1.1 Maintaining good physical health
During times of stress, everything can feel out of control. Looking after yourself may not seem possible with everything else that is happening, and yet the benefits of even small changes towards a healthier lifestyle are well-documented. For example, Deuster & Silverman (2013) explain that:
Physical fitness is one pathway toward resilience because it is associated with many traits and attributes required for resilience. In addition, physical fitness confers resilience because regular exercise and/or physical activity induces positive physiologic and psychological benefits, protects against the potential consequences of stressful events, and prevents many chronic diseases.
Another reason to consider your exercise levels is because resilience is about trying new things and new approaches with confidence, and putting on your trainers or going for a walk in the rain can be a low-risk way to kick-start that process.
Mind (2019) explains several ways in which physical activity can support your mental health:
- better sleep – by making yourself feel more tired at the end of the day
- happier moods – physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy
- managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and racing thoughts – doing something physical releases cortisol, which helps us manage stress, and being physically active gives your brain something positive to focus on
- better self-esteem – being more active can make you feel better about yourself as you improve and meet your goals
- reducing the risk of depression – studies have shown that doing regular physical activity can reduce the likelihood of experiencing depression
- connecting with people – doing group or team activities can help you meet new and like-minded people, and make new friends.
When we talk about a healthy lifestyle, the common issues are usually diet, weight, physical activity and tobacco or alcohol use. Many of us know what we ought to do next, yet may not be acting on it.
Activity 1 Into action: healthier lifestyle
Start this activity by noting what benefits there might be for you if you acted on one of your aims for a healthier lifestyle, such as increasing your physical activity, improving your diet or reducing your alcohol intake.
Now consider what, if anything, is holding you back, and try to identify one 20-minute action that you could you take now to get you started.
This could be sorting out your bike so you can cycle to work tomorrow, choosing a club or regular activity class you’d like to join, or starting a new routine of daily walks.
Don’t wait to act – take your action today.
According to Mind (2019), even boosting your physical activity at home can be beneficial. Standing up more, doing active household chores or even dancing around the kitchen can all boost your activity levels.
You’ll find lots of other ideas on Mind’s webpage (see the references section for the link).