Tips for Healthier Mental Health - Mental Health Awareness Week
Where to start…
Well firstly, here are some useful resources along with my relation to them:
Mental Health Muscle I done a live Q&A on Instagram back in February.
I raised money for when doing my 500 Push up challenge (extended to 600 push ups!)
I haven’t had the pleasure of working with yet but hope to sort something in the future.
I'm a big fan of all the work that these charities are doing for people and if you don't get in touch with them definitely show them some support.
So a little bit about me and my experience when it comes to mental health is over the years of being a Personal Trainer I’ve worked with people who have had depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, self harm etc. I personally see mental health just as important as physical health, some might even say it’s more important. I help people through adapting nutrition, training & lifestyle choices as a means of helping better their mental health. I'm not a specialist and don't have qualifications within it but I listen and help people where I am qualified.
I personally have had my own battles of which I’ve always looked into ways that I could cope better. These days they don’t seem to get as bad because I’ve learned what tends to trigger bad episodes but even then it can happen without any reason unexpectedly.
The full story on my mental health can be found on a post I wrote out for Ben Coomber when he was raising awareness for Movember in 2018 below:
Moving on to the main point of this post, what I have found tends to be the most effective when to help yourself or others when it comes to mental health.
The following information provided is based on case by case clients I have worked with. None of the information provided should be seen as cures or prescriptions for your specific situation. If you wish to move forward with any of the points mentioned below I always recommend working with a professional within that field for the best results and care possible. Always consult with your GP before starting any nutrition programme / exercise plan.
Like anything, you are not alone and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Nutrition plays a big role in how we feel day to day as it can also affect how our hormones function. By increasing the nutrient density of your diet and potentially adjusting your calories you could have an increase of energy, better quality sleep, feel less sluggish and overall feel better which can really help with your mental health problems.
It’s important to note this isn’t a recommendation for you to jump into a diet. It’s simply take your current nutrition and adapt it little by little; this is ideally what anyone should do whether you have a mental health problem or not.
There is a website/app that I always recommend called Cronometer which can give you an idea on what your calorie intake is like as well as a full macronutrient & micronutrient break down. You ideally want to see what your nutrient profile is like before making any changes as it can give you a better idea on what nutrients you may have been lacking before and how you can slowly adapt it. A great example of this is the nutrient Magnesium can help with anxiety and foods rich with magnesium include spinach, quinoa, almonds, dark chocolate, avocado etc.
In this industry there’s so much emphasis on pushing yourself that sometimes people don’t treat themselves which can lead to big binges later down the line, so remember to occasionally treat yourself.
This isn’t for everyone and I get that. I personally can get quite worked up as I always put a lot of pressure on myself and always expect more, for me meditation is perfect as it gives me 5 to 10minutes to just breathe and not think.
You can meditate for as little or as long as you like, in your own way or with specific breathing patterns, it’s entirely up to you!
My personal routine is:
I'll either do it in silence or have music on. If I do typical genres tend to include some calm orchestral, piano or violin instrumental music. If I do listen to music I'll always wear earphones/headphones so I can fully immerse myself in the instrument(s).
I’m usually kneeling on a pillow sat back onto my heels, chest tall, hands on my thighs and eyes closed.
Along with the timing below I’ll make sure I breathe in through my belly first, then up into my chest without raising my shoulders.
And lastly I always through my nose so be sure to blow your nose first before starting to avoid any unexpected accidents haha.
If at any point you feel dizzy or lightheaded, open your eyes and resume your normal breathing.
The breathing pattern I tend to use:
I have found that you can utilise different training styles dependant on what you are going through. But before I get into that there are couple of important points to mention:
No matter what it is you are struggling with or going through, an injury won’t help. Which is why Technique comes first with any of the types of exercise you do. Move well & efficiently and what could well become something that helps you once, will be a long-term thing.
DO NOT Exercise unless you have had adequate nutrition.
If you are new to any of the exercise styles below but want to give it a go, hire a professional to help, even if it’s just the once to show you the ropes
Weight Training can be useful if you are feeling quite worked up, angry, stressed and have energy you feel you need to release.
Cardio can be useful if you feel upset, down, low and feel like you need a pick-me-up.
This doesn't mean that these can't be interchanged with each other but I've found it tends to be the most common.
Light Weight Training – Bodybuilding
If you want to feel a good burn & get a pump, you can put together a simple workout involving 4 different supersets such as: Chest & Back, Biceps & Triceps, Quads & Hamstrings and Shoulders & Abs) and do something like 3 sets x 10reps or if you’re feeling mean to yourself 3sets x 15-20reps. To be honest you don’t even necessarily need to challenge yourself that much, sometimes just going through the motions could be enough to help you on that particular day.
Heavy Weight Training – Powerlifting
*This should only be done if you have lifting experience.
The sport of Powerlifting is for everyone but in my opinion if you’re new to lifting, you shouldn’t jump straight into heavy weight training, start with light and develop good technique first*
In this the aim isn’t to lift as much as possible, but more like a sub-maximal weight for a personal best double, triple or set of five. On days I’m feeling worked up I spend 10minutes meditating beforehand to calm myself a bit, before I start the workout my phone goes on ‘Do Not Disturb’ and my headphones go on, I spend 10-15mins on a lengthy warm up to make sure my body is up for the task and I’m fully aware of anything that could limit the amount I want to go for, then once it comes to the warm up sets I take plenty of rest in between so I’ve had sufficient recovery before each set and work up at my own pace. For me there is nothing more stress relieving than a heavy deadlift session.
The most simplest form of exercise that a lot of people can benefit from. Ideally outdoors getting some fresh air, you can plan out a route or improvise, if not out doors you can hop on a treadmill and get going!
Music with a high tempo can help motivate you to maintain a certain briskness or you can take your time without music and just enjoy listening to what is going on around you.
Same as the above to be fair. If you’re new to running ensure you start slow and don’t be disheartened if you start by running a little then have to walk to catch your breath for a bit and repeat, everyone has to start somewhere.
Dance Classes – Any and every kind
There’s nothing like ‘dancing away your sorrows’ I think the saying goes. If you have little to no experience dancing then great! The majority of people I’ve worked with that have benefitted through dance usually refer to it as ‘dancing like an idiot’ which can be fun on your own getting to know others OR with a friend.
If you’re good at it, awesome you should know the benefits. If it doesn’t quite benefit your mentally how you would like it to, it might be worth trying a different style of dance, get out of your comfort zone, learn a new style and meet new people.
And to finally to finish this blog post off...
Be kind to people.
It sounds like a silly point but one thing I’ve learned from working with people in mental health is that a lot of them are experts at hiding what they are going through. If you pretend for long enough you can get really good at it. You never know what someone is going through and the last thing you want is to be the thing that causes an episode.
Check in on friends and family, ask people how they are doing whether they are strangers or not, hold the door open for people, go out of your way to be kind to someone and don’t expect something back in return.
A game I like to play is start conversations with strangers you interact with day to day. Back in the day (omg I sound old) when I used to work in retail, the best shifts were often filled with customers that would actually have a conversation with you and treat you as if you’re not a robot. Little things like how are you? How’s your shift going? Or even a little have a good day when you say bye can go a long way for some people.
I hope you have found this blog post useful.
And don't forget about the resources I've mentioned at the top for more expert advice :)