No Jazzy Title, Just an Honest One Today

I’ve struggled to train recently. I’ve also struggled to hit a calorie deficit in the last few weeks, having some really good days food wise and then some days where I’m dramatically overeating all the wrong stuff. This has coincided with not feeling 100% myself.

I don’t know why – nothing has happened to make me feel down and there hasn’t been any reason for my training or food intake to be affected. Often I find the two go hand in hand though – so if my training or diet isn’t great I will feel a bit low and when I feel a bit low I’ll eat my bodyweight in chocolate and train less.

I’ve realised that I, like most people I imagine, get myself caught in self – destructive cycles where if one thing isn’t perfect it feels like nothing is right, and in turn I let myself sabotage other areas of my life. I get a downer on myself where I feel like everything I do is substandard. The last few weeks I’ve questioned myself on so many things that to others may seem ridiculous and been upset about things I should have brushed off.

One thing I’m getting better at though is recognising this in myself, because this is when you can step back, get some perspective and draw a line.

  • Realistically I’ve still trained 2-3 times every week for the past few weeks, as well as teaching and running a half marathon – so I’ve not really been lazy.
  • I’ve finished the last two weeks in a calorie surplus which isn’t great, but I’ve hit my protein goals and I’m not overweight so I’ve not done any lasting damage.
  • I’ve been a bit down but I know I’ve had some stressful situations to deal with plus been poorly so this isn’t the start of something terrible, I’ve just let myself get a bit stressed.

What I’ve started to try and do when this happens is train – no pressure- just go to the gym and do something (and enjoy it) and then eat nice but fresh food that isn’t processed and sugar filled. Normally I’ll start to feel more positive quickly just from this little system.

Three points from this:

  • A week or so ago was Mental Health Week and there were lots of great posts- but people struggle all year round so don’t be afraid to speak up at other times if you feel like everything is getting to be just a bit much.
  • Sometimes depression doesn’t affect you all in. Sometimes you are perfectly fine and functioning just not feeling 100%. This doesn’t mean it’s any less important to recognise and deal with it – and being aware of how you feel and how you can improve your mood can sometimes help you catch yourself.
  • For me – physical wellness and mental wellness are closely linked. Small habits make a big difference to my mind-set.

15 Tips to Help Improve Mental Health

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week I wanted to offer some ideas of simple things you can do relating to fitness and nutrition to help improve your mental health and 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 thab 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.

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 hars 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 and 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 relaxes by the end of it.

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

It’s Good to Talk

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I’ve seen lots of people open up on Social Media about their own experiences in the hope that it may help encourage those who are currently suffering to reach out and seek help.

I love this. It’s such a positive thing to do and I try to be open about my own experiences with others as I believe that being honest about depression and anxiety will have a more positive impact than trying to hide it and allowing the stigma that still exists in some people’s mind to win.

I suffered with, first, anxiety and later depression for a long time until eventually it caused an almost complete breakdown of my life. I’ve spent the last couple of years slowly rebuilding and in many ways the experience has made my life better as I have a different perspective on many things now.

I have to be honest. I’ve had (and still have) set backs. Life generally throws up road blocks from time to time and trying to beat depression sometimes feels like taking two steps forward one step back. But there is help out there in lots of forms. Some things will work for you, others will not.

One thing I would say to someone who is suffering from depression right now and doesn’t think it can get better is to try everything suggested to you. Some things won’t make much difference (no one thing works for everyone) but something you try will help, and whilst it will take time, things can improve. Not overnight, but slowly they can get better.

There’a a chance you don’t believe me. I wouldn’t have believed me a couple of years ago. But to be honest if you’re currently suffering you don’t have much to lose from at least trying things.

This of course assumes you have reached out already.

And for a lot of people their mental health issues are made worse because they are dealing with stresses that nobody knows about. I know full well that just saying your problems and worries outloud is hard.

So the other thing I would say is talk to someone. Today, tomorrow – Find someone – anyone – and tell them what is causing the problem.

I eventually turned a corner by complete accident.

In a general chat one day I just suddenly splurted out everything that was causing my stress and anxiety. Once I started speaking it just kept coming and eventually I’d said outloud for the first time all my fears. I didn’t even know the person that well at the time.

It was the catylst for beginning to tackle the things that were causing the stress and drastically improving my mental health.

As I talked they didn’t react with shock or disgust. They listened and then we talked about it. Saying it and not being judged was the starting point that gave me the belief I could fix things and wasn’t a failure

It doesn’t matter who you talk to – a friend, family memeber or stranger. It will help reduce the load and allow you to move forward and start to improve your mental health.

Almost everyone is affected by Mental Health issues in some way at some point so if this week can remind us one thing it is to not be ashamed to speak up and ask for help.

Tomorrow as my own contribution to raise awareness (because it is a fitness blog!) I’m going to share my tips on how exercise and food can help improve your mental health – something that everyone would benefit from.

A Fishy Post Today

I was always slightly bemused by people taking supplements –what can these little tablets do to help you?  If you eat well surely you shouldn’t need anything extra?

 

This may be the case but in the last few years I have started taking, and been converted to the value of two supplements – and ant to focus on one of those in particular.

 

Let me just start by clarifying – this is not a sales pitch! I don’t work for Herbalife, Forever Living, Juice Plus or any other company.  I don’t believe that taking a tablet every day can get the nutrients of 30 different fruits into your body.  You need to eat proper food, a variety of foods and actual foods with lots of colour in them in order to look and feel good.  This being said taken in conjunction with a good diet some supplements can add benefit.  A multi vitamin is a no brainer just to ensure you get anything you might have missed from your diet that day (like having a protein shake to increase your protein intake).  The other supplement with huge benefits in fish oil.

 

I started taking fish oil a few years ago whilst I was suffering badly with depression.  I was on anti-depressants and had tried several types without finding one that suited me.  I had never been one to try alternative therapies but I was at a point where I didn’t feel I had anything to lose so I bought a self-help book and tried the things it suggested- including taking a high dose of fish oil.

 

Obviously it took time and a lot more than just some fish oil to get better but I think it made a difference and I have continued to take the supplement ever since and I notice the drop in my mood if I forget to take it for a few days.

 

Apart from being proven to a help alleviate depression and anxiety it has shown to potentially have numerous other benefits including: reducing the risk of diabetes / cancer / cardiovascular diseases, improving brain function, increasing your sex drive, improving fertility, improving the condition of skin and hair, helping the immune system and even helping manage your weight.

 

You don’t need to spend a lot of money- the pots of vitamins which some companies charge £10 plus for will provide nothing that you can’t get from a supermarket own brand.  The one thing I would mention about fish oil is it comes in different doses and you need to establish how much you want to take and then work out how many tablets you need to take from there (ideally you want to take as few tablets as possible to hit your daily dose).  You can buy fish oil in a bottle (in case you don’t like taking tablets) however be warned fish oil in this form TASTES LIKE FISH OIL.

 

If you are considering taking any supplements I’d recommend this be something you look at.