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Calm your body and mind

Exercise, meditation, yoga and relaxation techniques can all help us to achieve a better body by calming the stress response and taking control of our physical and emotional selves

Sylvia Diaz is a fitness instructor, personal trainer and nutrition advisor. She runs a fitness and nutrition coaching service called Fit with Sylvia

Sometimes we forget that we will not reach our goals at work, or handle our daily to-do list if we do not have a calm, healthy and fit body. Slow and deep breaths can reduce the body's stress response and promote a feeling of calm, helping to quiet or stop racing thoughts.

Practice self-compassion – it is not easy to find the wisdom and dignity in one’s own experience, and to respond to it in an appropriately kind way. A good practise is to write a summary of your day expressing your feelings, so you can detect what is making your life harder so you can get rid of it.

Stay in the present – instead of replaying the past or worrying about what might or might not happen in the future, stay in the present with attention on your breath or physical sensations. For instance, count 10 inhales through the nose and 10 exhales through the mouth. This is a good technique that takes 10 minutes and you can do it in a break at work. You also can do a body scan. Start with your toes, and notice the sensations present in your body.

Turn around negative self-talk – most negative self-talk is an exaggeration, and writing down these thoughts and changing the words helps. For instance, “I can't stand this” becomes, “this is challenging”. When your self-talk uses more gentle language, much of its negative power is muted as well.

Set routines – include relaxing activities like meditation and yoga in your daily life. This can bring you that spark of serotonin needed to change your mindset and keep yourself healthy.

Make time to meditate. If your first thought is that meditation is a waste of time, then meditation is a must.

Create a realistic to-do list – list weekly goals and check in on those goals during the days of the week. Anything can happen during the day and you may not reach all your goals, but that’s fine. Assume things will happen spontaneously in life and you need to adapt to them, you cannot control everything except the way you handle those situations. The world will not end tomorrow, the tasks can be finished then.

Get a good night’s sleep. This is the most crucial factor in order to do everything else properly! Keeping a consistent sleep schedule and a minimum of seven hours is the best way to make sure you can function properly and have good energy levels which will improve your mood and your overall health., on Facebook and Instagram @fit.with.sylvia

Alan Williams of Alan Williams Coaching

While fully appreciating the benefits of practices such as yoga and meditation, my routine for calming the mind is slightly different. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. I think it’s important to understand that there’s no right or wrong when it comes to calming the mind; do the thing that works for you.

I’m not somebody who will sit in a room for 20 minutes and meditate, but I love nothing more than getting out for a quiet walk in the evening to help me unwind. It’s not something that I consider part of my training routine, it’s just to blow away the cobwebs, bring down the intensity and calm the mind. In a way it is a form of mindfulness, being present and just enjoying that quiet time.

Whatever your chosen form of relaxation, it’s important to schedule time to do it. It’s a fundamental component of protecting mental health, keeping stress levels in check, keeping energy levels high, being productive and just feeling happy.

Take a minute to write down the things that you enjoy doing and have maybe neglected. Then make a decision to create time for them in your day. Looking after yourself is not selfish, it’s essential.

Grainne O’Driscoll runs Grá For Fitness offering public, private and corporate Pilates, yoga and fitness classes

In many cases people are turning to meditation and yoga in their bid to reduce their stress levels and find ways to relax and bring some calm to their hectic lives.

Often people will balk at the mention of meditation and the idea of having to sit cross legged for lengths of time feeling uncomfortable, fidgety and bored. But this is by no means mandatory and there are many different types of meditation, from mindfulness meditation to mantra meditation. Simple guided meditation is probably the easiest to start with. It can be very helpful to enroll in a weekly, weekend or online course initially and learn how to meditate. There are many meditation apps available – ‘Headspace’ and ‘Calm’ offer extremely good guided meditations.

The benefits of meditation include a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression. It can help improve concentration, energy levels and sleep.

Practitioners have even shown an increase in positive emotions and compassion and found themselves to be less reactive and irritable. Meditation can help lower blood pressure and reduce the physical symptoms of numerous stress-related health conditions.

Yoga is an ancient practice originating in India and there are a multitude of yoga styles. A standard yoga class starts with a warm up, and includes a variety of postures or ‘asana’ targeting different parts of the body followed by ‘savasana’ (relaxation) at the end. Meditation and ‘pranayama’ (breathing exercises) are important elements of yoga.

Yoga like any form of exercise can be hugely beneficial physically and mentally. Frequent practitioners will often see increased flexibility, strength, stability, suppleness and a positive effect on mental health. Yoga classes are available everywhere from studios to schools, as well as online. If you’re new to yoga find a recommended beginners course to get you started.

There are no age limits. Always let your teacher know of any injuries or illnesses you have so they can give you modifications.

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