When it comes to our health we’re always hearing advice and tips, from drinking green tea to walking 10,000 steps a day, but how important is exercise when it boils down to it? In my opinion, when it comes to our mental health, exercise is very important.
Now I don’t mean you have to become a full blown gym goer, drinking protein shakes and only wearing your yoga pants to ensure you are always gym ready. No, because that life style isn’t feasible for all (although if that is for you, GO YOU). Even the smallest amount of exercise can help not only your physical health, but your mental health too.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists explain that, ‘exercise seems to have an effect on certain chemicals in the brain, like dopamine and serotonin. Brain cells use these chemicals to communicate with each other, so they affect your mood and thinking’ In my personal experience the more regular moderate physical activity I do, the less debilitating my symptoms of anxiety are.
My levels of exercise include 45 minutes, 3-4 times a week at the gym. Whilst I am at the gym I tend to do a five minute jog and then some strength training, including activities with weights such as squats, pull ups, sit ups and various other arm and leg exercises. That is manageable for me and as a result I have found my fatigue has eased up (ironic I know), my stomach sensations due to anxiety are more manageable, my chest doesn’t feel as tight and I am less tearful.
The key is being kind to yourself however, if you’re having a bad day and want to jump into bed with a box full of choclates then go for it! Life is about balance and it’s important you don’t push yourself too hard. Here are a few tips I have when it comes to exercise and your mental health
- Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel like physical activity that day, remember your battling an illness that takes a lot of your energy so let it go and see how you feel tomorrow
- Set yourself achievable targets, if you work 6 days a week then it probably isn’t feasible to train 6 nights a week, remember to be kind to yourself
- Eat and drink well. Your body needs a lot of energy so ensure your fluid levels and food levels are topped up
- Avoid caffeine. I don’t know if this one is for everyone but personally caffeine gives me very negative effects that affects my anxiety enormously, this made it very difficult to train.
- Find something you enjoy because if you don’t it will be harder to stick too. Exercise isn’t just the gym, try walking the dog, swimming, skating or even going to a trampoline park!
When it comes to fight or flight your adrenaline goes through the roof, moderate exercise is surprisingly helpful in lowering those physical sensations caused by that adrenaline, it provides an outlet for your body and can be so helpful. I also found that my sleeping pattern has improved since starting to exercise regularly. So don’t think you have to start buying avocado and kale, protein shakes and yoga pants because you don’t if you don’t want too! Manageable activities along with your current treatments and talking openly can do the world of good!
Along with positive effects of my mental health, my physical health and confidence have also improved so it’s worth it. If you are local to Blackpool I can’t recommend I fitness enough! The team there gave me confidence and the knowledge of where to start along with ongoing support so check out their website and facebook page if you feel it could help you too !
As always, its okay to talk!