Navigating Mental Wellness as a Personal Trainer and Yoga Instructor
Unveiling the In-House Therapist Role, Overcoming Overwhelm, and Harnessing Yoga for Lasting Change in Mindset - By Madeleine Bowler
Reading time: 4 minutes
As a personal trainer and yoga instructor, one of the biggest parts of my job - aside from putting clients through their workout session - is being their in-house therapist*. It is something most PT's will not necessarily realise, but it becomes a huge and fundamental part of our job and a good trainer will try to understand and provide tools to clients to help them overcome mindset obstacles.
(*We aren't therapists but if we've lived and experienced this life long enough and put in the work to develop strong boundaries, routines and expectations for ourselves, then we can put in place the knowledge of what we know to help others and of course guiding them to resources for which we aren't expertly qualified in)
That one thing...
"I'm sorry i'm such a mess, I'm completely overwhelmed and I feel like i'm going backwards in my training!"
This is probably the most common line I hear. Or certainly a reiteration of it. We seem to think we are supposed to just go through life with no obstacles or in most cases be responsible for a million different things all at the same time and then as we start juggling relationships, work, kids, mental health, physical health, domestic chores it only takes one thing, often something small, like the car breaking down to derail our life and leave us feeling completely lost, useless, unable to even do the everyday basic routines without feeling exhausted and burnt out! Is it any wonder? This isn't how we were meant to operate, in a state of constant overwhelm.
If you've ever felt like this....and i'm pretty sure if you're reading this, you have, then these are my top tips to manage those moments of overwhelm and how yoga (in the form of mindfulness, meditation and movement) can make lasting change to your outlook.
and take a deep breath (in through the nose out through the mouth as though blowing out of a straw) repeat as many times as necessary till you feel that inhale go down into your tummy!
VALIDATE YOUR FEELINGS
Normally when we become overwhelmed we then go into this great sense of guilt for actually crying or feeling sad / angry "because, it's not like I have cancer". No, you might not have cancer but you are allowed to feel the feels. Recognising how you are feeling in that moment will allow you to then manage those emotions. If you continually stuff your thoughts and feelings down for the sake of others or what others may be going through, this isn't going to help you manage your overwhelm and only increase the stress you are putting on your body
CHOOSE WHAT IS IMPORTANT, THE REST CAN WAIT
Often, we are so concerned with what others think (family/friends) or what we deem is important - like that works email, we prioritise that over how we actually feel. For one, no one else actually cares about your actions anymore than you so stop worrying about what others are thinking...because they aren't. That works email, the house cleaning, the 5th workout this week.....it can all wait.
No one lay on their death bed regretting not doing more cleaning, sending an email or missing a workout.
Write a list of the things that are overwhelming you right now.
DELEGATE: Is there anything on that list that someone else can help you with?
CHOOSE: Then decide what is the most important thing on that list.
If this seems too overwhelming, choose to complete the smallest tasks first.
TICK IT OFF: Whichever way you choose to approach your list, tick each one off as you complete. You will feel a greater sense of satisfaction and feel the weight lift from your shoulders.
REDUCE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF YOURSELF
Whilst self-care should be a priority, sometimes we need to choose in the here and now what you can genuinely dedicate time to and what can slide for now. In an "ideal (and social media) world" self care would be:
- 7-8hrs sleep
- Meditating/Breath work first thing
- Workout (lifting / cardio / yoga / pilates etc)
- Ice bath/shower
- A great facial routine including face yoga/gua sha
- Drinking 2-3 litres of water
- Eating 4-6 nutritious and balanced meals
- Getting at least 8500+ steps a day
- Not looking at any blue light technology at least 2hrs before bed
- Getting to bed on time
...and that's aside from work, spending time with family / friends, domestic chores !!
So maybe instead, choose the habits that in this moment in time work for you.
CONSISTENCY OVER QUANTITY
I have been known to tell clients who are literally ready to give up on everything, to simply focus on a 5-10min morning meditation and attend the one session they have with me every week in the first instance. That way they are doing something small but powerful for their mental health without raising their cortisol levels and it is manageable.
They effectively put themselves into my hands during a workout session which may intuitively switch from lifting weights to finding movement in the body through yoga asana, so that there is no pressure or expectation from them in terms of mental fatigue and overall they generally feel a pressure has been removed whilst simultaneously enjoying the benefits of a small consistent routine. It may feel a huge step backwards in their training but actually it allows your overworked brain to find some clarity, reduces those cortisol levels and in turn finding a sense of achievement in doing the small things consistently.
PRIORITISE YOUR TIME
If there is one thing I have learnt, its using my google calendar (or whatever mobile calendar / diary you have to hand!) Enter all your everyday movements into your calendar (school run, commute to/from work, breakfast, lunch, dinner, client/social engagements, bedtime) then look at the blank spaces in between....instead of losing them to social media scrolling or other less productive things....block this time out for you...this is when you take action for yourself in terms of a movement or meditation practice.
No one can take that space. It will allow you to become consistent in what you do for you and as such the results in terms of your mental and physical fitness will show.
IT'S NOT JUST YOU!
Last year I had decided on competing in a bikini bodybuilding competition, this would take a year of intense training, prepping my food, practising posing, completing cardio and doing enough steps daily (6-7days a week) on top of running a business, taking care of my 2 boys and running the house. I simply did not have time for any yoga practice bar a quick 5-10mins of general stretching.
The most I could manage from a "time out" perspective was a 5min meditation and that didn't necessarily happen every day or an evening of just writing down all that I was grateful for. This was what kept my sanity when I felt physically, emotionally and mentally spent. I think we put far too much pressure on society to be "doing all the right things" and the implication everyone else IS doing the right things, when in fact maybe we should be doing "the things we can manage and that make us feel good".
SO THIS IS JUST A REMINDER....
Never give up on yourself, allow yourself to feel the feels, learning to become mindful about what may trigger these feelings and facing them head on, rather than ignoring them will allow you to respond the next time round in a more productive way. Prioritise time for yourself but don't overload yourself with expectations of doing a million different things, Choose one thing and make it consistent like brushing your teeth. Life can be very hard (sometimes it doesn't seem entirely fair) but it is through those hardships we learn more about ourselves and what we are capable of, otherwise life would be very dull!
Much like yoga asana, we probably choose to push ourselves to do more challenging movements because we want to go beyond just doing child's pose and warrior 2 and we may have to try and try and try but the sense of satisfaction or achievement overcomes the obstacles we faced to accomplish the pose. You are more resilient, capable and strong than you realise.
If you're feeling low, check out Maddy's Youtube channel for a positivity boost!