By Chelsea Streifeneder
Earlier last year I started to have a bunch of negative stuff happening to my body and my health. For someone who is very aware and in tune with her body, I didn’t understand what or why things were happening. So after lots of blood work, a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, swallowing a camera to take pictures of my small intestine, X-rays and a number of other tests, pokes, prods and a few extra pounds, my diagnosis was…stress!
Pilates and stress? These are two things you wouldn’t think would go together; however, this past year, they came together for me.
I am sharing this because in all the “perfect” social media posts, it might look like “I’m killing it.”
But in reality my body started reacting in ways that I didn’t know was possible. I am only 34 and could not believe things were happening to my body because of stress. All the doctors were also shocked when I told them I taught Pilates for a living. Isn’t Pilates supposed to relieve stress and make us feel good? If I had a dollar for every confused look I got, I would be on a beach right now, retired.
So what was going on? Well, I started Google-ing and researching and really looking at myself. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. It turns out I was stressing and having anxiety about everything. I was stressing that I wasn’t doing enough Pilates, and when I was doing Pilates, I was stressing that I wasn’t doing it right. I was overthinking everything, doubting myself, panicking inside and outside the studios about everything from the weather to my spandex. There wasn’t a magic wand that was going to fix this, so I needed to figure it out.
As I researched anxiety and stress, I discovered that the American Psychological Association reported that “more than $500 billion is siphoned off of the economy because of workplace stress,” and a whopping 550 million workdays are lost because of it. I was thankful that I wasn’t the only one with stress (ha-ha). Data also showed that stress costs U.S. businesses around $30 billion dollars a year in sick days and lost productivity. And that’s not counting the people who come into work sick and stressed, spreading more stress and sickness around.
Most of us have been stressed at one point or another. Whether it’s teaching too many clients back to back, not taking time for ourselves or having too many projects going on at one time, we have all found ourselves stressed at some point in our lives. It’s when this becomes a regular occurrence that it truly becomes a problem, not just for the stressed person, but also for our studios, team and clients, too. So what do we do?
Obviously, we can’t just stop going to the studio or close our doors tomorrow, but we can take some actions so that we don’t dread teaching our clients or going to our studios. Stress is something that is always going to be there and almost impossible to avoid completely; however, there are ways to minimize and deal with stress. Below are some tips that will help you breathe more and handle the stress, so we can continue to move forward and lead a healthy, calmer and more relaxed life!
BUILD A TOOLBOX
Get familiar with what helps you release pressure when you’re under stress, and use those activities and practices as your tools. We need to deal with the stress with positive coping strategies to help us navigate these stressors that spring up when we least expect them. Do you need to step away from the situation, take a few deep breaths, sleep more, go for a walk or just plan things out better? Whatever the stressful situation, look to your toolbox to pull whichever tool(s) you may find to help you get through.
It’s okay to ask for help and it is okay to talk through things with a friend, co-worker or even a trained professional. I have my top three people whom I call or text when I become overwhelmed. (You know who you are!) Stress can cloud your judgment and prevent you from seeing things clearly. Just talking to someone about how you feel or what you’re going through can be super helpful, release some of the built-up tension and help you get back on track.
WRITE IT DOWN
This may seem tedious and ridiculous, however, anyone who knows me knows that I have a notebook in my bag at all times. Sometimes, you just need to write the problem down and come up with as many possible solutions as you can. Stress can be triggered by a problem that may on the surface seem impossible to solve. Writing down what will be done, how it will be done, when you will be doing it and who will be helping you, then breaking it up into steps, will help you find a solution to your problem. It will help you feel more in control and thus lower your level of stress. When you’re ready to solve the problem, you have the solution right in front of you—which is great, if you stress about forgetting everything!
ASK FOR HELP
This has been and is hard for me since I think I can do everything myself, but I can’t. When I do ask for help, I feel guilty that I am being a burden to others or I am a failure since I couldn’t do it all by myself, which causes more stress. Well, asking for help isn’t a weakness, but rather a strength. I am learning to ask for more help, delegate and then let go. Letting a project go and letting someone else handle things will reduce your stress.
So let’s take a deep breath. Just as I say to my clients, “You control the springs, don’t let the springs control you,” let’s do the same with stress. Control the stress, don’t let the stress control you. It will be better for you, your health, your clients and your studios.
» CHELSEA STREIFENEDER is a recognized Pilates Method Alliance® Certified Pilates Teacher, speaker, pilatespreneur and the proud owner of Body Be Well Pilates in Red Hook and Catskill, NY. Chelsea began her career as a Pilates teacher in Los Angeles after graduating from Bard College with a B.A. in Writing and Dance. With more than a decade of experience in her field, Chelsea has been featured in Prevention, Women’s Health and on the cover of Pilates Style. She is the author of Studio Shape Up.