Getting out of Bed…Do I really have to?
Suffering with mental health most often leaves you feeling low in energy, which then makes you enter the vicious circle as you’re now put off being more active all together. Trust me; I know all too well that most days just getting out bed and getting downstairs is a big enough effort and feels like enough exercise as that was a hard challenge in itself!! So, if you got out of bed today when you wanted to hide from the world then well done you!! You did it !! Don’t worry about tomorrow just applaud yourself that you did it today. If you haven’t managed that yet then don’t worry. Tomorrow is a new day and tell yourself that tomorrow is the day you will and can face the world a little.
How an earth are you supposed to even think about wanting to do any exercise? Or more importantly why should you??
Someone has always done a study right? Well that someone has done a study on exercise and mental health and what affects it has on that. Guess what? It said it improves it. So I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the thought of taking a pill to help make me better. I want to do something too, myself to take control. So that I can say “I have mental health problems but I help myself through it”! Maybe that’s the pig headedness in me. But I think it would feel so much more rewarding to have helped yourself than to have just taken a pill every day. Don’t you? I mean don’t get me wrong I am not saying don’t take medications if they help you. But as with all illnesses it just about taking medicine. Think about when you have a headache, sure pain killers will help. But so will making sure to drink plenty, turning down bright lights and coming away from all your screens. It isn’t just about the pain killers, it is managing what is causing the headaches and limiting anything in your environment that is going to make the headache continue. The same method needs applying when it comes to mental health and treatment towards our mental health.
The science says so
So, some sciencey bit for you now; regular exercise helps ease symptoms of mental illnesses as it releases feel good chemicals in your brain; neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids, fancy words I know. But you don’t need to know how to say them in order to enjoy their benefits, thank goodness.
Exercise can also reduce immune system chemicals that can be most often linked to what is causing the depression or making it worse. Also exercise quite clearly increases your body temperature, it’s some sweaty stuff working out, and this actually has calming effects, who doesn’t like to feel all warm and fussy in side right?
How can exercise help my mental illness though?
What about the psychological benefits of exercise?
Well of course you’re going to increase your confidence when you meet your exercise goals whether they are big ones or small. For me the main thing exercise does psychologically is it takes my mind of everything else. I get the ‘high‘ too after exercise, through the rush of happy hormones it pumps. It also dramatically improves my sleep and overall moods and ability to control them. I have a lot less anger as well when I have been working out regularly. When I do have an anger outburst, I turn to a workout as fast as I can to release my anger.
“In a study 24 women who had been diagnosed with depression showed that exercise of any intensity significantly decreased feelings of depression.”
A lot of my clients say one of their many problems with their mental illness is overthinking, and it was mine too. I hated how much I over thought everything and for how long.
Exercise is a distraction and it helps move you away from those negative thoughts occupying your mind and swirling around so fast you feel dizzy. When your exercising you are more focused on the task in hand as it takes some thinking, you need form, you need balance, you need co-ordination. Overthinking just can’t happen while your working out. For me, it is my escape, my time off from myself and the rest of the world.
Exercise is a far better coping mechanism than using alcohol or drugs. And it is not uncommon for people to become addicted to the chemicals that are released during exercise and thus addicted to exercise (hence the terms gym bunny or runners high). I was like this too at the start. When I first started struggling with my mental health. My Dr recommend exercise to help me. I thought he had lost his marbles. It was the last thing I could thing of doing. I was eating crap and spending my days in bed or on the sofa. I was not up for exercise at all. But, being the stubborn sod I am. I give it a go. And that was me hooked. At times I’d exercise 3 times in one day. Because I addicted to how good I felt immediately after my workouts. In time I leaned to manage this and this is also what led to me deciding to become a personal trainer myself. So, that I could educate myself, and then others on not only how to exercise, but also the benefits it has for mental health. I throughly enjoyed gaining my personal training qualifications, and it was something I never saw myself doing. I now use it in combination with my counselling and other mental health qualifications to offer my clients a holistic approach to mental health.
One of the main things I first do with clients is; I ask them to write down how they are feeling, emotionally before a workout. Then immediately after the workout, do the same again. The difference is amazing, sometimes it is only subtle, you might go from feeling numb to simply feeling calm. But calmness is way better than numbness right? But the difference is always, always positive. Its like having a control switch over your moods, at long last!
Top 10 mental health benefits of exercise
- Boosts happy chemicals within the body (without any side effects, like you get with mental health medications.)
- Gives you an increase in energy and thus helping you feel motivated to get out of bed.
- Aids better sleep and relaxation.
“One study found that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week can provide up to a 65% improvement in sleep quality.”
- Improves your confidence.
- Reduce anxiety sensitivity.
“The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders to calm down.”
- Improves memory and reduces brain fog.
- Reduces symptoms of PTSD – exercise helps by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilisation stress response that characterises PTSD or trauma.
- Increases your self esteem.
- Stronger resilience when faced with mental or emotional challenges.
- Improves pain – exercising releases the bodies natural pain killer which in turn helps you feel less stressed and tensed.
How do you overcome the exercise barriers?
When people often think of exercise they get scared or they think they couldn’t do it or they imagine running laps around a gym and being so out of breath they are going to pass out or be sick. I started off thinking that exercise was some awful chore you had to do if you wanted lose weight and I hated the sheer thought of it, my stairs where enough exercise for me. But you don’t have to do all your exercise at once, and it doesn’t have to be super intense. Boxing is an amazing exercise for letting off steam, zoning out and having a fab workout without even realising it. You don’t have to go all gym bunny crazy. You start slow and you do what suits you and what you enjoy. It could be just going for a walk with a like minded person and eventually picking up the pace as the days go on.
It is ultimately about changing your old outlook on exercise and seeing it in a negative light or something associated with your physical body. It is about seeing exercise the same way you’d look at a pill for your mental health. It is about seeing all the positive benefits exercise has to offer.
I help clients clear all their old excuses and their bull shit excuses they try and give me. Because if you are talking to me and reaching out to me, it is because you want this. But guess what? Your demons don’t want this! Your comfort zone doesn’t want this! Your demons are enjoying the hold they have on you right now so they will do anything to keep you there. Including tricking you into thinking that you can’t exercise or that you don’t have the time to exercise. Your are comfortable in your uncomfortable comfort zone and I am here to help you smash those walls down and for you to be comfortable in a more positive comfort zone.
I have a range of workouts available from quick 25 min full body workouts to six week home/gym bootcamps you can follow. But my main workouts and workshops are grouped together in my Stronger Than Your Mind Academy. I only open the doors to my academy 3 times per year, but you can use the form below to add yourself to my waiting list and be notified when the doors next open.
I never thought, way back when I was a 3rd year law student. That I would be one, such a huge advocate for exercise, two a qualified personal trainer or three a mental health practitioner. So, if you are reading this right now thinking, you have just never been an exercise person, then who cares. Things change, you change and you can change!