We’ve been in lockdown for what seems like a lifetime, it’s a rainy Monday morning, your work email inbox has reached three figures over the weekend and the kids are impatiently waiting for Joe Wicks – PE with Joe to come on to YouTube. You would love to be just as motivated for exercise as the kids but you're feeling stressed, anxious and slightly depressed during this current time. Sound familiar?
The government guidance of staying at home and social distancing are crucial to stop the spread of the virus, but Coronavirus has affected all aspects of our lives and the constant news stories on the pandemic, as well as the complete change of lifestyle is not only impacting our physical health but it’s also taking a toll on our mental health too. So, what can you do to support your mental health?
We know that physical activity is great for our physical health,but did you know that physical activity is great for our mental health too!? Throughout this blog you will see quotes from our team about how physical activity helps their mental health.
Here are a few things that physical activity can do for your mental health
As you work towards your fitness goal and work towards a positive change in your life, this can help increase your confidence both mentally and physically. Physical activity also increases your self-esteem, as once you start completing regular physical activity you will begin to realise just how amazing you are and how much physical activity you are capable of doing!
Physical activity has also shown to aid in the reduction of depression and anxiety. This is due to the release of serotonin and endorphins in the brain whilst you are completing physical activity. Regular exercise can also help take your mind off your worries, as it allows you to get away from your negative thoughts- this is more important now than ever! Physical activity can be used as a coping mechanism for anxiety and depression and doing something positive such as physical activity is a healthy coping strategy.
Have you noticed that when you’re feeling stressed your muscles feel it too? They may be tense, and you may feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. You may feel muscle tightness especially in your shoulders, neck, chest and face. The discomfort of all this may even lead to more stress, creating a vicious cycle! Another amazing benefit of physical activity is the fact that it can help reduce our levels of stress. The more energy you are putting into other things, such as physical activity, the less energy you are putting into the things in your life that are causing you to feel stressed. Physical activity is a great way to channel mental stress into a physical response, resulting in a release.
Have you found in recent weeks your struggling to sleep at night? Well physical activity can help improve the quality and duration of your sleep. Being in lockdown has meant that a lot of us aren’t burning off the energy that is keeping us awake at night. Physical activity is a great way to burn off that energy, causing you to feel more tired later in the day. You’ll soon find yourself wanting more sleep as well as needing it! Furthermore, as previously discussed, physical activity gives us that feel good factor, reducing stress, anxiety and depression and all of these are huge contributors to not being able to sleep at night.
Firstly, you need to work out what your barriers are and what is stopping you from being more physically active. All the barriers that you used to put in place, you might find don’t exist at the moment due to the current lockdown. For example: You didn’t have time before but now you don’t commute, can you use that time?, you need to watch the children – can you do a workout with the children – parents v children? Don’t like getting hot and sweaty – can you do your workout before your regular shower?, don’t have the equipment – you don’t necessarily need equipment, be creative and use just your body weight or tins of beans or bottle of water, don’t like doing it alone –zoom your friends and do it together.
It’s really important to identify what you enjoy as this will help you stick to doing it. Physical activity isn’t the same as exercise,it can include work, household or leisure activities, not just planned and structured exercise programmes. Figure out what type of physical activity you are most likely to enjoy and therefore do, and when and how you are most likely to do them. Are you most likely to do gardening at 3pm or start your day with a weights session or go for a brisk walk in the evening?
This follows on from the last paragraph, but don’t see your physical activity as a chore, see it as something you love to do. If you see it as a chore, you are less likely to enjoy it and actually do it. Look at physical activity as something that is going to help you get better and feel better.
It’s helpful to set goals that are SMART, specific,measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. Setting goals that are SMART gives you a sense of direction and focus and helps you organise and reach your goals. Think realistically about what you are able to do now and begin gradually. For example: Can you walk briskly for 10 minutes every morning this week? Can you replace 30 minutes of screen time with 30 minutes of physical activity 3 times this week? or can you up your steps to a minimum of 6,000 per day for the next week?
Make sure you are giving yourself praise for every step you take, no matter how small a step it is. A step in the right direction is an achievement that you should be proud of. If you have a bad day and don’t feel like you can do what you set out to do today, that’s OK! try lowering your goal for the day. However, remember tomorrow is a new day and try and stick to your original goal tomorrow.
If you feel like you need that little bit of help to get motivated and stay motivated, One You Lincolnshire has a team of coaches that are here to help you. We are still open during this time to help you now more than ever. We are delivering all of our sessions via telephone, Zoom, Skype and Facebook. For more visit https://www.oneyoulincolnshire.org.uk/lincolnshire-residents
For more quotes and links to others in this series, keep scrolling ...
Other blogs in the series
Zoe Phillips, Physical Activity Instructor
May 6, 2020