When we talk about fitness, we are not just referring to our physical fitness but also our mental health. Health and fitness refers to your general physical and mental well-being. It is no secret to my family, that I suffer with my mental health. This seems to be a part of my being and whilst for periods it remains elusive, it is crippling when it rears its ugly head. There are growing reports in the media for an increase in the services available to the public. Personally, I have always felt well supported but sadly, this is not the case for all.
If I run my marathon next year, it will be for Men’s mental health – this is an area that needs to be further highlighted and the stigma dissipated. I am troubled by the reports of male suicide and the still too prevalent concept of ‘just man up’. Let’s be clear here, mental illness is not a chosen path, mental illness may stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain and/or from deep-rooted emotional distress. It is not selective, anyone and everyone is at risk of suffering from a mental health illness.
I know that over my life – I am 45 now – I developed a toolbox to help me cope during times of darkness. It does not always work but I do like to run. I can feel like my thoughts are spinning out of control and I can’t shut down but if I put my trainers on and head out, I can succeed in mellowing my thought processes. Sometimes, this is physically impossible, I do not want to leave the house and I have to accept this.
You may hear people talk about a “runner’s high” – this is the effect produced when endorphins are released and act on our brain cells. Endorphins encourage a more positive feeling and a sense of well-being. If you are someone that may be affected by mental health issues, I certainly recommend some form of exercise if you feel able. This may be walking, running, the gym – whatever takes your fancy. I have taken a walk and encouraged myself to look at my surroundings, listen to the wildlife and generally try and be more grounded, it really helps. I understand it is a form of mindfulness.
If you know someone is in a dark place, please don’t forget to reach out. A listening ear and the knowledge you are supported can have a very positive effect. Take them for a walk – it will help!