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Mental Health Awareness Week: Self-care for your mind and body

May 13, 2024
Alexandra Hopkins

This week - the 13th to the 19th May - is Mental Health Awareness Week and the organisers, Mental Health Foundation, have chosen the theme, ‘movement’. We know that exercise is good for our physical health, but it also has a significant impact on our mental health and overall wellbeing.

When we exercise, our body releases the chemicals, serotonin and endorphins, which boost our mood and make us feel good. Studies have shown that exercise can:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Reduce the risk of depression
  • Improve our concentration
  • Increase our energy levels
  • Help us to sleep better
  • Give us a sense of achievement
  • Improve our self-esteem and confidence

Despite the benefits, many of us struggle to get enough exercise. There are lots of different reasons for this and they vary from person to person. Life can be so busy, and amongst working, care responsibilities and chores, we might find it hard to carve out dedicated time for movement. Money can also be a factor; not everyone can afford a gym membership or a sports kit

Another barrier could be how physically able we are. Someone with a disability, injury or health condition might struggle to move around easily. Being limited in terms of what kind of exercise you can do can be frustrating, but it’s important to work with your body. There’s fitness advice for wheelchair users and people with disabilities on the NHS website.  

Whatever your situation, it’s important to incorporate movement within your day. Here are some tips on how to get started for better physical and mental health:

Make the time

In order to prioritise exercise, you have to make time for it. This could mean rearranging your schedule or changing your habits. How about getting up 20 minutes earlier to go for a jog, or cycling to work instead of driving?

Be on the lookout for opportunities to add movement into your day. Instead of sitting down to catch up with friends, could you walk and talk instead? When you’re watching TV, could you do some chair exercises or walk around the room during the advert breaks, get off the bus a few stops earlier, park in the furthest parking space away?

Do what you enjoy

You’re more likely to keep up with exercise and make it part of your routine if you do something that you enjoy. Exercise looks different to everyone; you might prefer to be indoors, outdoors, part of a team, join a class or do something alone. It really doesn’t matter what you do, whether you’re playing netball or dancing around the living room, you’ll feel the benefits.  

Be practical

Taking time away from our responsibilities isn’t always easy, particularly for parents and care-givers. Could you ask for support from your family and friends so that you’re able to exercise? If not, are you able to follow an exercise DVD or an online yoga class at home?

The cost of a gym membership and exercise clubs can also make certain forms of exercise feel out of reach. If you’re struggling with affordability, don’t rule out walking - it’s free, convenient and you can tailor your route depending on how much time or energy you have.  

Build it up

It’s recommended that the average adult should do between 75 and 150 minutes of exercise a week. Remember, this includes things like moving around the house or walking to and from the shop. However, if this feels like a lot to you, start with less and build it up gradually over time. Any movement is better than no movement.  

Get outside

If you’re able to be active outdoors, this can give your mental health an extra boost. Studies show that connecting with nature can help us to feel more content and fulfilled, while reducing our levels of anxiety and depression. You could do some gardening, go for a jog around your local park or get involved in an outdoor sports team.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or another common mental health problem, talking therapy can help. At ieso, we offer typed CBT where our patients ‘speak’ to a therapist by typing back and forth via our secure online platform. Our appointments are flexible and remote, so you can have a session from the comfort of your own home. Find out more.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.
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