Mental Health: We're Talking Too!
Written by: Meg Sharp, Fitness & Health Consultant, Cambridge Group of Clubs
Initiated across Canada 12 years ago, Bell Let’s Talk has continued to promote awareness and action surrounding mental health and has built its platform based on 4 significant pillars: Fighting the stigma, improving access to care, supporting world class research, and leading by example in workplace mental health.
For us, continuing to find ways of supporting better mental health of the Canadians we have the privilege of interacting with is a huge passion and ongoing project. We are buoyed by the growing evidence that physical activity and exercise – of all different types, durations, and intensities – has an incredibly positive impact on short- and long-term mental health and well-being.
We know it’s likely that you or someone you love is struggling today. We thought it might be helpful to highlight some facts and strategies in our attempt to help:
- Mental health challenges – big and small – are complex and multifactorial. They are typically neurobiological, environmental, and behavioural in nature.
- Exercise helps. Through distraction, decreases in cortisol, offering sense of purpose and achievement, increasing oxygen flow to the brain, changing neural activity, improving self-esteem… the list is endless.
- Often, when depressed, undertaking something like a workout will seem impossibly difficult. Even though we “know” something will make us feel better, summoning the effort – any effort – can seem insurmountable. Know that making the tiniest effort – the one that IS manageable – will start to create some positive momentum.
- Every small step counts.
- Encourage yourself or your loved one to put on a pair of shoes and walk around the block. Exercise with company doubles the benefit for some.
- Create ways of making the activity purposeful. Whether it’s walking to the mailbox every day, walking the dog, or ensuring you do 5 minutes of activity that raises your heart rate and checking these things off. You could put it in your calendar too.
- Perform a set of 10 squats and 10 counter push-ups in the kitchen as you prepare breakfast.
- Pace, power walk, or spin during ZOOM or conference calls.
- Download a book you’ve been wanting to read and walk, hike, move while you move through the chapters.
- Find someone you care about who also wants to start exercising more. Even if you don’t workout together, you can become daily accountability partners. It’s a funny thing – while it may be too tough to rally for ourselves, we figure out how to do so for others.
- Remember it’s not your fault: A person with diabetes can no more create insulin by “trying harder” than a person with depression can make their brain change.
- Be kind to yourself. Speak to yourself as if you were your own best friend. Positive reinforcement is far more powerful at encouraging positive habit change than negative. So, the 2 minutes of exercise you do today? Bravo. I’m not kidding. Try to change the voice in your head if you can: “Really great job love. You can do this.”
We know that exercise can be one of the most powerful ways of positively impacting the brain. 60 seconds sprinting up the stairs, 5 minutes of TaiChi, 2 minutes of brisk walking, dancing to your favourite song… ALL these activities create positive changes in your brain. Maybe that concrete knowledge in and of itself can help make that effort seem worthwhile.
And if the effort is still too much, please reach out to a professional and ask for help. You are not alone. It is not your fault. And help and support is out there.
Mental Health Resources, Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sport
Hang in there, love. You can do this.
“I fight for my health every day in ways most people don’t understand. I’m not lazy. I’m a warrior.” – Unknown
Check out this short clip from our The BEST Reason to Exercise: Your Mental Health webinar given by our Fitness & Health Consultant, Meg Sharp, which focuses on the connection between exercise and mental health.