Mental Health and How Exercise Can Help

Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 was in May this year with the focus being on anxiety and spreading information that could help prevent it from becoming more of a problem. Anxiety is a normal emotion in us all, but sometimes it can get out of control and become a mental health problem.

Post lockdown I have seen a rapid increase in mental health awareness as it wasn’t really a subject discussed with colleagues, members and clients pre lockdown. Something has changed in the way that we communicate about mental health, I suppose that it could be down to the many lows associated with that time and how many more people have had mental health issues themselves or known someone who has because of isolation, anxiety, fear or illness stemming from Covid and the cost of living crisis.

In a good way people are more open and honest about their feelings as common misconceptions and stigmas are being squashed with greater mental health exposure and information being put out in the world. Unfortunately I still find that some people struggle to ask for or seek help because they still think that having a mental health disorder is a sign of weakness, which it is not as there is no shame in asking for help and it requires a lot of honesty, bravery and strength to talk to someone and ask for help.

I do feel that we are heading in the right direction and the more we can learn about mental health will help us to better understand how to prevent ourselves from spiralling and also to improve on how we listen and behave around others by showing empathy, calmness and understanding.

1 in 4 people will experience a mental illness in their lifetime with some of the main groups of disorders being:

  • Mood disorders such as depression or bipolar
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders
  • Trauma related disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse disorders

Having someone close to you suffer from a mental health disorder can be very difficult, especially when you want to help. When you try to discuss their mental health, that person may distance themselves and put walls up, this can be more true with family. The best thing that you can do is to stop talking (as hard as that may be) and start listening in a non-judgmental supportive manner as this can help them process what they are going through and find their own solutions.

Try to resist the urge to talk about yourself and your experiences as this won’t be helpful and keep the focus on them paying close attention by actively listening. You will not be able to rush this process as they will need to be ready to take action themselves, but you can guide them with information for support as it’s much better to go through a mental health professional whether it’s through the NHS, your local GP, counsellors or mental health charity’s like Mind, Mental health foundation or Samaritans.

Learning more about mental health will give you the knowledge to better help someone close to you find the best possible support. If you want more information on mental health and the types of support that you can get you can take a look at the NHS’ mental health page.

You can also help lift your mood and boost your positivity by increasing your physical activity. When we’re active, the body releases feel-good hormones that can improve our mood and boost our energy. Other benefits of exercise for mental health include:

  • boosting our self-esteem and confidence
  • increasing motivation and focus
  • reducing tension, anxiety, stress, mental fatigue and improve sleep
  • helping to calm the mind, especially when dealing with difficult emotions like anger, frustration and sadness
  • reducing loneliness by offering new ways to get together with family and friends and meet new people

NHS’ Every Mind Matters website has a lot of resources that you can use to help cope with mental health and stress with free apps to boost physical activity, anxiety easing emails that you can sign up to, a mind plan quiz for a free mental health plan and self help CBT techniques.

Make the Move for Mental Health Awareness Week
May is the month for Mental Health Awareness Week (13th to 19th) and the main focus this year is movement! Read this months blog to find how the the more you move, the more chance you have of staying on a pathway that brings you better health, fitness and happiness.
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