There are times when we all feel that we can’t get out of bed… There are times when we all feel that we don’t want to go to work… There are times when we all feel anxious…But there are many of us who feel like this on a daily basis. Work stress, depression, anxiety all affect our mental health, making it more and more difficult to do everyday tasks. Before we know it, we are spending all day at home, ruminating – our eating habits suffer, our sleep suffers, our self-confidence and self-esteem suffer.
Building an exercise routine into your day will not make the stresses, depression, and anxieties go away, but it can help you manage them better. A healthy routine, can help you feel better about yourself, and build up your self-confidence, it can help you face the pressures of work with more energy and a clear head.
I know there are countless studies stating exercise helps, but we can never seem to fit it into our daily lives. That doesn’t mean you need to go to the gym; any form of exercise from walking to yoga can help with your mental health.
Below are some of the ways exercise helps you manage your mental health. Let’s start with the most obvious:
Increased Endorphins. You have probably heard about endorphins; endorphins are our body’s natural painkillers, and when released they make you feel good, almost like we are on a natural ‘high.’ Exercise boosts the production of endorphins; you don’t need to do strenuous exercise to achieve this, yoga, a walk around the park, Tai Chi can all contribute to the same feeling.
Getting into the zone. This does not mean you need to run, it means that finding an exercise with repetitive actions, like swimming, yoga, weight lifting where you can get ‘lost’ in the motion can have meditative effects on your brain. While you are concentrating on your body’s movements, and focusing on that single task, it will allow your mind to quieten down and regain some clarity – leaving you feeling relaxed and calm.
It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, the more your fitness levels increase, (and they will with regular exercise) the better you will feel about yourself. Not only does it increase you mood, but it increases your energy levels too, leaving you feeling that you can tackle your day/job with composure and clarity. Exercise is said to improve your stress levels, but it also gives you command over your own body – we feel like we are more in control of our actions, and in turn we feel that we are more in control of our lives.
Human interaction. It’s not just about a workout buddy. It’s about meeting people in your spin class, our aerobics class and knowing that you are not the only one struggling to go one more minute, or that you’re not the only that can’t get the coordination right for the last bit of that routine. It can make us feel a little less lonely. Even with a workout buddy – knowing that someone is waiting for you to show up at the gym or the park can be a powerful incentive. Working out with a friend, co-worker or family member can bring a new level of motivation and commitment to your workouts.
Better sleep. Our sleeping habits can go a little haywire when we’re stressed, anxious or even feeling depressed. Finding it difficult to switch our thoughts off can make it difficult for us to fall asleep, and even stay asleep. Exercise is a great way to promote better sleep; it tires your body out so you are feeling physically relaxed, and clears your mind enough that you won’t still be thinking about your work / life stresses at the end of your day.
Routine. A routine can give you a sense of control over your life, as well as something to look forward to, when work seems to drag on for hours. If you pick an exercise that you enjoy, your motivation will carry you through the days that you don’t really want to do anything, apart from eat a packet of biscuits. Because you are actively doing something to increase your health levels, it can also leave you feeling good about yourself; you are doing something for yourself, and that will have a positive effect on your self-esteem.
Before you start exercising, always consult with your doctor, and always ‘walk before you run’ – so build you fitness level gradually. Excitement about a new program can lead to overdoing it and possibly even injury, so go slowly. Find what works best for you, and stick to it – especially through the days that you don’t feel like going.
If you want to talk to someone regarding the issues raised in this blog, please contact us. We are offering a free one week trial for online counselling.