Put your red armour on

Exercise doesn’t save you from depression? 

Don’t tell me to run, that won’t help me in my darkest hour! 

These are, understandably, some of the posts I see when individuals experiencing depression or anxiety receive the advice ‘just go for a run’

Depression can be a lonely place, often misrepresented as sadness. Yes, sadness is a part of an individuals experience, but add in numbness, hopelessness, tiredness at a level that can cause moving your body painful and thoughts that can be only perpetuate the lonely cycle of darkness.

How can exercise and physical activity begin to cure these experiences?

My initial response to this is, rewind a little and consider physical activity as a protective measure. Putting on your wellies and taking your dog for a walk may not just protect you from the muddy puddles but can provide you with a coat of armour for the busy week ahead. Getting in nature, moving those muscles and living in the moment can improve your resilience. 

Improving your resilience doesn’t mean that stress is like ‘water off a ducks back’, rather that when you experience anxiety, low mood or  negative thoughts that you are able to ‘bounce back’ more effectively. Building resilience takes time and patience. You are worth this time. Invest in yourself.

When your mental health is suffering and you don’t feel able to exercise or keep active. Take small steps. If you haven’t been able to get out of bed because of your symptoms of depression or anxiety start by having a shower  and brushing your teeth, build up to walking to the shop. Being active doesn’t mean running a marathon, its training for a goal no matter what that goal might be.

“You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you have to overcome to reach your goals.” – Booker T. Washington

Take additional steps to improve your mental health. Talk to a friend, a support line and visit your GP. Being active isn’t a panacea. However, it is a very large cog supporting good mental health  both directly and indirectly.

A very good friend of mine once said, “have you ever regretted going for a run?” vs “have you ever regretted not going for a run?” Well, yes, I have regretted going for a run when I can’t climb the stairs two days later. But, that’s more about regretting suitably stretching! 

She was right, I haven’t ever regretted the rush of endorphins when I run. The achievement I feel when I reach my goal or the satisfaction that my raised heart rate is because of my improving physicality, rather than the consideration of the week ahead.  

Alongside the obvious physical benefits, the mental health benefits of exercise are evidenced. These benefits aren’t just due to the release of the ‘happy hormones’, but those other indirect advantages such as:-

-Improved appearance

-Better sleep

-Larger social network

Put on your RED armour

Post Christmas is notorious for being hard on our mental health. Both because of weaning off the Prosecco and also dealing with possible family conflicts, financial worries or getting back into the swing of work. There can be many barriers in getting active. But activity can be free, enjoyable, social and part of a healthy routine.

As a result, I’m going to be joining the other 50,000 people that are going to be registering for RED January, attempting to achieve the goal of ‘being active everyday’. Taking part in a fantastic challenge, for a fantastic cause. My passion to take care of my own mental health as well as raise awareness for others is why I signed up at www.redtogether.co.uk

Use RED January to build that armour. Look after your own mental health and kick start your year.

Amy

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She struggled with her own gut health for many years, with over-the-counter medicines failing to provide any relief, so decided to take matters into her own hands, completing a three-year diploma in Nutritional Therapy.

She now works with people struggling with their own gut health, hormonal imbalances and chronic disease, taking a full-body approach to their health.

She delivers our Cultivating a Healthy Gut for Good Mental Health programme.

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Her background is in mental health and wellbeing having worked in a range of settings including businesses, the NHS and charities.

Kate has lived experience of mental illness and previously worked as a Peer Supporter for the NHS before joining a local company delivering sport and wellbeing session in schools where she spent many years before becoming a freelance trainer.

Kate has been a qualified Mental Health First Aid instructor since 2014.

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Her vast experience in business – working as a management consultant for companies like KPMG before setting up her own consultancy practice – has seen her designing and delivering practical interventions to companies from varying sectors.

She developed her own model for employee engagement that has seen fantastic success in the corporate world.
Sue has an MA in HRM/MCIPD and is a BPS registered Behaviour Assessor.

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