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If you've got those familiar feelings of stress and anxiety coursing through your body right now, you're definitely not alone. COVID-19 and this global pandemic have us anxious, coping with stress in weird ways, a new fear of the unknown, potential bouts of depression, maybe a panic attack here and there... We get it. Times are uncertain, our mental health is taxed, we're doing what we can to reduce stress and anxiety in general, and relaxation has taken a back seat. It’s no secret that stress is proven to weaken our immunity, so now more than ever, it's important to relax, deal with what's happening, and find the coping mechanisms to help you reclaim your mental health and reduce your involvement in stressed moments.
Let's deal with stress and anxiety together and see what we can do to reduce it. Here's how...
A symptom of stress is our bodies entering the very real ‘fight or flight’ mode and feeling under attack physically and mentally. While stress and anxiety are taxing in a number of ways to our mental health, meditation can be powerful in combatting the symptoms and shifting from a state of anxiety into a ‘rest and digest’ mode by simply restructuring the way you breathe. Relax, set a timer for ten minutes, and try one of these simple breathing techniques to ease your day and help you be more productive.
1. Long Exhale Breath
◦ Find a comfortable seat or lay down.
◦ Start with a deep cleansing breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
◦ Establish an equal part breath. Inhale through your nose for 3 counts and exhale through your nose for 3 counts. Repeat this for 5 rounds.
◦ Continue to inhale for 3 counts and lengthen the exhale to 5 counts. (You may play with the counts depending on your lung capacity.)
2. Against the Grain Breath
◦ Find a comfortable seat or lay down.
◦ Start with a deep cleansing breath in through your nose and out through the mouth.
◦ Inhale and send it down into your belly and pause. Sip in more air to fill your ribcage, pause. Breathe all the way up to your collarbones, pause at the top. Exhale fully.
◦ Take a cleansing breath in between each round.
3. Alternate Nostril Breath
◦ Find a comfortable seat.
◦ Lift your right hand to eye level, palm facing you. Fold your index and middle finger down toward your palm, leaving your pinky, ring, and thumb free. Gently place your ring finger on your left nostril.
◦ Start with a deep cleansing breath in through your nose and out through the mouth.
◦ Use your ring finger to close off your left nostril and inhale through your right nostril. Close your right nostril with your thumb and release your ring finger from the left nostril. Exhale through the left side.
◦ Inhale through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with your ring finger and release your thumb from the right nostril. Exhale through the right side.
◦ Continue to alternate from side to side.
Stress and anxiety are harbored in the upper body, generating tension in your shoulders and racing in your mind, making it near impossible to hone in on relaxation and deal with those stressed feelings and fear symptoms. Finding the security of the body’s foundation is a great way to get grounded and balance out all that accumulated stressed energy that carries your mind up, up, and away into the land of fear, worst-case scenarios, anxiety, and eventual panic attack symptoms. (Plus, it'll help with your post-at-home-workout recovery!)
Try this sequence of postures that will help you feel nice and sturdy, as well as relieved and relaxed, letting anxiety and stress know they aren't welcome in this space.
1. Child’s Pose – Come down to your hands and knees. Let the tops of your feet and toes smooth on the ground and gather your big toes to touch. Either widen your knees greater than hips distance apart or keep them together and sink your seat all the way back to your heels. Rest your forehead on the ground and outstretch your arms forward.
2. Downward Dog – From child’s pose, tuck your toes under, press into your palms, and lift your hips up to the ceiling creating a ‘V’ shape in your body. Keep your knees soft so your belly can sink back toward your thighs.
3. Standing Forward Bend – Look forward between your thumbs and take slow, heel-toe steps up toward your hands. Your knees can stay soft as you let your torso drape over your legs. Feel the four corners of your feet solid on the ground beneath them and let go of any control over your head, neck, and shoulders.
4. Mountain Pose – Tuck your chin in toward your chest. Ground down into your heels and slowly roll up to stand as if you were moving through honey, lifting your head last. Breathe in deeply and crunch your shoulders up by your ears. On the exhale, let them drop down your back. Stand strong and tall through your legs, fan out your fingers like you want to receive a low-five, and lift tall through your chest. Invite in the feeling of standing on a mountain top. You are strong and grounded here.
Depression is very, very real. Burying our emotions and not coping with issues can be a lot like not taking out the trash—things get kind of funky for everyone if it sits around too long. While meditation and breathing exercises can replace anxious feelings with relaxation and mindfulness, journaling can be a great way to also move through any anxious feelings you’re holding onto and stay connected with yourself. If you’re not sure where to start, never fear! Try one of these writing prompts and kick anxiety to the curb:
• List 5 things you are grateful for.
• What do you normally wish you had more time for?
• Describe your 3 happiest moments of the last week.
Want to actually and physically shake anxiety and stress out of your life? Turn a potential panic attack into a dance party with yourself. The saying goes, "Dance like no one’s watching...."—because right now, it’s likely that no one is. Press play on this upbeat playlist we created to help you move that energy around.
Baths and facials are ancient self-care rituals. But let’s be real, these luxuries often get cast aside for more efficient ways of pampering like showers and sheet masks. With the gift of time on your side, slip into the tub and go all out with that 12-step skincare routine you’ve been wanting to try. Reduce the overhead lights, light up some candles, drop in some lavender and eucalyptus essential oils to elevate the ambiance, and kiss anxiety and stress goodbye as you sink into the water.
This June marks 52 years since the 1969 Stonewall Riots took place—a historical event that put the severe lack of LGBTQIA+ rights into the spotlight. Thanks to the efforts of activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, we now have the privilege of celebrating June as Pride Month where members of this community can celebrate everything that makes them beautiful and unique.
At Mindbody, we've created an inclusive, uplifting, and welcoming workspace where all our team members feel valued and inspired to bring their best every day. Here’s what some of our employees said when we asked them what Pride means to them:
“Pride means choosing to be my authentic self, even when it’s hard.” — KT Ellis, Business Relationship Manager
“Pride is about acceptance, community, freedom, and love.” — Josh Pierce, Content Designer
“Pride is about celebrating how far we’ve come, demonstrating how far we’ve got left to go, and focusing on our similarities rather than our differences.” — Bobby Jones, Payments Specialist
“Pride is about celebrating the visibility and accomplishments of LGBTQIA+ people. It’s also about celebrating the diversity among LBGTQIA+ people.” — Robert Arambel Senior Technical Program Manager
As we have discussed before, inclusivity remains an important topic in the wellness industry. We are taking this opportunity to continue to shine a light on the gap of inclusivity and diversity in our industry, and take action to promote, empower, and honor the LGBTQIA+ community that helps shape, grow, and provide access to wellness.
While Pride Month is a great time for fitness studios to show their support for the community, consistent support throughout the year is much more powerful. Being LGBTQIA+ inclusive is more than hanging up a rainbow flag—it's a consistent alignment with providing equal access for everyone. We’ve done some of the work for you and aggregated a number of awesome fitness studios you can find on the Mindbody app that are celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community and creating inclusive spaces for all:
Kyle House Fitness is Chattanooga’s premier fitness program offering group fitness classes and personal training with the best-certified instructors and trainers in the area. Located on Chattanooga’s thriving Southside, Kyle House Fitness is more than a gym, they pride themselves on building a welcoming and inclusive community. The owners of this gym, The Kyles, may sound familiar to you since they recently wrote a blog post for us on how to be an LGBTQIA+ ally in the fitness space.
EVERYBODY is “creating a radically inclusive culture for all bodies to move, strengthen, and heal.” Not only is their $66/month membership affordable, but they also offer 100% subsidized memberships to folks who are in dire financial hardship, which helps remove barriers for those who are marginalized and/or low-income. Aside from their standard program classes, they also offer affordable $8 drop-in classes—some of which are bilingual (Spanish/English). And, they have gender-neutral locker rooms, which is a staple for LGBTQIA+ inclusive spaces.
At Pilates, Barre & Jams, owner Teresa Ellis’ mission is “to make movement available and accessible to the people who have never felt comfortable walking into a status quo studio...” and we are here for it. As a Black queer femme and a former sex worker, Ellis witnessed first-hand what it feels like to be othered, which is exactly why she opened her Pilates studio in 2017—to create a safe space for all. Knowing that financial restraints should never be the reason someone can’t attend one of her classes, she even has a “pay-what-you-can" membership option so everyone can have access to her amazing Pilates classes.
At Mark Fisher Fitness, “making health and hotness fun and inclusive” is their mission. As a member of their Enchanted Ninja Clubhouse of Glory and Dreams (yes, you read that right), they promise fast results with a money-back guarantee. It’s not just rainbows and unicorns at MFF—their bright and vibrant space is filled with friendly trainers who are fiercely committed to your results and growth.
This self-proclaimed “gym + safe space + house party” fosters a supportive community without the homophobia, transphobia, and body shaming. Since it’s important to them to reduce barriers for folks with body dysmorphia or gender dysphoria, you won’t find a single mirror in this gym. They take “gym buddies” to a whole new level by offering a monthly social calendar for members to connect online. With classes like “Oakland Booty” and “Tops ‘n Bottoms,” The Queer Gym promises lots of sweat, an encouraging environment, and a dang good time.
At 305 Fitness, their mission is to empower people to love themselves harder and express themselves louder. Their passion stems from their core values of inclusivity, empowerment, self-improvement community responsibility. 305 exists to make fitness more inclusive, empowering, and fun. Movement is more than calorie counting or being the "best" in the room. Movement is about radical self-love, self-expression, and self-pride!
Compass Fitness is a journey for the body, mind, and soul. They encourage their members to find the best version of themselves. With classes like “Hustle & Flow,” “Buns & Guns,” and “HIIT & Run,” you know you’re in for a fun and powerful sweat sesh. On top of being a gym that embraces inclusivity and diversity, they donate all proceeds from their Pride gear to The Center on Colfax, the largest LGBTQIA+ community center in Colorado.
Yoga Box’s mission is to create a space where yoga is available to all. Their community of instructors, staff, and students creates a radically inclusive community of support and a place for people to connect to like-minded individuals. Through consistent, safe, and inspired classes designed to challenge, transform, and empower their students—both physically and mentally—this fitness studio is a safe and supported space to elevate your state.
While this is a great list to get you familiar with some fitness studios that support the LGBTQIA+ community, we have only scratched the surface. We'd love to keep this list growing. If you have any businesses you'd like to see on this list, click here to submit a business we should be highlighting as well!
Wanna sweat it out? Explore more inclusive and empowering studios through the Mindbody app, where you can book everything from HIIT to hot yoga. If you’re looking for other ways to help support the LGBTQIA+ community, you can also donate to your local organizations or support national organizations like The Trevor Project or the Human Rights Campaign.