I was meaning to write a blog post last week on mental health awareness week and the importance of exercise for mental well-being but I just didn’t have time last week. It was one of those week’s where I was rushing around, getting not a lot done and it made me chuckle how ironic that was given that I was telling all of the athletes I work with to “slow down” and “take time out for you”. I think I have a typical Type A personality – I think that’s what attracted me to sport – I’m competitive, I strive towards goals, I constantly change the boundaries – and that can be exhausting. But as I’ve moved through life I’ve become so much more self-aware and have great strategies in place that I wanted to share with you:
The first is positive mantras. Just a few kind phrases that you can say to yourself. Some of my favourites are:
- I’m not there yet, and that’s OK.
- I would love to do that but it’s not a priority for me right now
- Everything I need is within me
Just saying a few kind things to yourself throughout the day can ease some stress and anxiety. I’ll admit it takes practice, but there’s nothing to lose by starting to drip feed this into your days!
The second is slowing down. Just taking time out, not to ‘do’, just to ‘be’. A friend of mine introduce me to Hof breathing last year. This is deep breathing which is set to….
“ induce a ‘hypometabolic state,’ where autonomic and mental arousal are minimal. It is a resting, restorative state, a counter anxiety, counter stress response of the body induced by using the breathing that goes with relaxation to trigger a similar muscle response in the body.”
Why not give it a go or try to implement it at the start of your next yoga practice?
The third is exercise. Studies show that exercise can help treat depression, anxiety and stress. Studies have also shown that it doesn’t have to be a lot of exercise! Running for just 15 minutes a day reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing. Exercise also helps with sharper memory and thinking, higher self-esteem, better sleep, more energy and stronger resilience!
The fourth is eating well. I have never been one for healthy eating – that’s why I trained…so I could eat what I want! But I think actually, we all deserve to treat our bodies well and fuel it with healthy and nutritious food. Over in our Tri Energy Nutrition Hub we have started weekly nutrition workshops as part of our commitment to help athletes look after their bodies and fuel themselves correctly for training….and for life in general!
Finally, it’s to find a tribe of amazing people that you can bounce off, enjoy life with, who can lift you when you’re feeling down. Perhaps people’s obvious networks are your family and friends. But another source of this for me is the Tri Energy Community. We are so much more than just a triathlon club. During mental health week we painted rocks to ‘spread love’ and hid them on doorsteps, had a great Tri Bake off (because cake is important too!), sent surprise notes of positivity through the post, made videos to inspire each other…. all because we care. We started off as a group of strangers, but now we are most definitely there to support each other’s well-being long after ‘mental health awareness week’ has ended.
Other useful reads:
- How to look after your mental health using exercise
- Physical Activity and Your Mental Health
- Rethink Mental Illness