Lockdown has seen a seismic shift in disruption and chaos for us all. With shops closing, social distancing, long queues, wearing face masks, going to work if you can’t work from home, staying at home if you can’t go to work, going out, not going out…joking aside, the disruption to our lives has been huge. As a result, surveys are reporting a sharp increase in mental health problems this year, as we all try to make sense of the global pandemic.
We all know to some degree the adverse effects of stress and anxiety, so finding ways to improve your mental health during uncertain times is crucial. Remaining positive when when you’re surrounded by negativity can be an extremely difficult task. Trying to gain control of the seemingly uncontrollable. The recent news of vaccines offers us hope but the reality is, it will still take several months before normality returns.
But there is a fix… Yes there are ways in your control to improve your mental state, helping you to combat the stresses and strains of modern life.
The power of the mind…
When we exercise our bodies produce endorphins. Endorphins are chemical reactions produced naturally by the central nervous system to help cope with pain or stress. Endorphins are primarily made in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. The term “runner’s high” has been used to describe the way a person feels after lengthy or vigorous exercise and is due to an increase in endorphin levels.
Regular exercise or activity help to release these endorphins chemicals, which interact with receptors in your brain that increase your sense of wellbeing. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.
Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. Manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and other parts of your body endorphins are released in response to chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Research has shown that exercise is a highly effective but often underused treatment to combat stress, anxiety and depression. In addition, exercising outside can help to improve lung function and increase levels of vitamin D (when exercising in the sun).
Regular exercise is proven to:
- Reduce stress
- Reduce anxiety and feelings of depression
- Boost self-esteem
- Improve sleep
Regular exercise also has these added health benefits:
- It strengthens your heart
- It increases energy levels.
- It lowers blood pressure.
- It improves muscle tone and strength.
- It strengthens and builds bones.
- It helps reduce body fat.
- helps maintain your ideal weight
- It makes you feel fit and healthy
..get up, get moving, be inspired…”
Exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous or intense, just find a level of intensity that is suitable for you. We should exercise for at least 150 minutes a week (2 hrs 30 minutes) for optimal health, so it’s time to get off the couch and get moving!
Try and find an activity that you enjoy and try to be consistent. To reap all of the health benefits associated with exercise and to boost your endorphin levels, you must exercise regularly. Remember consistency is the key.
Planning your activity, setting yourself achievable targets and logging your progress will help with motivation and adherence. It’s always nice to see how far you have progressed to inspire you further. Working with a friend or partner can also help, a bit of light competition and a laugh can go a long way. Group activities maybe the way to go for some, fit camps, dance classes and other group activities can also be fun.
“..When you feel positive about yourself you’ll have a positive outlook on life…”
A strong social support network is also important for people with mental health issues, so talking about your troubles will always help. Try to enjoy life even when the going is tough, and focus on the positive things. Make the most of what you have (there are people out there with far less), make positive effects on the things you can control, and except the things that are out of your control. Try to make light of a difficult situation and remember it’s good to laugh!
When the world outside is unpredictable and your mood is low always put your health first. Activity will give you the strength of mind, the positivity and the belief to realise that things will always get better and improve with time.