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JAMES DUIGAN: HOW TO HANDLE STRESSFUL MOMENTS

James Duigan

Wellness guru James Duigan has forged a career out of doing what he loves. It’s been a decade since the Bodyism founder and celebrity trainer began spreading his Clean & Lean philosophy.

But it hasn’t always been plain-sailing for the father of two, who counts the likes of Elle Macpherson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Lara Stone, among his advocates.

The Australian knows what it’s like to be homeless. And he “threw up every day for six months” after enduring the heartache of watching his father pass away in his arms.

Here, James tells Relax Ya Self To Health how he copes with stress and how there are lessons to be learned in every situation.

JAMES, YOU ALWAYS APPEAR SO LAID BACK. WHAT’S YOUR SECRET?
Haha. I’m not sure about that. I think I probably present a calm exterior. I’m shy by nature. I’m a human being after all so I do suffer from worry and I get anxious every now and then.

HOW DO YOU COPE WITH STRESS?
I’ve found that having a calm exterior is a great way of massaging yourself into a calm interior. My default reaction to things is to take a breath, maintain a calm face and understand that drama in a situation doesn’t help ever. This helps keep things in perspective. I’m lucky, it’s kind of my default setting. Any time I’ve ever given in to worry, overreacted or lost my temper, it’s never worked that well. There’s a great saying that goes: ‘My life has been full of disasters and calamities, most of which never happened.’

WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST FRIGHTENING MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?
I’ve been homeless, afraid and hungry. When I first got to London at the age of 21 I had 50 dollars and a sleeping bag. With hindsight, it wasn’t the greatest of plans. For two months I slept in bus stations, on night buses and searched bins for food. I was lucky though, I was just having a tough time. I wasn’t suffering from a mental illness and was able to pull myself out of it. One day I scraped together some money to buy a suit that smelled like garbage from a second-hand shop. I put cardboard in the bottom of some old shoes that I found and went for a job interview at Harrods. I got the job. It was so good to get that first pay cheque. Now, whenever I’m in a difficult situation I think at least I have a roof over my head.

AND THE MOST STRESSFUL?
My dad passing away from lung cancer.  He died in my arms and there was no way for me to make that OK or find anything good about it at all. I felt a huge amount of shame and guilt that I couldn’t save him, so dealing with that and letting it go was a big thing. I threw up every morning for six months. I just got up and did that. I was devastated by grief. At the same time, I found out that a friend had been stealing from me. I felt betrayed humiliated and stupid.

HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH THAT PERIOD?
It’s a bit of a blur but I remembered the things that I’d say to other people. Be kind to yourself and let go of shame. I used them as mantras. I kept it simple. I exercised every day, and didn’t fall into abusive eating patterns, or numb myself with any drug. I thought hold steady, do these things because you know they’re good. That’s all I knew.  A couple of years later, I found a lesson and gift in losing my dad. It made me become so much more present with my own children and so much more grateful for every moment I’ve got in the world. It made me more committed and aware of my own health. It’s given me a really powerful ‘why’ and reason to stay healthy.

YOUR BODYISM EMPIRE IS EXPANDING AT AN ASTONISHING RATE.  SURELY, THIS CAN BE STRESSFUL AT TIMES?
Stress is a fact of life now. Unless we can all retire, go live on a hill and go play guitar to each other we’re gonna have jobs, we’re gonna have kids, we’re gonna have things that stress us out. For me, it’s less about avoiding stress and more about coping, dealing with it and having strategies to help. I eat foods that really make me feel good and work for me rather than foods that are addictive and poisons as this makes me so much better able to deal with stuff. I don’t numb myself with alcohol or drugs. I’m much more present to things. It’s all simple stuff. It’s funny when people question it and ask ‘Isn’t it boring without alcohol?’ I’m like, ‘Holy s*** you just don’t get it. The world’s amazing. Why would you numb yourself to it?’ Boring is having to have a drink in order to loosen up.

HOW DO YOU UNWIND?
I exercise every day. Movement is medicine. I do yoga or lift weights. If I’m by the ocean, I’ll go for a swim or surf. The sea calms me down. When I’m in London I’ll go for a walk in the park. I also spend an hour and a half each week doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu with people who try to choke me [laughing] but it keeps me completely present because while that’s happening I just can’t think about anything else. So it’s like meditation. It’s so liberating for me.

DESCRIBE YOUR ULTIMATE BLISSED OUT DAY?
I’m grateful for every day, I genuinely am. My absolute happiest moments are with my children. They take me to a place I didn’t know existed, I just love being with them but then I get so much joy from what I do for work. That comes to this place that I create where people are treated well and happy. My job is to help people, I can’t imagine anything better. This is a dream.

WHAT IS BODYISM?
Bodyism the idea that we can change people’s lives and remind them to be kind to themselves. We nourish them through movement, through food, through how they think, and through what they say. It’s beautiful and it’s growing wonderfully. We’ve got our beautiful flagship studio in Notting Hill, London and a number of others including the Maldives. We’ve already started building Miami. It’s amazing, an absolutely breathtaking dream come true.

FINALLY, ARE THERE ANY BOOKS THAT HAVE CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
As a kid, I read a book called The Celestine Prophecy. It spoke about the energy in the world that we don’t see and it really opened my eyes that there might be more than what we just see and feel. I loved that book. Another author who interests me is Louise Hay. She talks about physical things that might have an emotional or spiritual cause. Simon Sinek, is a fantastic guy and brilliant speaker who explains how you’ve got to focus on why you do what you do. It’s transformative and inspirational for me.

Celebrity interviews, Wellness

JONNY WILKINSON REVEALS HOW HE UNWINDS

Jonny Wilkinson
©Marius Bukis

Rugby icon Jonny Wilkinson, CBE, the former international fly-half, who kicked the last minute drop goal that would seal England’s victory over Australia in the 2003 World Cup, is widely regarded as one of the sport’s best players of all time.

The 37-year-old hung up his boots almost three years ago but throughout his career struggled with self-criticism, anxiety and depression.

Here, Jonny, an ambassador for Puressentiel, a natural healthcare brand formulated with natural ingredients, tells Relax Ya Self to Health how he has found a life of balance and contentment since retiring.

 

WHY IS RAISING AWARENESS AROUND MENTAL HEALTH SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I’ve suffered from depression throughout my life. For me, there is no such thing as weakness or strength in talking about feelings or problems. In fact, there is only one thing that is important, which is living life to the full and being able to fully express yourself.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE LIVING LIFE TO THE FULL?
For me, this means joy, peace, passion, connection, inspiration, spontaneity, challenge, opportunity, revelation, learning, and growth. If there is anything that is stopping me from living life this way or any time that I feel the opposite then I definitely seek help by talking about it and challenging it in order to find helpful perspectives and different interpretations that get me back to my best as soon as possible.

CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE JONNY WILKINSON FOUNDATION?
I am building a foundation that aims to reduce the negative stigma attached to the apparent ‘weakness’ involved in talking about feelings and support people in uncovering their true potential. Saying that, I know that, at its worst, it is in no way just as simple as asking people to talk about their issues and feelings. Sometimes that can make it a lot worse.

HOW CAN PEOPLE HELP THOSE WHO ARE STRUGGLING?
The key for me has always been a lack of judgement from others. When people have space in their own values and being they can offer pure unconditional support. In my eyes, offering your own beliefs from your own reality to ‘correct’ someone who is struggling so badly in theirs was and always will be a dangerous game. The Jonny Wilkinson Foundation aims to positively impact the cause, treatment, prevention, understanding, education and support of mental health issues and those affected. We are in the process of researching and refining the philosophy at the heart of the mission and developing the delivery strategy to ensure we make the greatest difference to as many people as possible.

HOW DO YOU RELAX?
An amazingly powerful relaxation technique I use is slow walking. I often head out into the countryside. Slow walking makes it almost impossible for the mind to work quickly and shifts my energy vibration. It’s a phenomenal way to rebalance and find a higher perspective. By relaxing joints and muscles and just letting the arms hang, I gain a sense of control and suddenly helpful solutions to any problems just seem to appear. I use the same state of being when I sit down to eat. This relaxation allows for greater digestion and cellular function. When I was playing I used to eat standing up or moving around whilst packing my bag, thinking about the game etc. I don’t think this brought out the best in me or my performance.

WHY DO YOU LIKE THE OUTDOORS?
I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors and sunlight is hugely important for me for Vitamin D production, boosting mood and for synchronising biorhythms throughout the body. It’s not surprising considering the role the sun plays in the survival of life on our planet that we should be connected in such ways. However, the risks of too much powerful sun exposure are well documented and need to be hugely respected.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER TECHNIQUES YOU’VE FOUND USEFUL FOR STILLING THE MIND?
Guided meditation. This simply means that you’re in some way talked through the process in a certain direction. Meditation can help better organise inner energies which can get a bit all over the place when you are not used to sitting quietly. Meditation takes me beyond my beliefs about myself and into the space of pure potential where I can consciously choose the way I prefer to feel and live in any situation regardless of expectations, desires and outcomes. In this space, there can be no such thing as stress.

DID YOU MEDITATE DURING YOUR CAREER?
I used to meditate before games but I was unable to embrace the difference between being at peace or trying to be at peace. As a player I probably allowed winning and other external factors, such as how others perceived me, to make being peaceful seem out of my control. I now understand that how I feel is my choice.

HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR DIET?
Very. My wife Shelley is training to be a naturopathic nutritionist and does everything from making her own yoghurt from compassionately, ethically farmed raw milk to soaking and sprouting nuts and grains, and making sourdough bread. Healthy concoctions including smoothies, juices and raw protein bars are commonplace around our home. There is so much to be experienced and learned from food and nature and preparing things in the most whole and natural way. We are, after all, just a result of everything we have eaten and drunk.

WHY HAVE YOU TEAMED UP WITH PURESSENTIEL?
I have a huge respect for nature, as does the family behind Puressentiel. The brand is a perfect fit for me. I think we might be well served by continuing to listen and learn from our bodies and nature. There is a place for medicine for sure but, for me, it needs to support and assist the body, not try to dominate it. Quick fix solutions in medicine sometimes scare me especially when they alter or disturb natural processes. I have found that essential oils have a strong role to play in maintaining skin, hair, muscles and vitamins and minerals through diet and supplementation are great ways to ensure balance. Nothing beats open stress-less living though!

Jonny Wilkinson is brand ambassador of Puressentiel’s Muscles & Joints range. The French aromatherapy and natural skincare brand is the official partner of World Rugby until 2019.

Celebrity interviews, Wellness