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Exercise and Mental Illness

Exercise and Mental Illness

You’re probably fed up of people drilling into your ears that exercise is good for your mental health. During bad episodes and patches of MH, nothing seems more daunting than going for a run, doing to the gym or leaving the house. Guys, I’ve been there. I know HOW good it is, from research and both personal experience, but there’s something that just drags you back from actually doing it.

I can’t really offer much on how to make yourself go to the gym. With mental illness, you’re often completely exhausted and fatigued, making it hard to do daily activities. Do not punish yourself here and listen to your body. If your body needs to rest and have some self care, just do that. But it’s all about starting small. If you don’t want to leave the house, simply do some small stretches or making that all so tiresome journey to boil the kettle and back. Little steps are big achievements.

But when you are feeling ready to get outdoors and explore, again it can be daunting. Starting off at the gym is often a big step – you can feel like people maybe staring or judging you on what you’re doing (which really is not the case at all!). One way of easing in to exercise is walking and exploring. It’s not only a great form of cardio and helps keep you healthy, but it also aims for your recommended 10,000 steps a day whilst exploring the outdoors. Visit an area you’ve never been before, or maybe go on a dog walk! Something to stimulate your senses or allows you to discover something new can often be a great distraction from anxiety and worries!

Are you now feeling ready to branch out into some sports and fitness again? Clubs and teams are amazing for making friends and gaining social confidence. Teams can help skill building, team work and a sense of pride and progression, especially when rewards start to come in. Even classes are great, letting you try something new surrounded by others, from all levels of fitness. And whilst it may seem like an immediate distraction, in the long term you will still be making a benefit.

Producing endorphins when you exercise can actually relieve pain and stress, as they are a neurotransmitter. They usually are released when you really push yourself, also know as a “runners high” to all you cardio bunnies. However, exercise also stimulates the release of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, which work in harmony together to help regulate your mood – often allowing your mood to remain stabilised through the rest of the day!

So, making the gym seem easier and less of a stress? Want to stay calm and cool? It’s all about prep! Going to the gym without a plan, or any little bits and bobs can often leave you feeling lost and a bit clueless, which usually can reflect as a poor workout or rising anxiety. If you plan before and set yourself up feeling “ready”, then you are guaranteed to feel more at ease!

This is what I like to bring and there’s also a few suggestions too!

A bag!! First of all you’re gonna need somewhere to stash all your belongings – I love this from Primark – it’s so trashy and was just a £1!!

A towel! It can get a lil sweaty in the gym so it’s good to have a towel on hand to wipe your face and your hands. Stops the embarrassment of looking like ya Dad after doing the gardening. Also comes in handy if you want to have a quick freshen up in the shower rooms later (they usually have soap, but never hurts to bring your own!)

Earphones! A must have to block out the trashy gym tunes, but also great if you’re listening to a motivation track, a podcast or even a fitness app.

Water bottle! No explanation really – hydration is key! Mine is just £2.50 from Primark

Plasters! You never know what weird injury you can get and I’m not trying to scare you, they’re not usually serious 😂 If you’re anything like me, you’ll often need plasters for your hands when using weights – they often rub against my skin and make it really sore, so plasters are really useful

Resistance Bands! They help with form, working different muscle groups and are great for warm ups. Go on YouTube and watch some clips of some simple exercises before you go – my resistance band is a GraceFitUK heavy strength band (it’s so good, even my brother has one)

Medication! Just a reminder, have you taken your meds today? Remember, you’re not weak for taking meds, but you’ll be even stronger by working out on them!

Apps! Apps are honestly SO helpful when working out. Watching videos, fitness tracking and even calorie counting. I’m constantly watching fitness videos and my gym even provides a free app to track your workout progress

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Emma x

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