It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog here, mostly because I have been so busy with my day to day clinical practice working with riders, athletes and horses that I simply haven’t had the time or the inclination to sit down and write something meaningful. Like most of you just now I am currently sitting at home in self isolation unable to continue my work with clients and feeling a little bit useless; especially as I feel I am unable to help my clients through this difficult time.
So in an attempt to make myself useful I thought I would try and put together some online content that might help!
Most of you are aware that I practice a ‘muscle activation’ technique called ‘Be Activated’ (a few of you have certainly been at the receiving end of my thumbs!). ‘Be Activated’ has been created by a South African Physiotherapist called Douglas Heel (click here to visit his website) and it’s actually more of a philosophy rather than just a technique.
How your mindset can improve the function of your body
Something I probably don’t discuss enough with my clients is the bigger picture around the ‘techniques’ and how the philosophy of ‘Be Activated’ can actually help improve our response to stress and therefore our ability to be resilient in times like these! In this blog I am going to try and explain this a bit more and over the coming days/weeks try to give you some ‘tools’ to help you improve both your mindset and your body while you are stuck at home.
First of all I want you to have a look at this video I have created with an exercise you can try yourself. Hopefully it gives you an idea of how stress and negativity can overwhelm the body and trigger the stress response; leaving you feeling vulnerable.
Before you press play: Have a think about what INSPIRES you and what STRESSES you.
Once you have watched the video have a go of the exercises (*ONLY do the ‘arm pushing’ test if you are actually self isolating in the same house as someone of course – otherwise social distancing rules would apply and only stick to the ‘jumping’ version!).
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with the world just now. The news is constantly filled with covid-19 confirmed cases, deaths, lockdown, isolation and decisions that are completely out with our control. This is enough to trigger anyones stress response and send our minds and bodies into overdrive.
A little bit of information about the stress response
The whole point in the stress response (otherwise known as ‘fight or flight’ response) is to create physiological changes in the body to enable us either 1) fight the danger approaching or 2) run away; and includes things like an increase in heart rate/breathing rate and and increase in muscle tension.
This stress response has been evolved as a survival strategy to keep us from danger in life threatening situations. The problem with modern living is that the body hasn’t quite caught up and the stress response is often triggered by daily stressors such as traffic jams, social media and work pressure (i.e. non life threatening situations).
The ‘fight or flight’ response is supposed to be short lived until we have escaped the danger and fled to safety. We should then return to the ‘rest and digest’ zone which calms the body and return it to a relaxed and efficient state (where we should be most of the time).
The stress response is triggered by the brain when the body sees, hears or senses a stressor on the horizon and releases hormones such as cortisol into our bodies to create these physiological changes. Being in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ (even if this is mild) means our bodies are stuck in this heightened state of increased heart rate, increased breathing rate and muscle tension for prolonged periods of time.
Can you see how the current Covid-19 pandemic, which is dragging on for weeks and is a constant source of devastating news and actually COULD be life threatening, is going to have such a negative impact on our minds AND our bodies??
Anyway, back to ‘Be Activated’
This is where I come in! The stress response has a massive impact on how we breathe and how we move. If we are stuck in ‘flight or fight’ mode then our breathing becomes poor and more shallow and with muscle tension and poor breathing comes poor movement patterns (i.e. the body will start to compensate and cheat).
Hopefully you have seen from the video above how your mindset can actually influence your stress response. A positive mindset = triggering ‘rest and digest’ zone = feeling better within your body AND mind.
Is this something you can work on at home? Of course it is!!
- Turn the news off! Only listen to what you need to listen to for information
- Take some time away from social media and don’t get involved in heated discussion and disagreements
- Make sure you chat to friends and family daily (the ‘Houseparty’ app is my favourite new find!)
- Focus on what you CAN control: 1) Being responsible for your own health 2) Eat well 3) Exercise 4) Promote positivity and encourage others to be positive too
- Do what you can to help those around you (i.e. checking up on your neighbours or making sure your grandparents have enough supplies)
- Practice mindfulness and meditation methods
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing (more on this on another blog)
- Take an online yoga class
- Anything else that takes your fancy: learn to paint/bake/cook (the list is endless)
Working on a POSITIVE MINDSET and REDUCING STRESS will have a positive effect on your BODY not just your mind 🙂
You can choose where to put your focus and energy!
In my next blog we will tackle the breathing!
See you then,