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

World Suicide Prevention day

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Sunday 10 September was World Suicide Prevention Day. It shouldn’t be that we need a day to raise awareness about such a sensitive topic, but like with mental health the stigma and negative opinions associated with suicide are taking time to dispel. It is only as a society, encouraging and educating people will we be able to move forward and prevent potential suicide victims reaching the stage where they feel death is the only solution.

 Taking a minute to reach out to someone – a complete stranger or close family member or friend – can change the course of their life

This year’s WSPD theme was ‘take a minute, change a life’.  Every year, more than 800,000 people die by suicide and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt. How many of these could be avoided if we were to just take a minute and have a conversation with each other. We can blame technology and social media for many things;

  • social media is damaging to people’s mental health
  • mobile phones and social are ruining the way we communicate
  • we are becoming less sociable

But we can’t keep ignoring the elephant in the room, it’s time to turn these negatives and use social media and technology to our advantage. Campaigns like Time to Change’s ‘Be in your corner’ mental health campaign, if your friend’s acting differently, step in. It isn’t always easy to make that first step, there is always the worry that you may say or do something wrong but more often than not all the person going through a rough patch wants is someone to listen. You don’t always have to have the answers or know the solution but showing that non judgemental support can make all the difference. If you think someone you know is struggling then go ahead and start your conversation.

Mental health problems can affect anyone at anytime, regardless of age, gender ethnic background. It is so important that as a society we all come together to raise awareness and educate people. Being Asian and of a Muslim background it was and in some cases difficult for people from the Asian community to acknowledge the existence of mental illness. In many religions suicide is a sin which as further confusion and stress to those who are already going through a difficult period. It’s not about vilifying religion and those who have a strong faith but more about educating people and having religion and treatments complimenting each other. Having a faith has helped those with a mental health illness, giving them inner strength and peace.

University Students

With the new semester starting there is more focus on the mental health and wellbeing of university students who for many it is the first time away from home, pressures of study, exams and student loans can be a stressful time. A study carried out by IPPR showed that the number of students reporting and seeking help for a mental health concern had risen to 15,395 in a decade and 134 students killed themselves in 2015 (source The Guardian)

Experts put the rise down to growing pressure on students who leave university with huge debt, as well as increased awareness – meaning more people are reporting problems

Men’s mental health

imagescfk9d35gSuicide is the leading cause of death in men below the age of 50, men were more likely to take their own life than die from road deaths, coronary heart disease, accidental poisoning or diseases of the liver.

There has been a lot of work being done to encourage men to talk about their physical and mental health. There are a lot of stereotypes I that negatively impact society and how people function. Pigeon holing them only leads to people feeling trapped thinking they will be ostracised, ridiculed and not taken seriously, an attitude Movember is trying to change. Admitting there is something wrong and talking about it is not a sign of weakness, it doesn’t make you less of a man. if anything it takes a lot of strength to open up.

Post natal depression

Spoken about students and men’s health we can’t ignore women, in particular post natal depression. It is important to understand that this is not an illness that women will recover from in a few weeks, it can take years and can be a long road.

Some people, myself included have confused the baby blues with post natal depression. Though the two have similar symptoms the recovery is different.

Up to 80 per cent of women report “the blues”, usually within the first week after birth. It often coincides with an increase in breast milk supply. Women may feel teary, sad, anxious or struggle to concentrate.

“The blues” are usually self-limiting and no treatment other than reassurance and support is required.

Postnatal depression (PND) affects approximately 15 per cent of women in the months following the birth of a baby, so is a lot more common than some might imagine. It is more severe and prolonged than “the blues”, and can substantially affect the relationship between the mother and baby during this critical period. Women who suffer from PND frequently report feeling sad, tearful, anxious or guilty, often without an obvious “trigger” that they can identify.

There are support groups like Pandas and Mind. Social media Twitter support groups like Lotus Petal, PND & Me. Don’t forget your health visitor will also be able to help if you are struggling.

Days like world suicide prevention day is a time to raise awareness and educate people that we can all fall down, some of us will need a little bit of extra help to get back up again. You could be that person that makes a difference in someone’s life.

Don’t forget that World Mental Health Day is 10 October, hold you own tea and talk day!

References

WSPD Home
Time to change
Samaritans
The Guardian
The calm zone
Essential Baby
Pandas
Mind

How my views on #mentalhealth changed.

Not having suffered from a mental illness I can’t fully understand what someone who battles with such an illnesses goes through on a daily basis and the range of emotions they feel. However since working for a health trust provides both community and mental health services I have been fortunate enough to have met a range of people who live with their illnesses and have won the small battles to be able to live a normal life. I developed a better understanding of what mental health is, it isn’t just about the illnesses that you hear about on the television like schizophrenia, bi polar, depression etc it covers so much more; anxiety, postnatal depression can affect both parents not just the mum, eating disorders, autism also comes under mental health. We need to move away from defining people by their illness, not every person with the same illness will behave the same way. They are people with feeling and emotions first, their illness is secondary.

I have written about mental health from an employment point of view in the past since then mobile phones have evolved to mini personal computers, social media has expanded to the point that the people behind the social sites need to consider how to safe guard their users against bullying trolls, and gradually so have attitudes towards mental health.

I not saying that the entire world is now more open minded and educated but charities such as Time to Change, Mind and Heads Together that have been working endlessly to educate and encourage society to change the way it thinks and behaves towards those with a mental health illness.

Cultural boundaries

In my opinion mental health still has yet to cross over cultural boundaries with some cultures still not understanding or even accepting that mental health illness is real instead believing it can be treated by becoming more religious or is a form of possession. Thinking a person cannot ever lead a normal life but with the right treatment it can be possible. I’m not discounting that religion in some cases has helped bring calmness but it’s not to be used as a way to guilt trip the sufferer into thinking they are being punished by god.

A lot of work is still to be done the Asian community in the UK as it’s about breaking down age old barriers and changing the way older generations in particular think. Saying this credit has to be given as cracks are slowly starting to appear in those barriers, communities are learning and understanding that sometimes things in our heads get a bit jumbled up and that we need a bit of help to make things a bit less blurred.

Treatment

When I mentioned treatment your mind may have automatically gone straight to medication but this isn’t always the case. Treatment could be a series of counselling sessions in a group or one to one bases in the way of Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Exercise not only to helps to improve both mental and physical health but encourage socialisation. Fitness in Mind in Brentwood run an series of inclusive exercise classes ‘…designed to promote, encourage and provide physical activity as an aid to mental wellbeing.’ The Mind website has a list of alternative options if counselling or exercise doesn’t interest you.

Despite all these efforts it is still difficult for many people to share the demons they are battling with others for fear of being labelled by their illness. Time to Change recently led the campaign #inyourcorner this campaign focused on being there for your friend when they need you the most and also touching on men’s mental health encouraging to let go of the idea that sharing with you have a mental illness is not a sign of weakness.

Mental health awareness week

Mental health awareness week is 8-14 May #MHAW17, there will be events taking place across the country to get people talking and breaking down those walls. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn more about mental health and how you could support someone whilst they go through a dark patch and to share your own experiences.

Whatever you think mental health illness is may not be true. Don’t be fooled into thinking it couldn’t happen to you, mental health illnesses can affect any one of us at any time. You don’t have to understand mental health sometimes all you need to do is listen, keep an open mind and be supportive because one day it could be you that needs the same in return.

Linked articles

Are employers missing out by not employing people with autism?

Mental Health and Employment

 

 

The tale of Movember & the Fitbit

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Those of you who don’t know, this is the month of Movember, the month where men are encouraged to grow a moustache in support of men’s health; encourage men to look after their mental and physical wellbeing. Yes we know men like to be seen as the strong and protective but you’re only human too. There is nothing sexist about this project, ladies are encouraged to get involved; Mo sista’s, if you wish ladies you too can put aside the hair removal products and bleaching creams to show your support or alternatively take part, arrange events encouraging men to get talking about their health and letting them know the different forms of support that is available to them.

14938372_901917079907957_6141922829369801878_nWorking for a health trust and one that also provides mental health services it would have been a bit daft of us not to get involved in this cause. We took part in an event organised by Fitness in Mind, The Brentwood Leisure Centre & Basildon Disability Forum. It was an entertaining day encouraging members of the public to come and view the different stalls and find out what support and help is out there if they are worried about any aspect of their health. Fitness in Mind offer free exercises classes, as you know getting those happy chemicals in your body moving benefit your physical and your mental help. Release the aggression and tension in your body so hopefully you feel more relaxed and get to meet some new people.

Whilst on the topic of exercise, colleague and I took part in a little raffle and the prize was a Fitbit, guess who won? It would be me, the person who hasn’t seen the inside of a gym or dojo in a number of weeks going into months! I am thinking about giving it to my cwl1nfuw8aa9-e2sister as a present as she has been after one but now the manager of our employee engagement team is asking how I am getting along with the fitbit, I think so she can turn it into some kind of feature to promote staff health & wellbeing. Fortunately I haven’t reached the size of house considering what my diet had been consisting of, don’t worry I have rediscovered fruit that isn’t covered in chocolate or is a cake ingredient. Exercise is something that hasn’t been a 2fec2283428d52fdfe06130e06d47165regular occurrence in my weekly routine for a while, I have found a few yoga and kickboxing for exercise YouTube, after the kickboxing video although I really  enjoyed I had to have some orange juice and lay down afterwards; adrenaline was going into overdrive. Could give the kickboxing video another try  and see what happens, it would help improve my fitness and get me ready for when I do eventually feel ready to go back to a kickboxing class. Will let you know if the fitbit ever makes it out of its packaging!

Whilst I battle with the exercise demons you can spread the word, grow those tache’s to your desired style and help stop men dying too young.

#MHAW16 #DAW16

Give-timeQuick post to remind everyone that Mental Health Awareness & Dementia Awareness Week begins today.

Despite the publicity these days surrounding mental health and DAW16_A4_Posters_Page_2dementia there is still a lot of work to be done to raise awareness about these conditions and how not only those with a mental illness and dementia are affected but also their families who most of the time are full time carers.

brentwood forum 2016 WPHave a look at the different events taking place in your area and go along, put aside any assumptions and preconceived ideas about what people in these situations are like and what they might be going through, meet the people whose lives are affected on a daily basis and talk to them.

If you’re in the Brentwood area tomorrow, pop along to the Cream Tea event supporting Mental Health Awareness week at The Spread Eagle.

Mental Health & Employment

As we move forward into 2013 we have seen an increase in awareness of mental health illnesses. How as a society we address the situation and review our own attitudes towards not just the person but also the illness itself.

What is Mental illness?

This medical condition is not a sign of weakness, it is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning covering a range of illnesses from Anxiety to Schizophrenia. Treatments can be in the form of verbal therapy, medication, keeping active; exercising, joining clubs, going for walks. Others find an outlet by writing a blog.

Mental Illness and employment

1 in 6 adults can have a mental health illness. Many of whom with the right medication, lifestyle and environment changes can lead a relatively normal life. This includes having a job, yet still over 50% of employees are reluctant to share this information with their employers.

For some a working environment can provide them with the structure they need to help them control their illness. With the positives come the negatives, a stressful environment can trigger anxiety, panic attacks or depression causing an employee to take a leave of absence for an indefinite amount of time. How would an employer cope with having an otherwise productive member of staff away on sick leave?

There have been instances where employers have not fully understood their employee’s condition and resorted to disciplinary measures that can further aggravate the situation. Hence the importance of both employers and employees working together to overcome the obstacles created through lack of knowledge and the stigmatisation and of having a mental health illness.

Many people with a form of mental illness are able to lead a normal active life;their illness is just one part of them.

Employers are recognising that once they look beyond the mental illness there is a person who would be an asset to their business. There are resources available for employers to educate themselves and provide the necessary encouragement and support to ease the transition back into employment without having a negative effect on their business. The Mindful Employer scheme launched in 2004, aims to provide employers with easier access to information and support for employees with mental health conditions.

The learning doesn’t stop when a person with a mental illness joins a company;it is an on-going learning curve for the employee, the employer and their colleagues.

You can also view this article on www.jobserve.com.

References

http://www.mindfulemployer.net/employers.html
http://www.mentalhealthworks.ca/
http://www.mind.org.uk