The Cycle

You know when people say exercise is good for your mental health, and can help with conditions such as anixety and depression.

The kicker is that often, when you are feeling particularly anxious or low, exercising can be one of the hardest things to actually make yourself do.

And there begins the cycle of knowing something will make you feel better and yet not feeling able to actually do it, that in itself can make you feel bad for not doing it which adds to the feelings you already had.

Whilst it might feel like you are the only person who ever feels like that it’s actually pretty common, I think particularly over the last year or so when gyms have been largely closed and classes not accessible, because let’s face it, the gym environment or the instructor make a difference in getting yourself motivated to move. Training at home- even with Zoom classes- takes a lot more self start, and self start isn’t always something you have if you are feeling depressed.

The good news is of course that gyms and classes are reopening and that structure that can be so helpful to our routine will soon be back in place. Classes can act as appointments, so even if you’re not ‘feeling it’ you turn up and someone basically gets you moving. Even just the act of going to a gym and being surrounded by strangers can make you more motivated to move. You’re in ‘that’ environment, free of distractions, it makes it just that bit easier to get started.

In the mean time however, if you do find yourself not really wanting to train, even if you know you’d feel better, think about going for a walk or doing whatever form of exercise you enjoy the most, even just for twenty minutes and allow yourself to ease back into it rather than feeling guilty and forcing yourself to commit to punishing schedules you know you won’t stick to and then you’ll feel bad about failing at. This will hopefully allow you to break that cycle and start to feel more motivated to train again over time.

Being a bit unsure is normal

Bit of a random one today.

Last year I worked from home from Lockdown until around about May when we had to start opening buildings back up again, so I’m by now fully adjusted to the day to day ‘going to work’ as opposed to ‘wfh’ or furlough. For many today and the coming weeks however will be a period of readjustment as they go back into their places of work.

It sounds so straight forward and practically speaking it may well be but what I discovered upon my return to leaving the house daily last May was that several things freaked me out a bit that I didn’t really think would.

For one I forgot how tiring it can be. After sitting at the kitchen table for weeks hunched over a laptop or on my mobile phone but seeing very few people are moving only at times of planned exercise or the food shop the sudden travelling to and from work, being around people all day and interacting was much more draining than I recalled. It took a fair while to get back into a routine, for the days to feel normal and not so tiring.

I guess that’s obvious though, but there was another slightly less obvious thing I found upon my return.

Sensory Overload.

That is the overstimulation of one or more of the body’s senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste).

I suffer from what you’d call generalised anxiety disorder and I often notice is that the more anxiety I am holding the more likely I am to feel some form of sensory overload. I think it’s linked to adrenaline and the flight or fight mode the body goes into, heightening senses to make you more alert to the danger it thinks is there. I tend to find noise and light the most common although I also struggle with panic in enclosed spaces, even if they’re not very enclosed at all which may be linked to touch.

So I’m not unfamiliar with sensory overload, but what I found upon returning to work after being at home alone for sometime was the unique feeling of sensory overload separate to anxiety.

After being indoors or outdoors but in limited locations travelling to work felt weird, the buildings felt huge, the lights felt blinding, people’s voices were louder and general chit chat that you get in a work environment was harder to hear as background noise and more distracting. I found the difference between my home and other places disconcerting and after interacting with so few people seeing lots of people all day overwhelming.

Sensory overload of course is tiring, therefore not shocking that the first few weeks back at work were more than a bit exhausting. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging these feelings. In fact being aware of how you feel and why can help you settle back into a routine quicker. We’re all looking forward to getting back to normal, it can therefore be confusing if as you start to get back to normal some things feel a bit odd or not great at first. Acknowledging that you need to readjust and that might take a few days can help you get back to normal quicker.

Are You Ready?

How ready are you for things to go back to normal?

I don’t mean physically.  There are so many posts and articles about getting gym ready, summer body ready, lockdown lifting body ready.  I mean mentally.

In the aftermath of the first Lockdown, as much as I, like evryone else, was desperate for a return to normaity, found it harder than I thought to adjust to the canges in my Lockdown routine.  I wasan’t alone at the time and I said then that, whilst we all put a lot of thought into how we would cope with Lockdown as the prospect loomed ahead of us in March, none of us thought we’d need to try hard to get back to normal.  Actually though humans tend to adapt to circumstances quite quickly as a way of surviving and it wasn’t quite as easy a transition as many of us thought.

Since then we’ve had almost constant change.   Manchester went back into Lockdown in July last year and has never really left it (we went from Local Lockdown to Tier 2, Tier 3, Lockdown, new Tier 3, Tier 4, Lockdown).  We’ve gone from beign abl to go to the pub, get out haircut, go to the gym, to going to the gym but not classes, going to the pub but onl with a meal, to not beign able to go anywhere at all.  We’ve not really been allowed to travel apart from around 6 weeks last summer.

As much as everyone is desperate to leave this never ending barage of rules it isn’t wholey surprising that this brings an element of anxiety.  In recent days I’ve seen some emotional outbursts in reaction to Covid, heard people say ‘things are changing too quickly’.  I don’t think all these people are scared of Covid or a risk of the spread 9some are of course).  I think some people are just a wee bit anxious about the chnges to a routine, which whilst mind numbing, most of us have ended up settling into to stay sane.

Much in the same way almost every PT on Instagram has said it’s ok to go back to the gym having gained weight, not lifted, not trained much and to not feel bad for it, it’s also ok to really want this to end but still feel a bit apprehensive about going back to things that were once normal but have not been for some time now, be that the office, the gym, social settings and so on.

Obligatory #WMHD Post

Today is World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is ‘Mental Health for All’, fitting given this year has been a strange one to say the least and the concept of mental health has been pushed into conversations and workplace / policy considerations much more frequently.

Today, as normal I’ve seen a variety of view points displayed across social media. From the ‘reach out if you need help’ type posts to practical tips, to posts arguing the topic needs to be focused on every day not just on specific occasions, that often when people do reach out they are poorly supported and all sorts of topics in between.

The truth is that, at this moment especially, mental health is a difficult subject.

It always has been. It’s difficult to really understand unless you’ve had some kind of experience and it’s difficult to know what to do to help yourself and others in the midst of a mental health crisis. It’s really one of those things where hindsight is an amazing thing. In the moment, advice, even if it makes sense to you, even if you know it’s right, is difficult to take or put into action. The very things that would make you feel better are the hardest things to do and ‘self care’ is difficult to practice in the worst moments.

Of course recovery is possible and once you learn how to help yourself when you are struggling it’s easier to identify early, if not stop, when you feel yourself slipping and makes it easier for you to anchor yourself in those moments. Sometimes that might mean doing things that seem weird to others (and even yourself) but that you know will help you short term get through rocky patches. I think people with longer term mental health struggles come to terms with the fact that sometimes you might come across as ‘odd’ with some of your habits because those habits just help keep you feeling well.

This year however there will have been a host of people who have struggled with their mental health, with anxiety or depression, for the first time. They might not even think what they are feeling is a mental health ‘thing’, feel like it’s something to just get through because of this year, feel bad because they’ve got it far better than lots of other people, feel weak because other people are coping just fine with all this pandemic stuff.

The truth is that in any other year that’s what lots of people think when they first start reacting to signs of depression or anxiety – I have no reason to feel these feelings, I’m weak, selfish and so on. I think adding a layer of ‘we’ve all been affected in one way or another’ into this whole situation of a year might actually make it harder for people experiencing mental health problems for the first time.

And talking about it is hard.

I openly talk about mental health – on here, on social media, I’ve spoken to lots of people about their mental health over the last five or six years and I believe it’s a really important thing to talk about all year round.

Talking about your own mental health struggles is hard.

I’m ok acknowledging when I’m struggling but much less likely to reach out and talk about it because I feel like it will bother people. It’s not that I’m not comfortable talking about it, it’s that I want to feel like the person I’m talking about it to wants to listen (this is probably an anxiety thing). So if someone knows I’m not having a great time but doesn’t ask how I am I’m less likely to bring it up as I’ll assume they don’t want to talk about it. Maybe I’m odd, but I actually think that scenario is quite common. I think lots of people who struggle want to talk, but they want to talk to someone who they know wants to listen.

So sometimes saying generically on social media I’m here reach out to me, whilst well meaning, isn’t enough to make someone do so. Equally within business, a company saying in emails come and speak to us if you have any concerns, whilst yes, technically an invitation, doesn’t actually encourage people to come forward and speak. What actually is likely to encourage people to open up is to approach individuals and ask how they are one to one, especially those you’ve noticed are quieter than usual or seem a bit ‘off sorts’. I’ll say from experience, for someone with anxiety in particular, to approach someone ‘cold’ and open up voluntarily requires a certain degree of trust and confidence that it will not all end up very badly (and we tend to think everything will end badly) so if you take anything from World Mental Health Day, I think knowing that being there for the people around you does not require public statements of commitment to the cause online, it just requires checking in on your friends and work colleagues and ensuring you are ‘open’ to being there if they need. And if someone does open up to you, understand they don’t expect you to have solutions or fix things, often just being able to talk without someone judging or laughing at you is more of a help than you think when you’re heads all over the place.

And if you’re the one not feeling great right now, it’s ok to ask for help, whatever the reason, and your local GP surgery will be able to signpost you to the most appropriate help so I’d urge you to contact them as generally these things are easier to learn to control the quicker you identify them and seek help.

Coming out of Lockdown? Do you have a Plan?

How weird is the world right now?

I spoke in a private Facebook coaching group yesterday about how I have genuinely found coming out of lockdown harder than going into it.

That surprised me because I was genuinely worried about my mental health prior to lockdown.  But in hindsight although the build up, uncertainty and speculation was anxiety inducing at the time it also meant I mentally prepared myself for the absolute worst, and because of that it was nowhere near as hard as I’d expected.  The rules weren’t as strict, I wasn’t arrested for buying non essentials with my shopping and I found a routine of sorts.  There were bad days of course but I coped.

What I didn’t think about was how to manage leaving lockdown.  I kind of assumed it would be easy- going back to normal.  That would be a positive not difficult.  Except it hasn’t been.  It’s been more stressful and emotional and overwhelming and anxiety inducing than I ever expected.

There’s two things I’ve since realised.

Firstly, we get used to things much quicker than we think we will.  So although I anticipated lockdown / work from home routine would be tough to adjust to, I had adjusted.  So going back into the office, things being more open has been another period of readjustment, and it’s continually changing.  Going into lockdown was very quick and a big change in one go, now things are evolving so every time I feel like I’ve got on an even footing things change a bit again.  Of course gyms are not open yet so I know that things will change again as they open and classes are integrated back into my week too.  The thing that threw me most about this is that I hadn’t really thought about how the change would impact me.  I thought as it was going back to normal it wouldn’t affect me at all and that lack of preparation on my part I think probably contributed to the feeling of overwhelm.  I’ve loved seeing real people again and getting back to a sense of reality but just because something is good in one sense doesn’t mean it isn’t also hard.

That brings me onto the second thing I’ve realised.

In March I expected a few weeks of lockdown then back to normal.  But we are not going back to normal.  Things are different, so you are going back to work and most things will be the same but some things won’t be.  That’s going to be the same for going back to the gym, going on a night out, to the pub, to the shops.  It isn’t bad or scary but it’s different and at first that is unsettling, because change is hard and takes adjustment.

So if I could give one piece of advice to people who are still essentially in lockdown and about to start easing that and going back out to work etc. be prepared.  The thought you put into how lockdown would affect you, put that same amount of thought into how you feel about this change.  being mentally prepared can help.  Give yourself time to adjust.  If you don’t train for the first week or so after you go back to work that’s ok, it’s likely to feel mentally and physically draining adjusting to the change so give yourself a break.  Finally know that it’s normal to feel unsettled by this, it’s the unknown and that sort of change makes most of us feel anxious, so you aren’t bad at coping if you are struggling a bit, you are normal so allow yourself time.

 

 

 

Overwhelm

This year has been tough so far, I’ve been stressed an because of that I’ve found myself training less and eating chocolate like it’s the only food on the planet.  At first it was lack of time stopping me training.  I normally do most of my sessions on my lunch breaks at work but I’ve been busy and kept thinking if I just work through my lunch today I can catch up.  Of course I never did catch up but I have got myself completely out of the habit of training.  I normally eat chocolate quite frequently anyway, that’s fine, it fits into my diet perfectly well but as I’ve been more and more stressed I’ve turned to it more and more, it’s a comfort food thing I suppose.

The issue is eating well and training are anchors in my life.  When I am in my normal routine of a short training session most days and getting some good meals in me along side some chocolate I feel good, I feel capable of dealing with stress and juggling lots of roles.

So falling out of these habits because of stress kind of creates a never ending circle where I’m not doing the thing that prevents stress because I am stressed.  Not great, especially as I suffer from anxiety and so keeping track of the anchors that make you feel good is really important.  As an added stress on top of this is that because I’ve been eating more and training less I’ve also put on some weight, whilst I’m still not overweight or dramatically busier my clothes feel tighter and I feel less comfortable, this of course doesn’t help when you already don’t feel great.

None of this is uncommon, lots of people have these struggles.  They are perfectly valid, we lead high stress lives these days and it’s easy to end up a bit overwhelmed and a bit crap.

For me I always think it’s bonkers that you’re a fitness instructor, so you know exactly what you need to do to fix it, because you advise and support other people with this regularly, but that knowledge doesn’t always equate to making things easy.  I mean most of us know we need to burn more calories than we consume to lose weight, simple concept, not simple to do.  Most things in life are really quite simple at their core, it’s the application that is the thing that trips us up.

The thing is it’s ok to fall into a this cycle but you do need to be able to pull yourself back out of it too.

So how do you pull yourself out of a cycle where you are struggling with your training / nutrition?  Small changes, focusing on doing small simple things that you know will make you feel better over time.  I’m not talking bubble baths and face mask style self care, I’m talking doing the easy practical things that will make you feel more purposeful and on track.

My small things for this week are:

  • Track calories for the week to see where I’m actually at with food consumption
  • Drink 4 litres of water a day
  • Take my lunch break very day regardless and go down to the gym and train for 20 mins
  • Stretch every day
  • Get in at least one long walk this week

I’m not expecting at the end of the week for these things to have magically made me feel amazing, but I think that if I do these things I’ll feel better than I do right now and that is a step in the right direction.

 

Be Kind – but please also read this

This is a blog post written in the aftermath of the death of a British celebrity who following a couple of months of intense (not positive) press coverage took her own life.

Yesterday and this morning there has been an outpouring of posts about being kinder, saying that they are there for anyone who wants to talk and other variations of these.

One hundred percent I agree, and this post will echo much the same but I also wanted to delve a bit deeper into a couple of my own thoughts that arose from the news and subsequent comments and posts.

Be Kind –

Variations of this will appear many times over the coming days. Fact is every person no matter how nice has at some point done something not kind.

We have all at some point said something mean, taken the piss out of someone, vented about people who’ve upset us, talked about people we don’t like. We will have always seen our reasons as just at the time, probably said something or written a comment and then thought nothing more of it. We didn’t think this could have a massive impact on the other person, had we thought that most of the time we probably would have shut up. But we’re humans – it’s natural we react then think, that doesn’t make us bad. I’m not saying it’s ok not to be kind – I’m saying you can say something and then reflect and change your mind and shouldn’t be lambasted forever for your past. Because if we can’t forgive each other or ourselves for what has happened then actually we still aren’t being kind.

I can’t say I’ve never said unkind things. I can’t change that, it also means I’m not inherently unkind and doesn’t mean I can’t try and be kind. Life is complicated right.

Speak out-

Again lots of posts saying I’m here if you want to talk. This is nice. To be fair I’ve always said the same – I’m an open ear.

But actually – beyond the specific mental health days etc. are we there to listen? Have you ever said to someone to stop moaning, be more positive? Posted a ‘Positive vibes only’ quote or meme? So we’re you there for that person when they tried reaching out? Did you put that person off from even trying to reach out because they were feeling the positive vibes?

Often people who need support will struggle to reach out to start with. We need to notice more of the people around us and try and help those people if we notice a change.

I’ll be honest this week my mental health has been shocking (nothing I can’t fix I’m tired and I know how I can help myself feel better and I’ve done that this weekend) but I’ve sat at my desk at the point of tears all week – nobody noticed or if they did nobody reached out. A death of a famous person shouldn’t make you offer help. Seeing someone you see or speak to daily a bit off form should (because actually just a do you want to grab a brew or something is a better start to helping someone than a do you want to chat might be)

Nothing is ever clear cut –

It isn’t. The press published a lot of stuff, she was in the news because of a court case. The police had to investigate because they had to. She chose to be in the public eye. That made the court case more reportable. Did you have a water cooler conversation about it? You did because she was famous.

It’s not as simple as people said mean things so she took her own life. It’s a disservice to Caroline and everyone else if we simplify this. It’s awful but also how do you think the people who reported on her in the news, the CPS person who decided to prosecute her feel today? They were doing jobs, they didn’t do that knowing this would be the outcome. In condemning those people we also affect their mental health. Everything in life is a circle. Our actions affect us but also other people. That doesn’t mean doing what isn’t right for us because of how it affects others but it doesn’t mean not acknowledging that fact either.

I think it’s entirely right people mourn but we can’t put everything down to right and wrong good and bad. In no situation are we ever in one camp or the other and all sides in every story are affected in some way.

I debated writing this – I worried this post could be taken as negative to some, but isn’t that the point – your words at any time, however you mean them could upset someone else. Your well meant advice could be perceived by someone else as mean. For every person you might be able to help there will be people out there you’ve upset or hurt at some point because by the time we reach adulthood we’ve all at some point behaved in a way that wasn’t the best. If we really think about every single one of us who writes ‘be kind’ at any time about any thing could be described as a hypocrite because every single of us has at some point in our lives, not been kind.

Social media exists and could be both viewed as the cause of much upset but equally a positive force. A few years ago I couldn’t have expressed my thoughts on fitness to as many people as I can now (be clear my blog gets 50-100 reads a time I’m in no means a wide reaching writer but that’s still a lot more than I could have reached before Facebook), hence the realisation this year that I now have the tools to open discussions on topics that are traditionally less discussed. This is why I’m in the process of writing a series of blogs in conjunction with people where I hope to look at topics which affect many but are less discussed than they should be. I strongly believe talking about stuff honestly and openly can be beneficial.

This will never cancel out the bad aspects of what has, and probably will still, happen on social media but we can all move forward, learn from the (our own/other peoples) past and hopefully be more understanding and forgiving of each other and ourselves.

Tribal Gathering and Nerves

This time last week I went to Les Mills Tribal Gathering in Twickenham (London).

I’d ummed and ahhed about going, booking a space but not booking travel until the week before.  I like going and trying the new releases and meeting people (and to be fair now unlimited CPD is now included in the price of your music I kind of think why not go to as much as possible, I’m quite keen on self development and learning).  Equally however I always feel a bit apprehensive going to these things alone.

It was interesting to read on some social media forums this week that I’m not alone in feeling this way.  Logically you know it isn’t the case that everyone has gone with a massive group of people and knows everyone, but when you walk into a room of chattering noise alone it can feel that way.

I’m fortunate I know quite a few Les Mills instructors around the country and have spoken to so many people via social media over the last couple of years that there’s always people I know pretty well without having ever met who I can catch up with, and it’s brilliant to put real faces to names (this is another reason I love travelling a bit further to these events – getting to meet those people).  Equally, I’m naturally quite a shy anxious person so, even with all those absolute positives, there can be moments in the day when it feels a bit overwhelming and you just want to see a familiar face.

I was planning to write a blog on the topic and then saw the posts bringing the topic up and I think it’s really positive that people feel they can have these conversations and highlight those feelings, because sometimes there’s an urge to hide them away for fear of looking weak or like a billy no mates.  In highlighting that it’s common for people to feel a bit nervous and alone at these events it encourages you to make the effort to speak to strangers, go up to people on there own and say hi and generally make a brilliant event even better. 

I know, even though I get a bit nervous at these things, I can make conversations with people I’ve not met so it’s manageable for me, but for some people perhaps we need to be the one to go and break the ice and that’s a great reminder for us all.  Equally, some people may look quite confident (I will go and chat to people I don’t know which may make me appear more outgoing than I feel) but be anxious behind that, so just smiling and saying hi to everyone is a great way to go.

It also made me remember how our new participants feel when they first walk into class.  That feeling that everyone seems to know everyone and what they are doing and perhaps they don’t really belong here.  It’s a great reminder of the care we need to take to make them feel welcome. 

It is also worth while remembering what we would say to that participant and applying that to ourselves in a situation like this.

Ultimately, I know that it’s ok to feel uncomfortable sometimes, it’s good to make yourself do those things you’re a bit scared of sometimes even.  I also know by going and enjoying the day, even if there were times I was a bit lost or nervous I overcame those feelings a bit.  I had a great day, met some brilliant people in real life who I’ve known via Facebook for a while and next time I go to a Tribal Gathering alone I have a couple of positive experiences of doing so behind me to help me reduce the nerves (I also travelled to Glasgow alone).

What can I suggest you do if you’re nervous about going to the next Tribal Gathering alone or if you want to try a class at your gym but are anxious about making that first step?

  1.  We all get nervous about stepping out our comfort zones (hopefully the above demonstrates that) – knowing these feelings are not exclusive to you can reduce their impact.

2. Find out whose going who you do know and arrange to meet before hand so you have someone to walk in with – those first few moments are normally the ones that are the hardest and once you’re moving it’s not so bad.

3. Take some time out if you need to during the event. Grab a coffee and a quiet spot and regroup (but Tribal specific that one!)

4. If you’re new to a class let the instructor know you’re a bit nervous – they’ll help ease those nerves and make sure you have a good first class… now if you’re at Tribal you might not be able to speak to the presenter beforehand but you can chat to those around you – let’s face it they too are all instructors!

5. Remember it’s always ok to leave. I can almost guarantee once you’re there you’ll have fun and decide not to, but knowing that at the start of the day / the class can help get you through the door.

Sometimes doing things you actually want to do is still hard because our brains get in the way of us – there’s ways to get over that though!

Easy ways to work on your own mental health

Following Mental Health Awareness Day Thursday I wanted to offer some ideas of simple things you can do relating to fitness and nutrition to help improve your mental health (whoever you are) and perhaps even help manage depression and anxiety:

1) Drink water

Most of us don’t drink enough water at the best of time and if you feel low the chances are you will drink even less. Fill a water bottle and sip throughout the day. Dehyration causes fatigue and has been linked to feelings of depression so drinking water is a cheap, low effort way of helping you feel a bit better.

2) Vitamin D

This can help make you feel better natutally. You can buy supplements, a light box, possibly use a sunbed or even better get outside and get some fresh air at the same time. Little effort required for a potential improvement in your mood.

3) Fish Oil

Omega 3 has been linked to improving symptons of mild depression. Make the effort to take a supplement each day – you can buy it in liquid form if you can’t swallow tablets (and are brave!). This was one simple habit that has worked well for me.

4) Eat regular meals

When you feel low eating proper meals at regular times can go out the window. Set an alarm for regular intervals and eat a small simple meal when it goes off. This will help stabilise your mood and create a feeling of routine and normality which can help when life feels like it’s crumblig around you.

5) Eat colourful food

Go to the shop and buy lots of different colourerd food. If you don’t feel like cooking buy prepared veg and fruit. Eating a variety of colours will mean your getting a variety of nutrients and will help improve your mood as well as your health.

6) Eat simple healthy meals

Eating healthy foods can have a dramatic affect on how well your mind feels. If I’ve had a bad week a simple healthy meal can help me feel more positive and in control of my own mind and body. It may sound stupid but when I eat well I feel like my body feels better and I’m looking after myself which in turn makes me feel brighter within myself. On days like this I won’t have the energy to cook a fancy meal so I go for a simple piece of salmon I can microwave or grill and a pack of microwave veg. 10 minutes to prepare a good quality meal.

7) Try some alternative meal prep

The holy grail of fitness freaks! Cooking is the last thing you want to do when you feel depressed. So if you find yourself having a good day make the most of it and prepare so batches of food that you can freeze. Then on days you just can’t face cooking you can defrost one of these meals and still eat something homemade.

8) Buy a slow cooker

Slow cookers allow you to make healthy tasty meals with little effort -and a casserole is brilliant comfort food. They are great for preparing a comforting meal without much effort and will make you feel better than turning to chocolate and other quick food sources that we often crave when we feel low.

9) Drink less coffee

Adrenal Fatigue and depression / anxiety are linked. Too much coffee puts you at risk of developing adrenal fatigue – drinking less will help reduce stress levels. You could try a herbal tea instead which many people find helps then relax.

10) Walk

Getting outside helps you move more -that will help your mental health. Fresh air will help lift your mood. Being outside will help increase vitamin D intake. Walking can help clear your head. Walking is free. In short one of the best and most simple things you can do to help yourself fell more positive.

11) Exercise

As I said moving has been shown to help manage many mental health issues. You may not feel much like it but it can be in any form and doesn’t need to be for long periods of time to help. Start small and build up as you start to feel like you can.

12) Dance

Stick music on and just move to the music. Music can improve mood as can moving which makes thos fun activity a win win mood boosting activity.

13) Try group exercise

Nerve wracking and requires motivation. Sounds awful if you aren’t having the best day. But if you can push yourself to walk into the room you can find exercise, motivation, good music and social interaction in one place. It’s hard to leave a class not feeling at least a little bit more positive than when you walked in.

14) Join a team or club

Another nervewracking idea. Another idea which will allow you to exercise which will help your mental health and get to meet new people, another great mood booster. It can also help boose confidence which will help your mental health dramatically.

15) Try yoga

A chance to challenge your body and stretch along with a focus on breathing and mental wellbeing. You could try a class or find a free video on You tube. You could do an hour or even 5 minutes. Whatever you feel like at the start there is an option you could try out and you may feel more relaxed by the end of it.

Do you have any other tips for improving your mental health?

World Mental Health Day 2019

 

World Mental Health Day this year is focusing on suicide prevention, there’s some useful downloads on their website about this topic for a variety of situations and it’s worth a read (website link below).

https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2019/10/10/default-calendar/world-mental-health-day-2019-focus-on-suicide-prevention

There are two school’s of thought with ‘days’- mental health, women’s day and so on.  Yes – in an ideal world we wouldn’t need specific days to remind people are inequalities and reduce stigma.  We don’t live in an ideal world though and what these days do is start conversations – some of those conversations may well be forgotten tomorrow sadly, but for some the onslaught of coverage on one day could set in motion the impetus to make a change- either for someone specifically affected or in making someone more mindful.

There’s so much that I could write about today- from personal experience but I’ll limit this blog to three brief things I think worthy of being mindful of if you know someone who is currently struggling with any mental health condition.

One

It can be frustrating for those around someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts.  Often you try and help and feel like you’re being met with resistance at every turn.  These illnesses are not logical though and as well meaning as your advice may be you might not get the reaction you hope for.  You can offer the most practical and solid advice in how someone might feel better but self care is hard when you are really ill and even though it’s the thing that will help it can feel practically impossible to do.  As frustrating as that may be for you believe me the person affected will be equally, probably more frustrated and knowing those around them are frustrated can just add to the difficulty of climbing out of a hole.

If you know someone who is struggling, be there for them, offer an ear, even offer advice, but accept you can’t fix it and you may feel like you repeat yourself a million times before anything lands.  Don’t take that personally – you being there is probably helping even if it feels like it isn’t.  If someone is suicidal, as much of an impact and stress that will place on you and others around them- remember the stress they feel to get to that point is far greater- frustration and anger are normal and understandable responses but when people get ill they aren’t doing it to piss people off or make life hard for others, get time off work or get attention.

Two

From my own experience when I went back to work after being off for a long time due to mental health issues I found it really hard and one reason for this was there was no understanding of mental illness in the way there would be for a physical illness.  The procedures in place just didn’t work for managing what was wrong with me.  I’m lucky I have a good manager who took time to listen to me and understand and that helped me settle back in, but at first it was really hard because I felt like I was having to fight against a system at a time when I really didn’t have the capacity to do so.  It took me to bite the bullet ask for a conversation and try and explain.

You can understand in situations like this how so many people fall between the gaps and end up unemployed, isolated and feeling like there’s no way out.  It’s easy to drop out the system (if you stop going to the doctors because you really just can’t face anything they don’t chase you up for instance), you can have to jump through hoops to get help but often have no motivation to do so.  You actually have to fight to get help (or have someone fight for you) and often you just can’t when your ill.  You may lose your job because your company doesn’t recognise mental illness as a genuine illness and not have the capacity to fight that.

These situations could be improved with education.  I don’t just mean companies educating their staff to understand mental illness, I mean in some cases companies themselves need to understand better how mental illness can affect staff and how best to handle it at a variety of stages- both preventative measures, catching signs of problems early on and dealing with the aftermath of serious issues.

Three

Today is about making people aware of the importance of mental health, of being open about discussing it- because more people than you would ever anticipate will be affected to varying degrees over their lifetime.  Being aware everyday is important though.  If you notice that a friend or a colleague doesn’t seem quite right you haven’t got to have a conversation with them if you don’t feel comfortable.  It might be mentioning your concern to someone closer to them who could check in on them.  But equally it could be dropping them a message or calling them for a chat, inviting them for a coffee or lunch, anything to connect with them.  You know that thing we call being nice, letting people know they have people around them.  On a day to day individual basis that can be the thing that makes the difference, and because you never really know how much people are struggling making not being a dick a general life rule is probably the best way to help others maintain good mental health, not least because you never know what sort of things could affect someones so something you say in passing which means nothing to you could affect that person for hours even days after.