Ask a Health Coach: Stress, Self-Compassion, and Strategies for Working Out at Home

Hi folks, in this edition of Ask a Health Coach, Erin discusses how to roll with the stresses and change in routine that come with life during a global crisis. Keep your questions coming in the MDA Facebook Group or in the comments section below.

woman meditating in the morningWe’re all feeling the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in one way or another. In this week’s edition of Ask a Health Coach, I’ll be answering questions from the Mark’s Daily Apple community and sharing strategies I use with my own health coaching clients about everything from maintaining your sanity while stuck at home, to bouncing back after a day of stress-induced snacking, to embracing the potential suck of at-home workouts.

I’m here for you guys, so keep your questions coming in the MDA Facebook Group or post them in the comments section below.

How to cope with the stress of staying at home

“Like many people, we’re staying close to home to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus. Any advice for families coping with the stress of being cooped up indoors?” -Michelle

This is a question I’m hearing a lot lately. Most people’s routines have been completely turned upside down for the time being, even in areas where there’s not a mandatory shelter-in-place. Schools and businesses are temporarily shut down. Some parks and outside gathering spots are closed, too. So, I get it. It’s really easy to feel a little stir crazy, especially if you’ve got kids at home.

Like Mark Sisson wrote in this post a few weeks ago, avoiding stress is going to be your best bet right now. Not only does stress increase ACE2 expression and hinder your general immunity, it makes it harder to relax and enjoy spending time with your family.

I know that a lot of things can seem out of your control right now. The good news is, there are specific things you can do to help your household feel less anxious and stressed out. Remember, your kids are looking to you to see how you deal with a challenging situation like this — and how you react makes all the difference. This could be an incredible learning and growth opportunity for your kids; the kind they don’t get in school. How did mommy or daddy handle it when things got weird?

  1. Talk it out. Self-isolation doesn’t mean keeping your feelings all bottled up. Be present and start a conversation about what’s going on, letting everyone share what feels stressful or different for them right now. Creating a safe space for family members to talk about what’s going on for them can help alleviate extra anxiety.
  2. Reframe your situation. It’s easy to think about all the things you can’t do, but what about all the things you can do? Instead of dwelling on the negative or looking at the world through a fear-based lens, appreciate and have gratitude for all the positives in your life. Create a practice of writing down three things you’re grateful for every day.
  3. Take easy action. Perhaps you’ve heard of the concept of “messy action,” the notion of just getting out there and doing it even if it’s not perfect. I’ve been trying to popularize the idea of “easy action.” Taking action can provide a much-needed sense of control during uncertain times like these, but I’m also encouraging my clients to be easy on themselves. This is uncharted territory and none of us is hitting it out of the park right now, so manage your expectations. Get outside for an impromptu soccer match even if the kids are technically supposed to be learning geography. Prioritize self-care, now more than ever; even if (especially if) you’ve never practiced self care before. Explore yoga or deep breathing exercises. Plant a garden or learn a new recipe. Get creative: have a drawing contest, or learn to play an instrument and have a family jam session. Fun can often be the antidote to stress.

How to bounce back from stress eating and snack attacks

“Thoughts on getting back on track after a day of binge eating?” – Justin

Every once in a while, a client will email me with a similar question. I can almost hear the guilt, shame, and panic jumping off the page. Should I do fasted sprints? Micro-manage my macros? Lift heavy for a few days? Listen, it doesn’t really work that way — and that’s okay! If you have a day where you indulged more than you intended, you just have to file it away as something that happened.

Maybe watching the morning news induced a day of stress eating. Or you got overly hungry. Or you bought a few too many bags of chips at the grocery store. Whatever the reason, the most effective thing you can do to get back on track is to have self-compassion.

Where compassion is the ability to show love, empathy, and support for others who are suffering, self-compassion is about having that same kindness for yourself, which can be incredibly hard to do. After all, if you have a lifetime of beating yourself up, treating yourself with kindness probably won’t come naturally. Thankfully, it’s a skill anyone can learn.

This is an exercise I have my clients do when they’re having trouble getting in the self-compassion space:

  1. Think of what you’d say to a good friend if they were in the same boat. Often times, taking yourself out of the equation can make it easier to be empathetic.
  2. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. You’re human, so give yourself room to make a mistake here and there.
  3. Practice mindfulness. If you’re caught up in a storm of self-criticism, just be aware of how your inner critic might be trying to protect you — without judgement. Acknowledge your actions and then move on.

What are the best at-home workouts?

“I can’t seem to wrap my head around at-home workouts. Should I just wait until my gym opens back up in a few weeks?” –
Annette

Great question, Anette. For those of us who are used to hitting the gym during lunch hour or after work, not having that as an option can completely disrupt our flow. Right now, there are so many yoga studios and personal trainers sharing at-home workouts (I’ll be sharing one here on Mark’s Daily Apple soon as well!), but there’s a difference in having the ability to work out at home and actually doing it.

For you, home might be a place to relax, eat, and sleep. But just like people who’ve made the transition to working at home, you can adjust your mindset to accommodate at-home workouts too. The simplest way is to stick with a routine. Do you usually take a break at lunch to lift weights? Take that same break at home. Do yoga after work? Get out your mat after shutting your laptop for the day. I’ve been scheduling my home workouts into my day in between my client calls. One of the beautiful opportunities of at-home workouts I’ve found, as opposed to trekking all the way into the gym, is that you can try microworkouts on for size. You can find video demos of two-minute microworkouts here. I’ve enjoyed them a lot more than I thought I would, and I am delightfully sore!

Also, make sure you have a designated space for your workouts. It doesn’t have to be a fancy at-home gym either; you can set up an area in the corner of your bedroom, living room or garage. By setting your environment up this way, you’re setting yourself up for success. Even though your habit of going to the gym is temporarily off the table, your habit of working out doesn’t have to be.

That said, it wouldn’t kill you to take a few weeks off. Overtraining syndrome is one of the most common themes I see in the athletes and fitness lovers I work with, so instead of your daily intense gym session, grab the kids and go for a walk or lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails (if that’s currently allowed in your region of the world). You might be surprised how great a non-gym day can feel. Mark has been touting the benefits of walking for well over a decade now. The man knows what he’s talking about so, give it a try! For every hour you once devoted to crushing it in the gym, redirect that time to taking a walk. Outside. At least six feet away from anyone else around you, and far, far away from the news.

About the Author

Erin Power

Erin Power is the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She also helps her clients regain a loving and trusting relationship with their bodies—while restoring their metabolic health, so they can lose fat and gain energy—via her own private health coaching practice, eat.simple.

If you have a passion for health and wellness and a desire to help people like Erin does every day for her clients, consider becoming a certified health coach yourself. Learn the 3 simple steps to building a successful health coaching business in 6 months or less in this special info session hosted by PHCI co-founder Mark Sisson.

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3 thoughts on “Ask a Health Coach: Stress, Self-Compassion, and Strategies for Working Out at Home”

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  1. This post is very timely. I was going to ask Mark to post something like this in his cornona virus series. I’m feeling very stressed right now. My company was already failing and facing bankruptcy before the virus and now I think I’m going to totally fail. So I haven’t been sleeping and my anger management issues have really been terrible. I yell at everyone and then feel bad afterward, but I know it’s just the pressure of failure and uncertainty. Thank you for these tips to help.

  2. Thank you. This is both a compassionate and helpful article. It’s hard not to peek at the news on my phone every hour and that makes me incredibly stressed. My big plans for this month were all cancelled, and with that, my once-a-year 5 day vacation from my dead end job. Stuck at home and scared to interact with anyone in case they’re sick. Self care is so important at these times!

  3. Some advice that is more geared towards people who live in cities would be nice, though I guess neither you or Mark are really in any position to talk from experience there. Not everyone has access to a yard/garden, garage etc..