

Living in the now is so difficult because we are always encouraged to think about the future or dwell on our past. Just think through your day so far and count the different ways that your attention is diverted away from being present – online ads, reminders, notifications, direct messages, texts and alerts.

Things like this are actually challenging and changing our ability to be present. For example:

Be here now

This month, think about all the ways that you’re perhaps less than present in your life and then think about one goal that you can set to become more present. Some of us will want to practice presence in conversations with loved ones, others will want to find ways to detach from our mobiles phones or social media accounts, and others will want to explore what it means to be present and mindful from a more experience based perspective. Examples of this might include being more present and mindful in every day activities like eating/walking/driving/sitting etc.

I encourage you to pursue our June lifetonic in your own way, but here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. How do you intend to be more present in your life this month? Let me know in the comments below and share in our Facebook Community!

Love Julie x

Want to take things a step further? Then watch this YouTube video by Mel Robbins where she shares a simple, proven way to live in the moment.


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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…

Mindful Decluttering

Hi friends

Spring is in the air, which is also the official season of Ostara!   Ostara is the goddess of Spring and the Spring Equinox and she represents renewal and  rejuvenation! So I could not think of a better Lifetonic theme for this month than mindful decluttering.

A few years back, I got into the habit of what’s called ‘mindful decluttering. ’ Clutter can really affect how we feel about ourselves and the space around us.  When we plan to take action it can sometimes feel overwhelming because we often approach it without a clear plan or vision.

What is Mindful Decluttering?

Well, it’s first knowing clearly what you want from your home and life, and then consciously working towards that vision by letting go of anything that doesn’t serve that vision.

When you start to feel the overwhelm kick it –come back to this.  Creating a vision board for the space on pinterest can be a particularly useful way to keep you motivated  and on track. Visualising something can often help make it a reality.

photo of a minimalist living room that has undergone mindful decluttering.

Clutter can be defined in a lot of ways, but we probably most associate clutter with having too many things or having a disorganized space.  It’s easy to accumulate items in our living spaces over the years.

And let’s face it, it’s probably fair to say we’ve maybe accumulate a few more things than we probably planned on having at the start of 2020!

Whilst clutter may look and feel different for all of us, reducing it is a really helpful way to lighten our mind and create a sense of calm around us, benefiting our mental health and overall well-being.

The Benefits of Decluttering

In fact, by reducing the physical clutter, you may find that you also feel more focused and energized!

Here are a few other benefits of decluttering:

Reduced stress and frustration when it comes to your daily environment

The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?”

Marie kondo

Ready to declutter mindfully?

To get you started, I’ve pulled together 10 creative decluttering tips that can also have a positive impact on your wellbeing:

Start with 5 minutes at a time. If you’re new to decluttering, you can slowly build momentum with just five minutes a day.

Give one item away each day. This would remove 365 items every single year from your home. If you increased this to 2 per day, you would have given away 730 items you no longer needed. Increase this number once it gets too easy.

Fill an entire rubbish bag. Get a rubbish bag and fill it as fast as you can with things you can donate at Goodwill.

Donate clothes you never wear.  To identify them, simply hang all your clothes with hangers in the reverse direction. After wearing an item, face the hanger in the correct direction. Discard the clothes you never touched after a few months.

Create a decluttering checklist. It’s a lot easier to declutter when you have a visual representation of where you need to get started. You can use this decluttering checklist that I created especially for you!

mindful decluttering clears your space of unnecessary items.

Take the 12-12-12 challenge. Locate 12 items to throw away, 12 to donate, and 12 to be returned to their proper home.  This is a fun one to get kids involved with!

View your home as a first-time visitor. It’s easy to “forget” what your home looks like to a new visitor. Enter your home as if you’re visiting the home of a friend. Write down your first impression on how clean and organized the home is and make changes.

Take before and after photos of a small area. Choose one part of your home, like your kitchen counter, and take a photo of a small area. Quickly clean off the items in the photo and take an after photo. Once you see how your home could look, it becomes easier to start decluttering more of your home.  Remember what I said about visualising!

Recruit help. Have a friend or family member go through your home and suggest a handful of big items to throw away or give to someone else. If you defend the item and want to keep it, your friend has to agree with your reason. If they don’t agree, it’s time to get rid of it.  Just make sure it ends with a smile on both sides!

Use the Four-Box Method.  Get four boxes and label them:  rubbish, give away, keep, or re-locate. Enter any room in your home and place each item into one of the following boxes. Don’t skip a single item, no matter how insignificant you may think it is. This may take days, weeks, or months, but it will help you see how many items you really own and you’ll know exactly what to do with each item.

You only need to choose one of those decluttering tips to get started.  Remember, the goal is to take your first step in decluttering your life and as we always say here at The Lifetonic  Club and Ostara – it’s the small things often that add up to big results!

When we declutter it can also help reduce feeling of anxiety that tend to cause more stress in our lives.  As you accumulate less in life, you acquire more in your heart – space for friends, family, healthy pursuits, even pilates!

If you’d like to take your Lifetonic to the next level, then I’d highly recommend reading Spark Joy by Marie Kondo.

On Netflix The Minimalists is worth a watch and they also have this fun 30 Day Minimalism Challenge.

For a great podcast try this one called How to Simplify Your Life

There is a beautiful world of freedom and fresh breath hiding behind that clutter. Deciding how to declutter your home is up to you but I hope you find something here to motivate and inspire you!

Drop into TLC Facebook Community and let us know what one decluttering tip you’re going to try this month.

Cheering you on for a magical April!

Love Julie x


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This morning it was such a joy to take my gorgeous Ostara community members through a 30 minute Mindful Morning Pilates session over on Facebook Live.

One thing I’ve been asking our members to do these past few months, is to make sure they are making time for themselves – even if that is just 5 minutes on the floor with a door shut somewhere in their house.

It’s been a tumultuous couple of months and I think we’re all really feeling the effects of living in a very different way.

So a virtual squeeze from me and an opportunity to help them top up their energy bank!

To set them up, these were the 5 tips I shared to help them get the most out of it:

Pilates focused on relaxing and replenishing.

Simple and ready for the weekend.

Happy Friday

Love Julie x

P.S. Am curious, what would you add to the list above?

P.P.S. Check out my blog post on breathing exercises to relax and calm the mind

Abdominal Breathing

Belly Breathing

I often use this in teaching right at the start to help everyone to relax down, release tension and focus the mind. You breathe in a pattern of 4-2-6. Give it a go – great to do at the end of a busy, stressful day or whenever you just need a moment to reconnect to life.

Repeat this as many times as you need encouraging your body to relax and your mind to calm. Let the warmth of your hands represent a caring, friendly support. You can repeat “Inhale belly rises, exhale belly falls.”


Pilates Breathing

Fogging the Mirror

You can do this seated, in relaxation position or moving in any form!

The focus in fogging the mirror is on the exhale, which helps minimise tension. The relaxed jaw also helps let go of tension and helps to get the abdominals to engage properly.


Imagery for Breathing

Glass of Water

Imagine your torso was a drinking glass. Start with the glass empty and abdominals relaxed. Inhale slowly through your nose and fill the glass with water from the bottom to the top. Exhale slowly emptying the class from top to the bottom. This imagery focuses on relaxing the abdominals for better diaphragm movement and the initial action of the pelvic floor and focuses the attention on your abdominals rather than breathing using your shoulders and neck, which is what we tend to do when we shallow breathe. If you think you shallow breathe then give belly breathing a go (see above!).

I hope you find these helpful. Will you let me know if you try any of them?

Julie

P.S. Have you read my Pilates for Breathing blog post? There are some great breathing tips in there that I wrote with you in mind!

By far and away, one of the most asked questions I get is around pilates breathing, “I can’t quite get my breathing to match my movements,” “am I meant to breathing in or out?,” “I think I just stop breathing altogether!”

Please know that when you first start out on your pilates journey, nobody gets the breathing so you are not alone! The first objective of breath work in pilates is really just to become aware of your breathing and then to try and keep that breathe natural and fluid as you go; having that awareness is the start of building the mind/body connection that pilates is so famous for. Once you start to become aware of it, this will allow you to develop it as you go I promise.

“Breathing is the first and last act of life. Our very life depends on it.”

joseph pilates

So why is the breath so important then?

Breathing is a key pilates principle and is one of the building blocks of the practice along with alignment and centering (using core stability) – your ABCs! My community members will know all about this because I created a handy Guide for them all about it.

Intentional breath, or focused breathing, helps calm the nervous system, oxygenates the blood and gets rid of nasties (carbon dioxide) from the body, provides us with energy, activates our muscles and keeps our immune system ticking over.

Breathing is also directly related to the alignment of your skeleton. Nearly all muscles involved in breathing have a postural function and many of them are also involved in stability and help control good alignment as you move. In a nutshell, breathing directly influences stability and control of movement as well as posture and alignment so we are ticking a lot of boxes just by breathing well!

Your diaphragm is the muscle responsible for breathing in your body; it sits between your upper body and your lower body but all 3 parts are connected through your fascia system (that’s like wallpaper on your insides) so just by breathing slowly you are consciously stretching your whole torso – from your neck to your pelvic floor – very cool! The abdominal muscles (especially your deep core ones) are the ones you use to exhale, so breathing out helps kick start your body’s ability to stabilize.

That’s why you will hear cues like ’on your exhale, draw your belly button to your spine’ or ‘draw your abdominals down towards the spine’ or ‘feel your abdominals wrapping around your spine,” that’s me reminding you to think about actively recruiting yours abs on your exhale so as you can give your body some gentle support before you move. It always sounds so much more complicated than it is!

We use lateral (ribcage) breathing in pilates where we consciously breathe into the sides and backs of the ribcage (as if the ribcage was yawing apart), and then as we exhale the ribs draw back in to meet, allowing you to connect and hollow your deep adnominal muscles as you empty your lungs. You then aim to keep this ‘hollow’ as you take your next inhale; holding yourself stable.

Typically we inhale to prepare and exhale to move. However, this doesn’t always work for everyone – sometimes it can be useful to experiment and find a way that works best for you. I’ll do this in The Hundred sometimes when I find the in / out breath count of 5 is too much. If you’re in class with me, you will have seen me do in for 2 / out for 2. I think this is a good compromise for one of the more challenging pilates exercises and is easier to get handle on if you are new to it all.

Whatever you do, just don’t forget to actually breathe! Holding your breath, which is what most people do when they learn something new and are concentrating, adds to tension in the body and we’re trying to release it.

Just remember, that once you feel co-ordinated enough in your movements, then you can start to work on matching the breathe with what you’re doing. We will all be at different stages in our pilates journey so it’s about working in a way that feels right for you – take your time with it, don’t get impatient with yourself. Remember pilates is non-competitive; it’s a journey not a destination so enjoy the ride!

“Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.”

joseph pilates

Foundational exercises to support pilates breathing:

Pilates breathing helps stretch the upper mid back, can help to release tightness in the neck, jaw and shoulders, can strengthen and restore good health to the pelvic floor muscles and of course can calm our nervous system. So many benefits!

Here are the key exercises to practice with – get noisy with it and have fun!

Good luck!

Julie

P.S. Did you realise there was so much going on with just one breathe? I love to know if these tips might make a difference to your pilates practice so if you try them, be sure to leave me a comment with your thoughts.

P.P.S Have you read my post on breathing exercises that I wrote for you too? They are great to have in your back pocket for when you need to take a moment out for yourself or to practice your pilates breathing. I’ve linked them here for you.