OCT 24, 2023
Exercise as a Lifeline: Motivation During Mental Health Battles
There are many ways to manage your mental health and one of the most effective, widely regarded methods is through exercise.
Mental health awareness is on the rise and with good reason because it affects us all in some way. Anyone who’s suffered mental health issues will tell you that it can be a very individual experience that differs from person to person, because it comes complete with highs and lows which can make us feel vulnerable at times.
That said, there are many ways to manage your mental health and one of the most effective, widely regarded methods is through exercise. However, the state of our mental health can and does affect our relationship with exercise/fitness. When we’re feeling low, it can create obstacles that prevent us from having a fitter lifestyle. So how do we overcome this and how do we change the way we look at those obstacles?
Understanding the Mental Health-Exercise Connection
As the saying goes, “we are our own worst enemy.” And it’s so true. When our mood is low, we’re much more likely to talk negatively to ourselves and psyche ourselves out of doing something that we may actually enjoy. Not to mention something that’s good for us. So, when we say obstacles, we mean anything from the physical kind (say a traffic jam) to the mental blocks that can prevent you from doing what you had planned for the day.
These mental blockages can take many forms, patterns or behaviors unique to their target. It could be something as simple as repeatedly delaying a task. Or something more complex, such as putting too much pressure on yourself. Mental health and exercise go hand in hand because exercise releases those all-important endorphins that help to boost our mood and shake out all that pent up energy.
The endorphins we’re talking about are the ‘happy’ hormones serotonin and dopamine – these clever hormones help lift up your mood as well as give you a fighting chance at pushing through darker phases and bring you back into the light.
What’s The Best Way To Get Started?
When you’re starting your exercise journey, it can be hard to know where to begin. So why not think of that old bedtime story “the tortoise and the hare”? You don’t want to go in all guns blazing or you’ll burn yourself out - and I think our friend the hare would agree! Start off small by setting realistic goals, creating a supportive environment, and don’t forget to celebrate your wins. Even the small ones!
Setting Realistic Fitness Goals
It’s important to set yourself realistic fitness goals and then manage your expectations around them. If you set your goals too high early on, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment, which could negatively impact your mental health in the long run.
With this in mind, make sure you start off small with something like ‘10 minutes a day’ or ‘one big workout a week’ and then increase this little by little as time goes on. That way, you’re working towards building a routine that you’re more likely to stick to because you took the time to do it gradually instead of overwhelming yourself.
Creating a Supportive Exercise Routine
Creating a supportive exercise routine is just as important as setting realistic goals. A supportive routine will vary from person to person, but the key aspects remain the same. Some of those factors will include (but aren’t limited to) warming up before exercise and cooling down afterwards, staying hydrated, and throwing in some meditation afterwards for good measure.
Just like warming up is important so is surrounding yourself with a supportive environment, friends, and family when you embark on your fitness journey. It’s equally important that you be supportive, patient and kind with yourself too. Especially when you encounter setbacks. Because let’s face it, life never goes as planned.
How Do I Identify and Overcome Mental Health Barriers to Exercise?
As you begin your fitness journey, it’ll take some determination to get things going. But once you do, it will be worthwhile.
It’s important to note that it takes time plus effort to plan what type of exercise you do, and when you do said exercise. For those struggling with mental health issues, this can be a challenge because our energy levels feel lower than the average person’s. As such, planning can feel like a drain that we’re reluctant to do. We suggest breaking it down into manageable bite sized chunks and making sure you celebrate each win. You’ve got this!
Tracking Progress and Celebrating Small Wins
An important part of your fitness journey is celebrating your wins no matter how big or small they are – a win is a win at the end of the day. Tracking your progress will also help you see your improvements and help build your confidence. And this is much easier to do given there’s an app and smart tech for everything nowadays.
Finding the Right Exercise for Your Mental Health
Just as tracking your progress is important, so is finding the right exercise for your mental health. You may need to try out a couple of different exercises before you find the right one. Whatever you choose, it needs to be something you’re going to enjoy doing and can stick to in the long run.
Incorporating Social Interaction into Workouts
It’s also important to make sure that we exercise our minds as well as our bodies. A great way of doing this is to incorporate some social interaction into our workouts. You can do this by inviting a trusted friend or family member to workout with you or by joining a class. This will not only help use up any excess energy but also keep your mind busy.
Managing Expectations on the Journey
Throughout your fitness journey, you’ll need to make sure you manage your expectations through setting attainable goals and reassess as you go. Just like the wind, our expectations and goals will change over time as you get better at your chosen form of exercise. But remember to be kind to yourself during setbacks and to celebrate each success.
Seeking Professional Guidance and Assistance
As always with anything health related, it’s important to seek professional medical help because we’re all unique and have different needs. What’s right for you may not be right for someone else. Your health care provider will be able to give you help and advice specific to your situation, so you improve your overall health safely. In the UK, for example, many GPs are part of a wellness scheme which helps contribute towards various fitness classes to aid those with mobility issues.
Consulting with a health professional will help you decide if the exercise you’ve chosen is not only right for your fitness level but will be beneficial to your overall health - both physical and mental. The last thing you want to do is to try a new exercise you’re not ready for and do yourself an injury halting your progress. It’s not fun, trust me!
The Relationship Between Diet and Mental Health
I'm sure you’re familiar with the saying ‘my body is a temple’ when referring to the relationship between food and fitness. This can sound a bit far-fetched but there is some truth to the phrase. Having the right foods (rich in protein, vitamins, omega 3s etc.) is not only important for your pre and post workout routine but also for your mental health. When you eat the right foods, your body gets what it needs to recover, and this helps to boost your mood, contributing to overall better mental health.
The Rewards and Benefits of Prioritizing Mental Health and Exercise
Starting your fitness journey can seem daunting, but the rewards of prioritizing your health (both mental and physical) are worthwhile and far outweigh the alternative. Which is doing nothing. As they say, nothing ventured is nothing gained, right?
Some of the benefits you could see are (but not limited to):
- Better sleep
- Improved energy levels
- More confidence
- Better cognitive skills
- Increased overall health
On a final note, before you go on with your day, there’s a favorite quote of mine by John Shedd that I’d like to share with you - “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”. Are you going to play it safe?
Written by Lucy Sharp
Lucy, our dedicated customer service liaison, is an integral part of the customer experience team at PROMiXX. With her unwavering commitment to ensuring client satisfaction, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to every interaction.