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.

Supporting Local Businesses

I know this is a food and fitness blog but as someone who themselves makes money being self employed I also like to try and support other small businesses.

Between that and Christmas coming up I wanted to spend today’s blog introducing you to my friend’s company Hamperoo.

If you are looking for a unique gift for any occasion have a chat with Charlotte and she can create either a pre-designed or a personalised hamper to match the recipient and your price range, and with lots of hampers around the £25 (and less) mark you can get a brilliant gift for a purse friendly price.  Hamperoo can also deliver to anywhere in the UK with very reasonable postage and packaging prices.

From birthday hampers, pamper hampers, new baby hampers, children’s hampers (Toy Story, LOL dolls…), halloween gifts, Mrs Hinch hampers (this one confuses me but some people seem to like it) Christmas hampers, Christmas Eve hampers, Elf on the Shelf hampers – the beauty of being able to chat directly to the business owner is that the only restriction to the type of hamper you can create is your imagination.

Check out some of the hampers people have already bought below and follow Hamperoo here.

Hamperoo is now taking pre-orders for Christmas (and it’s probably time you start thinking about Christmas right!?). You can contact them via their Facebook page.

Supporting a local business doesn’t just help that person (over the big shops and companies) it also allows you to give a gift that not just anyone could buy so if you are stuck for a gift do give Charlotte a shout.  She is the person who once announced that she wished she could learn to like eggs and asked me if I still did that strange thing on my lunch breaks (that strange thing being exercise) so you’re always guaranteed a good bit of banter with her as you plan you gift out!

5 Reasons Group Ex Instructors should consider signing up to Jump 4.2

Hello!

So today’s blog is actually a video. If you follow my blog you know I’ve been blogging about my progress on the fitness nutrition and mindset programme Jump 4.2. This is a bit of a follow up to that where I explain 5 reasons why any group ex instructors or regular participants who train a lot but aren’t getting the results they want should consider doing Jump.

I’m not your traditional advert for a fitness programme. I haven’t had a massive physical transformation in 8 weeks – I haven’t developed a six-pack. What I have gained from working with Ricky is a healthy relationship with food, my training and my own head. I can have weeks where I eat too much and don’t train of course, but now I can deal with them – they don’t derail my progress or make me feel like I need to start again. I know what I can achieve if I want to get super lean, equally I know where my happy place is where I’m fit, healthy and able to enjoy life.

I think that’s what most of us really want. Most of us don’t want to give up cake and cocktails or spend hours in the gym in exchange for abs- we just want to feel good whilst still enjoying our favourite indulgences. If that’s you then I’m the proof that Jump 4.2 works – I’m the most boring yet honest advertisement going!

The last intake in 2019 opens on 1st September. If you are interested and have any questions you can contact me on instagram DM @heather.sherwood or Ricky Long @rickylong42 or @jump4.2.

I have a couple of discount codes for 15% off – if you would like to sign up with a discount drop me a message.

Anyway – here’s my video!

Jump 4.2 Video

Jump 4.2 – Week 1

This week I started two weeks of Paleo based eating.  I’m currently on day 5 and feel like I’m starting to get into a rhythm with it.  The first couple of days I find hunger always hits a little no matter how much I eat and I often feel a bit of a drop in energy as my body adjusts to not having some of the things it’s used to.

I’ve tried to keep my meals varied with eggs, chicken, pork, salmon, different vegetables, salad and fruits as well as nuts and so far haven’t missed chocolate too much- although all the nice cakes and biscuits people keep leaving in the kitchen at work don’t make this easy!  Thankfully I normally drink black coffee so the lack of milk isn’t too much of an issue.

The reason I’m doing this is that I’ve decided to work through the 8 week Jump 4.2 Programme with Ricky Long.

I’ve trained with Ricky for a couple of years and his coaching has always extended beyond simply giving you a training plan, so he has encouraged the formation of numerous habits and mindset shifts for me in that time.

This has allowed me to be in a position where I am able to be involved in helping support those who are going through (and have previously gone through) Jump.

I realised however that what I haven’t yet done however is actually fully work through the full 8 weeks from start to finish in the format and order the programme lays them out in myself.  This is something I felt would be both useful in allowing a greater understanding of the challenges within the programme so I can provide more support whilst also continuing to work on my own mindset, habits and fitness.

I haven’t started the workouts or mindset work as yet but plan to get going with that this weekend.

I’m committing this down on my blog to hold myself accountable to you for the next 8 weeks and plan to keep a regular diary of my progress on here over the coming weeks.

If you have any questions about what I’m doing please contact me and I’ll be happy to answer anything you may want to know.

Post Marathon Blues

Today’s blog topic is a request (possibly my first ever topic request!) and is focused on the Post Marathon Blues.

This doesn’t just need to apply to marathons, it could equally apply to people who have trained for any big sporting even (half marathon, 10k, big swim or cycle, triathlon, a show, a tournament- anything where all your focus for several months has been working towards being in your peak physical form and at the top of your game for one specific event).

How we feel after an event is not something we tend to focus on.  We put lots of thought into preparing for things and on the day itself and even on the immediate recovery in the hours or days after a physical event.

But many people report feeling a bit down in the weeks after a marathon or other big event.  Words like lost, aimless, flat, down, void, lacking in motivation come up in conversations.  It’s a lot like that feeling you get when you come back from a holiday and the realities of normal life hit you and now because the holiday has been and gone you don’t have anything to look forward to.

This is due to both physical and psychological reasons.

Physically the day itself will probably have left you feeling extremely tired, a cumulative effect of weeks of training hard and the extra effort of the day itself and you may have picked up blisters, bruised toenails and niggles which don’t help make you feel great about yourself.  Your endorphins will have been high during the event and as you settle back into normality this can have an effect of how you feel as you struggle to replicate the high you felt in that moment again.

Mentally, you no longer have the event to focus on and that can leave you feeling like life has no meaning or focus after months of everything you do revolving around training (can’t go out Saturday have a long run on Sunday morning, can’t eat that as I’m in training and so on).  It can make it harder to you to motivate yourself to eat well or train as you no longer have that reason for doing so.  Many of us thrive on routine and having something meaningful to us to work towards and once you reach your goal where do you go from there?

Thankfully, these feelings tend to only last a few weeks and people normally spring back to their normal self but there are things you can do to help yourself feel better in this situation and feel the positivity you probably expected to feel after your big achievement.

Celebrate

Plan to do something nice to celebrate your achievement – a massage, spa break, celebration meal.  Take time to congratulate yourself for what you achieved so it doesn’t feel insignificant now.

Book something nice

Similar to above, you could consider booking a weekend break or holiday- something to focus on that is nice and not exercise.  This is bound to improve your mood

Reflect

Think about what you achieved, all the positives and even what you would have done differently in hindsight.  Think objectively about whether it’s something you would like to repeat or if once was enough.  That way if you choose to train for the same event in the future you know what pitfalls to avoid and if not you know you can confidently say once was enough.  Sometimes reflecting on your feelings can give you more ownership on how you feel and help you both make decisions and manage your emotional responses better.

Recover Properly

Get a sports massage, continue to eat nourishing food (and enough of it) to help the body recover, stretch, get some good quality sleep and take some time to just sit and chill.  Any sporting event which take a toll on your body requires some proper mindful recovery in the days after to help you feel better physically which in turn will help you feel better mentally.

Do some low impact exercise

Don’t feel like you need to be back training he day after.  A week or two off could be exactly what your body needs.  If you feel the urge to exercise though try and stick to low impact options which place less strain on your CNS.  You may want to try some yoga or similar during this time.

Don’t run for a couple of weeks

Similar to above, a couple of weeks not doing the exercise you have just trained hard for can be beneficial, both in allow you to physically recover but also give you that little bit of excitement when you do go back out for that first run after a couple of weeks.

Find a new challenge

After a couple of weeks when your rested and refreshed this could be the time to think about what comes next.  Another run of the same distance, a step up to the next distance (Ultra anyone), maybe looking at trying something new instead.  Setting your next goal will give you a renewed sense of focus.

Above all, don’t stress about feeling a bit blue after a big event.  It’s human nature and being sensible and kind to yourself is the key to letting it subside.

Equally, if you suffer from depression anyway, don’t let the idea of post event blues put you off training for an event.  Research has shown that having something to aim for and the training and self care associated with that training can be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of depression and as long as you are mindful that you might feel a bit down immediately after the event and have your coping strategies in place this should have a generally positive impact on your mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Week Musings

This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week.

There has been a shift in recent years, with a greater willingness to understand how problems with your mental health can affect people.

Mental Health is not something you only need to be aware of if you have depression or another illness, how you think, feel and process things will affect your well being regardless.  It’s the understanding of this that has led to a rise in the notion of Self Care.

Self care is taking time to look after yourself, and could be as simple as getting an early night, eating a nice meal or going for a walk.  Equally though self care can be about your mindset, about being kind to yourself in the way you view yourself.

That could mean changing those you surround yourself with – be that in person or who you view on Social Media – if they cause you to doubt yourself.  It could be about accepting you cannot change the past and instead forgiving yourself or others for not being perfect.  It could be reminding yourself that whist not everyone will like you or always agree with you that doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong.  That one small mistake doesn’t define you so you don’t need to beat yourself up about it.  That you are allowed to change your opinion on a matter or a person and not be judged.  At one point or another I’ve had to learn how to be kind to myself on all those fronts to improve my own relationship with myself.

Looking after yourself is important and weeks such as this are good at raising awareness of the importance of looking after your mind as well as your body and encouraging people to speak up if they need help.

It is heart warming to see people offer to be there for people if they have problems or worries and need to talk.  From my own experience I can tell you that sometimes, if you have a problem that is affecting your mental health opening up to someone even when they offer seems too hard.  I eventually opened up to someone, not because they invited me to, but because they had shown themselves to be someone I felt I could trust and who would not judge me, so for me this is the type of person I would like to develop into – someone who is (however opinionated I can be at times still) approachable.  So I think awareness weeks such as this encourage us to consider our own actions, mindset and we both how we feel ourselves and make those around us feel, because the chances are, the time you may be able to help someone could come without you ever realising or inviting it.

The actual theme of this years awareness week is body image based.  Being a fitness professional I am extremely aware of the battles people can have with their own body image and it is often a fine line we walk between encouraging people to work towards their goals whilst also not confirming any negative feelings the same people may have about their body.  Much of what I’ve said above applies to our eating habits or training in almost the exact same way.  Learning to be kind to yourself if you didn’t hit your calorie deficit that week, accepting our training will not always go perfectly, not seeing anything less than 100% as failure.  Making these kind of adjustments to your own mental dialogue can improve your relationship with your body dramatically and make you feel so much more positive.