Mental health has been the ‘buzz’ word in the media recently and for good reason. Although there have been many campaigns to erase the negative stigma surrounding mental illness, it is still treated with fear and trepidation. It is time we changed this, as mental illness affects us all at one time in our life. No one is immune to it. We just don’t talk about it. I am guilty of hiding it myself as I have had mental health issues for years and chose to keep this quiet. We don’t all have to wear our heart on our sleeve but as someone who is a social media public figure, I now feel it is important that I share my own personal thoughts.
This blog post in collaboration with the David Lloyd Club has come about because even sports clubs and gyms are now recognising the fact that exercise and keeping fit is MORE than pumping weights and running on a treadmill for an hour. As a member of the David Lloyd Club, I am so pleased that the Club is understanding of the need for encouraging the overall well being of each of us, including mental health.
With this in mind I want to take you through the ways you can help your overall well being, but especially your mental health.
We all spend a huge amount of time rushing around, whether we are at work or looking after others. This stressful way of living is not good for our physical and mental health. A fast pace of life can be the prelude to physical illnesses as our body’s immune system becomes depleted through the constant stress it is under. This added stress also creates pressure on our mental health state and can lead to constant anxiety and even depression. When you feel this extreme stress, then this is the time to slow down and look at creating time for yourself.
One of my favourite ways of having ‘me time’ is to use the swimming pool facilities at my gym. I find swimming relaxing, especially on an evening. I love to follow the swim with some time in the sauna and steam room and you know how much I LOVE the saunas and steam rooms. It’s the perfect place to be quiet, relaxed and to leave the stresses of life behind. Plus the steam and heat are so beneficial to our tired bodies and can rejuvenate even the most weary person. Even just an hour of swim and sauna / steam rooms can really bring down your stress levels.
OK, its a well documented fact that just thirty minutes of exercise daily can improve our overall health. But emphasis is usually given on the improvement to our physical health, when in fact there is known to be a massive improvement to our mental health with regular exercise. Exercise stimulates the level of endorphins in the body which in turn raises the level of mood. This natural way of elevating the ‘feel good’ hormones in our body is especially beneficial for those suffering from anxiety and depression. Personally, when I exercise, I always feel a sense of achievement, especially if it has been a real effort to go to the gym initially. This in turn makes me feel more confident and gives me a sense of pride at having turned round a potential bad day into something more positive.
Yoga is a popular activity for men and women and is known for its obvious physical benefits. But did you know that yoga is also wonderful for helping reduce stress, anxiety and other mental illness symptoms. Many G.P’s are now recommending yoga as a way to help patients cope with mental health issues and in fact my own G.P advised me that yoga would be a good way for me to deal with anxiety. I now attend a weekly yoga class and find it so beneficial. I sleep better after a class and generally feel more calmer. Yoga concentrates very much on breathing and helps you become aware of bad breathing techniques, which is common in people who suffer from anxiety. By being mindful of your body through yoga, your whole body and mind become more relaxed and peaceful. Yoga usually involves meditation too which is wonderful for creating a feeling of calm within the body and mind. I cannot recommend yoga enough if you are a person who suffers from anxiety and extreme stress.
I wrote recently about the Spa facilities at the David Lloyd Club in Harrogate. If you missed this post please click here as it will give you a good insight into the fabulous facilities on offer. If you follow me on social media you will know I love Spa time. Believe it or not, this is not just for the facials and other beauty treatments. I genuinely get an uplifting feel good feeling when I take time out to visit a spa. Of course I love the facials and the pampering. Don’t we all? But more than that, I just feel a complete winding down of my body as it is compelled to relax in the lovely surroundings. The feeling of being pampered and cared for is both reassuring and nurturing, especially for those who are feeling low in spirit or mood. Relaxing on comfy loungers, wrapped in warm blankets induces a feeling of calm and contentment. Whenever my mental health is at a low ebb I automatically find myself drawn to a spa experience as I know this will inevitably lift my mood. My husband also loves and appreciates the relaxing environment of a spa, so they can also be beneficial for men too.
I know we are all aware that good sleep and good food are crucial to our health, both physical and mental. But I am adding this in this post as a gentle reminder to everyone (including myself) that if we have a poor sleep pattern and we constantly eat poor food choices, then our mental health will suffer. We will feel tired and sluggish and unable to make logical choices. This will then impact on our overall health and life. It is so important to get a good nights sleep so we can wake feeling refreshed and ready to face whatever the day throws at us. Similarly good healthy food with plenty of fruit and vegetables can provide our body with a strong immune system which in turn will help us deal with mental health issues more readily.
Mental health issues affect us all in so many ways. If left untreated they can become debilitating and can cause serious issues on our lives and those around us. It is important that we recognise the symptoms and address them before they escalate. Sometimes we can help our mental stress just by making subtle changes to our life, like those I have suggested above. Obviously there may be times that we need medical intervention, so please see your GP if you feel overwhelmed by your feelings. It is also important to keep an eye out on family members, friends and even work colleagues who may be suffering. Talk to those close to you. Ask how they are (and mean it). Problems we have can be eased by sharing them with others. And finally it is always nice to be kind to each other. By smiling and showing you care can make all the difference to someone who is struggling.
How do you cope with anxiety and stress? Do you use exercise as a way of dealing with mental health issues? Have you tried Yoga, swimming or a Spa for relaxation and stress relief?
Until next time dear friends
** This post was written in collaboration with David Lloyd Club Harrogate but as always the words and opinions are my own. **