Do you ever feel that there are too many demands on your time, and you can’t keep up?
Have you ever answered the question “How are you?” with the response “stressed”
Do you ever feel unproductive, anxious or overloaded at work?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone! Mental health issues are a growing concern in our society. The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that in any given year, one in five people experience a mental health illness or problem. While recommendations to improve physical health and prevent disease are well presented and discussed, mental health has not been provided the same exposure. The good news is that many of the lifestyle behaviours that contribute to good physical health will also lead to good mental health with physical activity front and centre!
Regardless of age or fitness level, studies show that making time for exercise provides some significant mental benefits. So head to the pathways, hop on your bike, roll out your yoga mat or pick up those weights and be sound in both mind and body!
Managing mental stress is high on everyone’s list and one of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Physical activity increases concentrations of a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress and improve your ability to deal with mental tension. So go sweat it off!
Maintain an active, agile brain
Ongoing studies are still looking into how much effect exercise will have in lowering the risk for the development of diseases such as Alzheimers. Early studies are promising and relate to the increased oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Take a break from your desk to take a walk, disconnect from your electronics, or try a sudoku or other kind of puzzle to challenge your brain.
Feel happy, be happy
Feel good endorphins are released when we exercise and are responsible for the ‘runner’s high’ that occurs with exercise. You don’t have to be a marathoner though; 30 minutes of physical activity just 2 – 3 times a week can enhance mood. Studies also show that some symptoms of anxiety and depression can be minimized and managed through exercise.
Be more productive and work smarter
The midday work slump is legendary, but studies have shown that employees who engage in a short burst of activity (think a short walk) feel more energized for the rest of the day. Regular exercise can increase the development of brain cells responsible for memory, learning, decision making and critical thinking so you can get back to work and finish off a task that has been taking up more time than it should!
When we are relaxed we feel calmer, less anxious and more at peace; all keys to good mental health. Connect with friends, curl up with a good book, take the family out for a hike in the woods or a walk around the neighbourhood, or head to the gym. Exercise can help provide an appropriate release of built up tension, enhance sleep and allow you to engage in an activity you enjoy, leading to greater relaxed feelings.
Reach out and seek help
We all need help sometimes. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to friends, family and medical professionals. Speak with your family doctor or book an appointment with the nurse practitioners at Wello for help. You can also contact the Distress Centre for 24 hour support or get in touch with one of the service groups dedicated to providing mental health counselling and assistance in your area.
Shelley Hanna, MA, is a Registered Psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists, and a member of the Psychologists Association of Alberta, as well as EMDR Canada. Shelley studied at the University of Calgary and then later was inspired to complete her Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University Seattle. Shelley followed her entrepreneur’s heart into private practice in 2011 which has allowed time and passion to explore different areas of psychology, particularly trauma treatment and related conditions for adults and children.