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Five ways to support your Mental Health  

May 14, 2024

By Justine Walton, Wellbeing Adviser

The theme of this year’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek is ‘Movement: Moving More For Our Mental Health’. Being physically active has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression and helps to prevent physical illnesses.

When it comes to moving, sometimes the hardest hurdle is finding the motivation. We all know exercise is good for us, but it’s even harder to prioritise if when life is complicated or we’re feeling low.  Even small changes in your routine can make a difference to your mood and adopting new habits doesn’t have to take up a lot of time or money.

Why movement is beneficial for mental health

As a trained counsellor who previously worked in the TV industry, I know all too well the stresses put on the mental health of behind-the-scenes workers. This is particularly acute right now, as the landscape of the industry is so uncertain and so many are struggling to find work and make ends meet. For those who are in work, high-pressure environments can lead to feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. As we know, prolonged periods of stress can cause our emotions and our nervous system to become dysregulated.

When our bodies are experiencing high levels of stress, leading to surges of adrenaline and cortisol, it can help to match this energy with movement. This can be really tough to fit into your day, especially when you are focusing on job hunting or too busy with the demands of work.

Moving to support your mental health

Here are five simple ways to support you to move more for your mental health during tough times, as well as details about how our services can help you.

Move more regularly

Gentle movements such as stretching, walking, and breathing exercises can all help to bring down cortisol levels. And cardio-based exercises like running, jogging, dancing, or swimming release those all-important endorphins, the “feel good hormones” that can help combat low mood. TIP: when you feel stressed, try discharging that energy – you could try dancing to music for five minutes or some simple stretches.

Take an active break

If you’re finding yourself ruminating on things that are worrying you, taking a break to get some fresh air, maybe going for a walk with a friend or listening to a podcast, can provide a welcome distraction. TIP: walking in nature (or the local park) can have regulatory effects on your central nervous system, bringing your heart rate down and helping you to feel calm and relaxed.

Schedule time for yourself

We know it can feel impossible, but scheduling time for you, whether that’s a regular walk, weekly bike ride, or an evening swim can have real benefits. TIP: Book in a recurring ‘appointment’ with yourself and mark it as busy on your calendar. Life often throws us curveballs, which means we have to move things around, so start by making this weekly rather than daily.

Take our Wellbeing Check-in Quiz

If you’re looking for further guidance, our Wellbeing Check-in is a good place to start, as it offers you a quick and accessible summary of the areas in your life that are negatively affecting you or you think might need some attention. The questions offer a holistic overview of the links between how well you’re eating, sleeping, relating to others, coping with work stress – and how you’re feeling. TIP:You can select the themes that are most relevant and have the action plan emailed to you.

Find a plan that works for you

A gentle reminder that there’s no “one size fits all”. Try one or all of the above, explore, and try new things to find what works best for you.  If you’re experiencing barriers to being active, Mind has some really good ideas. TIP:If you’re still finding it hard to get motivated, appoint an accountability partner to check in or buddy up with – it can make all the difference.

Please remember if you’re struggling with your mental health, our Support Line is open 24/7, 365 days a year and provides free, confidential in-the-moment support on the phone or via webchat. Our Support Line can refer callers to specialist legal advice and financial guidance. It can also refer you for six free, one-to-one structured counselling sessions.

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