Look After Your Physical Health to Build Resilience

Todays blog is all about the importance of looking after your physical health to improve your mental health.

When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to comfort eat, drink or smoke too much and stop exercising. These things can seem like they’re helping us in the short-term (I mean who doesn’t reach for the wine after a tough day at work!) but they really aren’t! Did you know for example that smoking and drinking stops us producing serotonin – that happy chemical in our brains? This means that people who have smoked or drank most of their lives are 80% more likely to suffer with anxiety or depression in middle age.

So what should we be doing to help us cope better with stress?

Research has shown that regular exercise reduces stress. It releases endorphins which make us feel good, improves our sleep (more on that later) and helps us cope better with whatever life throws at us. When you are stressed it can be the first thing to go, because it can seem like an easy way to save time when you’ve got a lot going on. Big mistake. If Barrack Obama can find time to exercise so can you! People like him and Richard Branson know that the only way they’re going to get stuff done is to be physically fit. When you’re pressed for time, multi-task! Do a workout with your friend instead of going for drinks, go for a walk with your partner instead of watching TV, play with your kids in the park. It makes a massive difference.

Sleep is, without a doubt, the cornerstone of good mental health. When we sleep, we process the events of the day, all our worries and concerns. If we miss out on sleep, then we miss out on that processing time and we soon feel overwhelmed. Pay attention to your sleep – it gives you early warning signs of overload. Having nightmares? Waking in the early hours of the morning? Both are signs you’ve got a lot of stuff to process and your brain is feeling a bit overwhelmed! So, what can you do?

• Prioritise sleep – even more important in times of stress
• Get a bedtime routine – our brains need to relax and unwind before sleep; we can’t go straight from high activity to bed and expect a good night’s sleep
• Try headspace for short meditations or calm for sleep stories – both help your brain to switch off
• Avoid alcohol – it may help you drop off, but it’ll wake you up in the early hours!

Eat Well
If you’re going through a tough time dieting should be the last thing on your mind! That said, eating healthy foods that nourish your body will make you feel a whole lot better than filling it with junk. I’ve changed my diet this year and have felt so much better. Yet recently when I got a bit stressed, I went back to burgers and chips and red wine! Within a couple of days, I felt awful. Food is fuel so put the best in your engine to keep it powering through!

Manage Your Stress
An NHS study found that after meditating 20 minutes once a day for only 5 days, people had measurably less anxiety and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.(Incidentally, the more cortisol we produce the more fat we store on our tummy so added bonus for meditation!) If meditation isn’t your thing, try mindfulness, yoga, hypnotherapy, deep breathing or walking in nature. So, if you’re feeling a bit stressed, or you know you’re going to be going through a tough life event, give yourself a time-out. It really will help you cope better.

Look after your physical health, and your mental health will thank you for it!