“Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body. In fact one cannot be healthy without the other…..”
With Mental Health Week taking place this week I thought it would be a perfect time to write a little about how exercise is not only good for the body – but it’s also good for the mind.
Approaching a topic like this isn’t easy. For some reason in this world we live in we are all afraid to admit that we are anything but strong on the inside. I am afraid to admit that but here – I am going to.
For some time now I have dealt with anxiety. It actually makes me a little scared just typing those words and I’m sitting here asking myself why is that? I think the reason is that many people don’t understand anxiety, what causes it or how it can be helped. Now I’m NOT claiming to be an expert I am only here talking about my experience because it’s the only one I know.
I often hear people say “oh everyone claims to have anxiety these days….” It’s almost dismissed as an “oh get over it…..” type of condition. But for anyone who has experienced it – it’s not something you can just dismiss lightly. It’s very real and well to be honest – it’s scary. I want to tell you how it affects me and also how I cope with it in the hopes it might actually help someone else do the same.
First and foremost – my anxiety is not all the time. In fact it can remain “silent” for weeks or it can rear its head many times in the space of a few days. The feeling for me is a very helpless one and one that really comes out of nowhere. It begins with little pangs of pain in my chest and a fluttery feeling in my stomach – not far from one of nerves or being nervous. It progresses at times to a tightening in the chest that can at sometimes becomes so intense that I honestly feel I cannot breathe in panic. That – for me – is one of the scariest feelings in the world.
Stress and worry are two of my triggers. I am a worrier. I worry about worrying! And the funny thing about worrying is that all it does is put our minds in tomorrow when we should be living in today. My anxiety literally takes away the joy of NOW and replaces it with the fear of something that might never happen.
Speaking about my experience with anxiety is my way of marking the importance of this week – Mental Health Week. We all go through things – at different times – that we need help with. No matter how “strong” and “put together” someone may look, there is a whole ocean of feelings, emotions and worries within us all that we need to learn to handle.
I’ve always said how exercise and healthy eating began for me as a means of looking after my health – and that is the truth. Not only my physical health, but my mental health too. There were often days when I’d be feeling a little stressed and my family would say “go out for a run and you’ll feel better.” I never WANTED to go for that run, but I made myself do it and within ten minutes I would be feeling the benefits.
Everybody needs their own “outlet”. I chose exercise as mine. It’s MY time for me and my thoughts, my music, my moments. Exercise is a natural healer. It literally has countless benefits. Here are some ways it helps to soothe the mind.
1: It Reduces Stress
It’s a proven fact that one of the biggest stress relievers is exercise. Working up a sweat at the gym or outdoors in the fresh air increases the production of a chemical in the body that helps the brains response to stress.
2: It Helps Target Anxiety
The chemicals the body releases during exercise are a great boost to helping alleviate anxiety and create calmness.
3: It Releases Endorphins
Endorphins promote feelings of happiness and euphoria and exercise is the best way to get the body to release these happy hormones.
4: It Promotes Relaxation
In this high tempo world we live in relaxation time is the thing that often suffers. After a good workout the body is better able to relax. It needs the rest so it takes it.
I hope this little post can help others in some little way. It’s so important to take time for you, for your body and for your mind. This is my way of looking after myself to help my health from the inside out. So……… are you going for that run?
This week is Mental Health Week running from October 5th-11th with World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10th.
For more information see www.mentalhealthireland.ie