When I first started out in the fitness industry, I very much saw my role as that of a challenger: Someone to push you harder, help you reach your physical potential, and get you doing more / running faster / lifting heavier. You get the picture.

Now, I’m not saying that I no longer actively encourage my clients to be the best version of themselves; on the contrary. But 11 years of experience has shown me that – for many (not necessarily all) of the women I work with – less is more. It’s a cliché but it’s true. I often talk to my clients about the metaphorical “stress bucket.” They come to me stressed with life, work, family, and lacking body confidence. Few of us escape the constant bombardment of social media and no matter what limits we try to set, we are all too often “busy” and expecting more and more of ourselves, with very little down time. Our “stress buckets” are pretty full!

Then we decide we need to get fitter / lose weight / eat better, and assume the best course of action is to start an intense exercise regime and a strict diet. Trouble is, this often adds more stress to an already overwhelmed mind and body. So what’s the solution? First – we need to empty out the stress bucket a little, before adding to it! There are lots of ways people choose to de-stress, and different methods work for different people. A common thread, however, is taking time to reconnect with your own body and the real world.

Here are my tried and tested top tips for truly reconnecting mind and body:

1. Walking
Walking is so good for you. I say it all the time because it’s 100% true. I love it because it’s suitable for pretty much everyone: It’s a great starting point for those who are just beginning (or re-embarking on) their fitness journey, it’s wonderful down-training for those who normally work out at an intense level, it gets your outdoors, it lowers blood pressure, it facilitates a bit of head-space, and it’s free. That’s one heck of a big de-stressing tick!

2. Go barefoot
It’s crucial that you – and especially your children if you have any – spend as little time as possible without shoes. There are loads of reasons for this. The soles of your feet have a high concentration of nerve endings, and this sensitivity gets dampened through restrictive footwear. But more than this, the simple act of standing (or walking) barefoot on grass (or sand or rock etc) is wonderfully grounding. This process, actually known as “grounding” or “earthing” connects you with nature and allows the body to take up free electrons from the earth, promoting calmness and healing.

3. Deep breathing / Mindfulness
I’m always banging on about breathing, but with good cause. If you’ve never tried meditiation or mindfulness, don’t pooh pooh it! Meditation isn’t only for buddhist monks and certainly doesn’t need to involve lengthy daily practice. There are loads of great apps available to help you make this part of your routine, but the easiest thing is to start with a short daily breathing practice: Simply taking a few minutes to be still, close your eyes, and pay attention to the breath. This is such a simple way to reconnect with your body and to shut out the outside world, even if only for a brief moment.

4. Say “no” more
Not always as simple as it ought to be, but we need to stop committing ourselves to so many things! It’s Ok to say no. Try to carve out some regular free time; perhaps keep one weekend a month completely clear. We need to know that we can come up for air on a regular basis.