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With many of our gyms and fitness studio’s locked down across Australia and NZ, we are feeling the pressure and stress of not being able to do what we do. There’s financial uncertainty, financial pressure, uncertainty about whether our partners are going to stay employed, tensions across the household as us parents pretend to be teachers, with zero training, and attempt to home school our kids at the same time as holding on to the wreckage of our businesses.

Even those area’s not in lockdown are stressed, as their businesses are hamstrung (think of the tourism industry or people who’s jobs require travel), or their families are in other states – they’re effectively cut off from the wider world and their lives shrink accordingly.

Two women laughing and joking Prolonged stress is one of the worst things we can do to our bodies and brains. Our brains effectively shrivel up in to pre-historic auto-pilot*, and our hearts and hormones will suffer from the high levels of circulating cortisol, our stress hormone, which has knock-on effects of triggering your pain response (how many of us, or our clients have “done” their back in the past 2 months?), pumping up blood pressure, and, you guessed it – reducing our capacity to think clearly**. We also know that cortisol can cause people to gain or hold on to body fat, and is a major player in heart disease***.

More important than working out and dieting right now – is stress relief. Not just for you, but for your clients. Ask yourself this:

  • Where are you making them LAUGH? Is it possible to trigger a chuckle in every session? or in your Facebook groups? Or in an email chain?
  • Where are they getting their “touch fix”?? Who is hugging them? Have they a dog or partner and how can you help them if this is not possible?
  • When are they making time to get outside? Or feeling direct sunlight? Or the sensation of sand, grass, or the ocean against their feet or body?
  • Are they mediating, regularly performing mindfulness or gratefulness, and how can you incorporate this in to your offering, within your local area’s restrictions?
  • Where do they SEE green or blue in their daily lives? The colours of plants and water have been shown to significantly improve mental health – this could be as easy as dressing for them!
  • Are you screening for mental health dysfunctions? Will you notice if they go downhill in the next 6 weeks? Are you aware if the symptoms and do you know the process of referral if they are clearly depressed?

And this goes for YOU too!

Woman being silly by pretending to ride another woman like a pony

The solution for IntoYou was The Life Enhancement Project, which we invite you and your clients to join for free while Sydney is in Lockdown. There are hundreds of workouts, meditations, nutrition advice, mental health exercises, yoga sessions, and more up there to keep their clients engaged and happy. There is nothing stopping you creating something similar for your communities too!

But first, you need to understand what contributes to mental health and what takes away. You need to be screening for mental health in every session (if you’re still running them) and also inside yourself. There’s a great Mental Health First Aid course here, and a fabulous online screening tool here from Beyond Blue if you can’t get to a course.

From there, if someone gets a moderate or high score, you can refer them to their GP to get a Mental Health Plan. The GP will assess their mental health and then refer them to an appropriate psychologist or psychiatrist for their specific circumstances, and medicare will cover half the costs.

So don’t feel pressure to work out right now, but when i say this, i’m also not recommending the opposite extreme. NOT working out doesn’t mean sitting on the couch all day, and NOT dieting doesn’t mean going on an alcohol and cupcake bender!

What we mean, when we say prioritise stress relief right now, is to nourish all aspects of your health… bushwalking, breathwork, and swims in the ocean are all excellent, mentally nourishing forms of movement – find what fills your cup! Likewise, if eating cupcakes doesn’t make you feel energetic, vibrant, and positive, you can’t put them in the “self care” compartment! What foods make you feel alive and like you’re giving your body what you need??

Three women dancing with hair flying

Right now, thinking that your sole purpose is to smash you clients is a mistake. Or, if you’re a client, feeling pressure to look a certain way and train a certain way is off the table. If it brings you down, makes you feel exhausted, less worthy, and negative – switch it out for something that gives you the opposite feelings.

At least for now.