May has seen Mental Health Awareness Week raising the profile of a number of mental health issues but with a particular focus on their theme this year of stress.
For those of you that have been following my Facebook posts across the week you will have seen that I have tried to cover a few different issues – but this only scratches the surface and I hope that by joining in on the conversation you have all been able to see the benefits of raising awareness and talking about Mental Health.
I will never shy away from the fact that I have had my own problems over the years with varying degrees of impact on my life and the lives of those around me. I have seen health professionals, read the countless articles online with advice on how to deal with your problems and over time I have developed coping strategies that have helped me to move forward – I will never say that I have found a cure to my problems, but I am certainly carrying around a toolkit that helps me to face them as and when I need to. One of the tools that I have always found to be of benefit though has been my love of sport and exercise.
From a young age playing sports and being part of a team gave a sense of purpose and achievement which helped me to face up to anxieties, and in later years I have seen changes in myself through my love of rugby, crossfit and running. I cannot express to you enough the way that exercise has impacted on my mental health, giving me a focus and helping to improve my sleep and energy levels which has given me a foundation that allows me to face my own challenges with a clearer head.
There is lots of research out there where doctors and psychologists have proved that there can be a benefit in taking regular exercise for your mental health – The American Journal of Psychiatry found that those who do not exercise are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression than those who exercise for one or two hours per week. I am not a medical expert and can only give you the value of my own experiences and I can honestly say that exercise has given me a mental strength and not just a physical one – it increases my feeling of self-esteem and improves my mood.
As I have discussed before, I would never expect that everyone would become a fitness fanatic and find three-hour intensive gym sessions probably the right thing for everyone but if you can find something that you enjoy – a gentle swim, a stroll or even starting something like ‘Couch to 5k’ - you could give yourself some time and space that would provide a tool at your disposal to help with your anxiety or stress levels.
Mental Health isn’t something that you can stick a plaster on and let it heal – it will always be a part of you. For this reason I can strongly advise that you find a way to gather your own toolkit together to help you to move forward and cope with your thoughts and feelings when things get hard and if one of those tools could be regular exercise then you will reap the rewards in so many ways.
Don’t be afraid to talk about it if you are feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. There is help out there for you so don’t struggle on in silence. If you think that I might be able to help you to start building your toolkit please get in touch and I we can talk through how we start building the foundations for you to start making steps forward.