“You’re superwoman! You work so hard and do so much and have a wonderful young family too- how do you manage it all?”

That’s what a school mum said to me recently. 5 or 10 years ago I probably would have just laughed it off, said something about working all hours and being super organised then thanked her for the compliment.
But these days, I appreciate more and more that these types of remarks aren’t so much of a compliment, but a genuine question for help and advice. “No honestly, please DO tell me, what can I do?”

The simple truth I now tell people, is that I don’t always manage it all. Yes I achieve a lot, yes I have a small family, yes I work a lot of hours and yes I am a super organised and focused person, BUT whilst people often see this as “superwoman” this perfectionism is actually one of my biggest mental health wellbeing battles.

I find it hard to put work down, to give in, to relax, to switch off. I run easily off adrenaline and I can’t bear the thought that I might let someone down or disappoint them so I’m always doing what I can to make things better. But this “go go go” had led me to adrenal fatigue and burn out on two separate occasions; making me no good for work, for my kids or husband or friends or anyone!

So after years of making mistakes, of learning and studying about the mind and mental health, I’ve realised how important it is to actually input things that help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of your involuntary nervous system that serves to slow the heart rate and relax your muscles. It’s your rest and digest process and it doesn’t happen on it’s own without you inputting it!

But on the other side of the same coin, is your sympathetic nervous system. It sounds like it’s the “sympathetic” one doesn’t it? Well it isn’t! It’s the part of your nervous system that helps you in “fight or flight.” We need it for getting stuff done, for getting out of bed in the morning, for running away from lions… ok, well we used to need it for that, but nowadays, our bodies doesn’t distinguish the difference between being chased by a lion and that social media notification that binged up on our phone! The nervous system is made up of your brain and your spinal column with all of the nerves that feed all of our organs and muscles around the body. These have pain receptors in them too. So when you have physical pain like back pain, your mind and body get a constant boost of adrenaline and cortisol to help it in fight or flight. But that constant topping up isn’t good for our bodies so we need to calm it down too and bring it into better balance with activities that calm it.

That’s where The Pilates Pod has been a life saver for me personally and continues to be for so many, and why we are often referred to as people’s “safe haven.”

  • The physical benefits of doing Pilates help manage and improve the physical pain.
  • Pilates unites the breath with movement, and that is a mindful practice which calms us and lowers inflammation. (we even run a Meditation and Matwork class online every Tuesday 8.30am to work specifically on these aspects)
  • But unlike many places, we don’t pack people in! What’s the point of preaching the benefits of Pilates or yoga, if you are then jammed in to a room with 15-20 people, mats nearly touching each other?
  • With us, you aren’t a number. You are YOU! One of only 6 people in a studio class (or 4 since Covid19!) that we give our full attention to.
  • We know you by injury and ailment and what’s right for your physical body, but we also know you by personality and knowing when it’s appropriate to push you forward or to back off and let you have space.
  • We know when to use different pieces of apparatus to benefit your mind and your body, or completely changed our whole workout plan for your 1:1 because of how your mindset is on that day.
  • We are all different bodies types like you. We aren’t “stereotypical” fitness types. You might relate to my issues around my boobs and bootie, you might be lighter framed and petite like Ellen’s dancer physique, you might understand the injuries Clair has faced in her body, the challenges of being over 50 like Dawn, or the strains of being a mum to a toddler like Rufina- we get it!

I would love to get Pod instructors on prescription – maybe my consultant could write you all into the NHS guidelines – then I’d need less pain relief!

Client, Alison

Personally I have found that through attending these classes in either the welcoming environment of the Studio or comfort of my home, Pilates has not just given me physical strength but also improved the health of my body and mind.

Client, Adeline

Check out the video when Michelle interviewed blogger Natalie about her PTSD of losing her son. Nat explains how she found different types of exercise either helped or hindered her grief and pain, how yoga was the wrong choice for her mental wellbeing and even how different pieces of Pilates apparatus made her embrace opening up or want to shut down. – All due to her mental health! It’s a fascinating interview!

Here’s what Practical Life Coach, Kate Tilston had to say about The Pilates Pod.
“As a coach, I have worked with many different people, some struggling, some not, all keen to move forward but not quite sure how to. One of the regular discussions I have is to do with exercise. People appreciate all the health benefits both mentally and physically but the process of starting some sort of exercise is daunting. It can be pure fear at heading into a new environment, it can be poor self confidence or just pure lack of information as to what to expect when they start or get there. This can put people off for months and we work really hard together to find ways to break down the barriers and kill the fear factor! The Pilates Pod is a place of safety. The team work exceptionally hard to provide an inclusive, non- threatening, non- judgmental environment. For me as a coach, I find it refreshing that they also put so much energy into the behind the scenes stuff – their social media is encouraging, it’s fun and real with real people who have real bodies demonstrating exercises and useful tips to get you moving. For me, this is the way exercise should be approached, not just dealing with the physical side of things but the mental side too.”

We never want mental health challenges to be a barrier for anyone to start or continue exercising, so instead of running away from the lion, we’ll help you to be the lion! #mywholesself #worldmentalhealthday

Written by Michelle Smith, Mind Movement Matters and Owner of The Pilates Pod

Why not check out our You Tube video “Is your mental health causing a barrier to exercise?

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