Give your mental health the boost it needs with exercise

It’s not rocket science, we all know that looking after our health through exercise and clean eating is good for us. If you are happy with the way you are then great, it’s all about body confidence, but did you know that exercise and reducing your rubbish food intake doesn’t just keep your internal organs happy, help you lose weight and become stronger but it can also benefit your mental health.

When you exercise your body releases happy chemicals in your body; endorphins, dopamine and serotonin helping with the following;

  • reduce stress
  • ward off anxiety and feelings of depression
  • boost self-esteem
  • improve sleep

I’m not saying you need to strap on your trainers and get ready to run a marathon but just moving that little bit more can make all the difference to how you feel about yourself.

Ideally you should be aiming to get:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Set yourself realistic goals, if you want to relax and unwind try yoga. If you want something with a bit more intensity then try a cardio workout, there is something for everyone.

  • fitting in a home workout session while you watch your favourite programme two or three times a week.
  • YouTube have some excellent videos to suit all fitness levels, at the moment these are my preferred forms of exercise.
  • NHS website has some great suggestions to get you moving.

If home workouts aren’t for you then a group like Fitness in Mind could be just what you need. It ‘..was founded in 2014 by a kick boxer with social anxiety disorder, a rock climber with general anxiety disorder, and a couch potato with bipolar disorder’ so these people know what they are talking about. Through physical activity and creating a safe and welcoming environment they help people with mental health illnesses work through their concerns and feel good about themselves.

Sports for Confidence is another group who are doing a lot to help people to help people take back some control they may have lost because of their illness through exercise.

Don’t like the idea of structured exercise then try going for long walks, gardening even housework can have the same effect. If you’re anything like me then housework is way down your list of activities.

My fitness journey

I only started to look after myself in my adult years. As a child I was underweight, and didn’t have much strength. Throughout the years my relationship with exercise has changed. I’ve gone from being a cardio gym bunny to finding stress relief through kickboxing to now fitting in short but effective YouTube video workouts in the morning before work.

My lifestyle has changed and I have had to find ways to adapt to those changes. In my blog post ‘Trousers are a bit tight’ I talk about how I had put on weight and though not overweight I wasn’t happy with how I was feeling with myself inside and out.

Getting up earlier in the morning to workout wasn’t easy to begin with, I had to set myself realistic goals and start with less intense workouts and work my way up. I started to notice that even though I would be worn out I would recover quickly, as a result I have begun to feel more positive and happier within myself. It’s not about getting a 6 pack but getting to a point where I am content.

Running was on the cards for a period of time, due to the temperamental weather changes this has taken a back seat for now. Yes I know it’s a lame excuse.

Diet and moving more go hand in hand, by releasing the happy chemicals in my body  and choosing different types of food to keep me fuller for longer means I’m not always reaching for a sugar fix in the afternoons. I have tried to get to stage where I have a balance between healthy food, junk food and how much I move.

Exercise is not a magic pill and there are conditions that will require medication to help people feel better. This isn’t a sign of weakness, it takes strength to accept help when it’s needed.
The first step is the hardest but when you do you’ll be surprised by the results.

Mental health in the Asian community

Time to Talk Day 7 February.

‘..one in four of us, yet people are still afraid to talk about it. Time to Talk Day encourages everyone to talk about mental health.’

This year the theme is having the right ingredients, to have a conversation about mental health. This could be from having a private chat over a cup of tea to hosting an open event where strangers can get together and share their experiences. Whether it’s private or public it’s all about creating a comfortable, non-judgemental environment where anyone and everyone can feel safe to talk about mental health whether it is their own or someone they know.

Despite all the work being done to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health there are still communities that do not understand mental health and see it as an illness that will go away with some tablets, it is a punishment that can be treated by praying more or by carrying out particular rituals.

Those in the Asian community living with a mental health illness may keep this a secret from their family, friends because of the stigma still associated with mental health and the fear of being ostracised. Then there is the fear of what society will say if they found out, what they will say about the parents, who will marry them.

‘…kept their illness secret from their spouse for more than 20 years.’

My own brother has Asperger’s, our own parents didn’t really understand what this meant and what it meant for my brother. It wasn’t something anyone in their family has come across before, this it isn’t because no one else had been diagnosed with autism but because it isn’t something that is recognised or acknowledged. In there minds there was nothing wrong, which in some ways is a good thing because my brother is capable of doing many things but his normal is not the same normal for everyone one else.

I don’t want readers to think that families / friends don’t care but to understand that this isn’t a community that wouldn’t come together. No one should have to hide how they feel but it isn’t easy to break the mould, to go against cultural thinking and traditions that have been ingrained from childhood.

Changes are happening

Culture has a way of adapting without breaking traditions. For many people religion is part of their identity who may feel that being mentally unwell could compromise that relationship it can make seeking help and starting the recovery journey more difficult. This doesn’t need to be the case, religion could help those with mental health by teaching that religion doesn’t turn their back on those who are suffering but giving them the tools to find inner strength and seek help.

Coming together

Within the Asian community there are three main faiths, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism. Throughout history and even still today relationships between the three religions can be strained at times but not in the world of mental health. There are support groups specifically aimed at those of each religious group but will openly encourage and support each other.

When it comes to helping each other even though we may have different ways of practicing our faith it all comes down to one things, being a decent human being and helping each other out. No deserves to be alone.

Muslim Counsellor and Psychotherapist Network (MCAPN)
Sikh Forgiveness
Bengali Mental Health Movement
South Asian Health Foundation
Mind
Rethink

Dog+Yoga=Doga

Are you concerned about your dog’s wellbeing? Do you think they are a bit stressed and need some support?

Then doga could be just the activity for you and your dog to reconnect with each other in a calming and relaxing environment.

I struggle with yoga sometimes, throw a dog into the mix and I sense carnage instead of calmness, my dog Rocco who gets distracted by his tail. 

If this works for you then great but think I’ll pass.

A spoonful of sugar…

The sugar lies on the black background
Image created by V.ivash – Freepik.com

New Year always brings new goals and aspirations that for the average person don’t usually last past February.

Which is why two work colleagues and I decided to take part in the Staff Engagement team’s New Year New You challenge that takes place over January, one month is enough for us. Each week the Staff Engagement team issues weekly challenges with prizes at the end. We were issued our first task, 7 January where we had to record our sugar intake; this included both natural and refined sugars with a limit of 30g of sugar per day, going by how the week went I doubt we’ll be winning any prizes!

This is not as easy as you think, my diet isn’t the worst but it could also could be better.

Monday was the start of this educational week. Ate my usual breakfast of peanut butter on toast, with banana and honey. I thought it was healthy. Then I got hungry an ate a Muller fruit corner yoghurt.sugar_new year new you

The banana had 12g of sugar, a banana! Muller fruit corner yoghurt contained 14g. Good think I opted for peppermint tea was fine and not my usual of caffeinated tea with milk and two sugars.

Afternoon snack was an apple,15g, that’s it I was done I had exceed the limit! Not chocolates, not cake but fruit had pushed me over the edge and maybe the muller yoghurt had something to do with it.

That was pretty much how the rest of the week went.

Fast forward to Friday when I drank a homemade protein milkshake, I didn’t even think there would be sugar in milk, how wrong was I. According to Google 1 cup of semi skimmed milk contains 12g of sugar. Team that up with the banana and two frozen strawberries I was already nearing the set 30g daily limit. I can’t wait for this challenge to be over.

Overall looking at what I ate in a day did have some benefits; I noticed that the majority of the sugar I was eating was natural sugars from fruit. I rarely drink caffeine tea these days but when I do I have 2 teaspoons of sugar with it plus milk.  Even then it wasn’t enough refined sugar that I risked having a sugar crash later in the day.

I do think that with the daily exercises I wasn’t eating enough which might be why i was feeling tired and having headaches. That won’t be happening again, making sure I have plenty to eat throughout the day.

Let’s see if I do any better in the next challenge.

Trousers are a bit tight

Since getting married I have noticed my trousers have been getting that little bit tighter. I know that we are all loved up, happy and comfortable but I do prefer to be able to breath after eating.

I’m not one to monitor my calories or obsess about the scales but since getting married I have noticed my trousers have been getting that little bit tighter. I know that we are all loved up, happy and comfortable but I do prefer to be able to breath after eating. Fortunately, I’ve not ever been overweight but the past year the weight has been creeping up with those trousers getting a tad bit tighter that I can get away with not doing the hidden buttons up.

Three weeks ago I started a some high intensity interval training workouts which I do on alternate days to the kickboxing YouTube videos by Jessica Smith.

I’ve tried the Plank workout by Emi Wong, afterwards it took me two days to be able to cough without my abdominals aching. You think I would have stopped here but no, a day later I did the Low impact HIIT Cardio workout by Joanna Soh, don’t let the title fool you, I still haven’t managed to complete the entire routine. I get to the second to last move then collapse. In both cases after the workout I ended up needing to lay down thankfully not in the recovery position but to;

  • let my body figure out how to breath normally again
  • allow my vision to return to normal from all the sweat

fitness clothes_v2The husband has also gained a few pounds but is not willing to partake in the morning workouts before work. So we have decided to go on weekend family jogs / speed walking for the dog. Wearing our new trainers and joint supports we started last Saturday were surprised that we managed a mile. This was also with the dog stopping to sniff at every blade of grass, and peeing at every tree trunk to mark his territory. I think the dog was pacing us he knew we need the jog on the spot breaks to break us into this brave new world.

Laugh all you want at my suffering yet despite the sore muscles I have noticed a change in how I feel; more energised and hungrier. My trousers have started to feel a bit looser, enough that I can now do all the buttons up!