Men’s Health Week 2021: day 2 – (Be) Active #activetuesday
Updated: Jan 28
For the second day of Men’s Health Week and the ‘CAN DO’ challenge, we are being encouraged to be more active through exercise which can help to promote better mental well-being.
Before I go any further it is once again vital that I make the distinction between mental health (well-being) and mental illness (a crippling and debilitating disorder).
Trying to exercise when you have severe depression is an absolute disaster and should be avoided at all costs! The sufferer is so utterly crippled by the illness and has zero energy, so even getting out of bed can be an indescribable nightmare.
When you are suffering to this horrifying extent and are literally ‘dying to stay alive’ it’s all about CONSERVING energy because forcing yourself to engage with life, go for a run, or join a yoga class is going to be far too exhausting for you and will only make you feel worse – believe me I know all about this!
Explaining the nightmare of the past
Having been a junior national champion and international competitor in three-day eventing, I knew all about the benefits of being fit and healthy, and how exercise could be beneficial to my well-being.
However, when I was struck down with depression (this happened when at peak fitness), I hadn’t even the strength to get out of bed, let alone hold a fit strong thoroughbred round an advanced cross-country course, so I had to make the heart-breaking decision to stop everything and sacrifice my career in order to get better.
I knew I had to do this otherwise I would have ended up doing the unthinkable and taking my own life.
Pushing on when you already feel like dying just makes the situation so much more unbearable – anxiety swirls in because you know you can’t do it, and you’re constantly wrestling with your own mind which makes you fall out with yourself only making matters worse.
‘This is not my fault’
So that you can avoid falling out with yourself, the thing to do is to accept (admittedly really hard), that you can’t do this at the moment and take a step back.
We all need to learn to be the ‘experts of ourselves’ and listen to our own minds, and if that means stopping everything and going to bed and pulling the curtains then that is what you must do.
Never attach guilt or shame for doing this because depression, anxiety, bipolar, (and all of the others) can be life threateningly severe and need to be taken very seriously.
Exercise for recovery
When I was in the throes of my illness there was absolutely no way I could use exercise to improve my well-being – I was just far too ill for that.
Mum used to try to encourage me to walk the dogs with her but even this simple task would end up being an absolute nightmare for me and all I could think was:
“I just want to lie down in the ditch and die.”
Having been a fit, professional athlete, the epic failure of not even being able to manage a two-mile walk made me even more depressed, and afterwards I just felt even more deflated. It wasn’t until I started to get better, when walking wasn’t an act of excruciating effort, that I began to notice the benefits of getting some fresh air and of moving the body again.
Since finally reaching full remission from bipolar disorder last autumn, I have been rediscovering the wonderful effect that exercise can have on my well-being and I’m walking for miles every day as well as riding out for a race-horse trainer, running, wild-swimming and even doing daily core-strength exercises as well!
See – the mental illness / mental health (well-being) distinction is vitally important so please don’t tell those that are ‘dying to stay alive’ with depression to:
“Go for a run.”
because they need to be a lot better before they can do this!
The ‘CAN DO’ Challenge – (Be) Active Tuesday
For day two of the ‘Can do’ Challenge we are being encouraged to aid our well-being through our chosen form of exercise.
I will be getting outside in the sunshine in a minute (adding the benefits of reaping some vitamin D), and doing my core strength exercises which consists of doing 200 butterfly kicks, 200 double leg lifts, 50 sit ups, and three minute-long planks – I’ve had to work up to doing this!
Later on today (probably this evening when it’s cooler) I am going to walk up Oakley Hill and go for a walk in the woods. I think walking is the best form of exercise I take for my mental well-being because the slower pace allows for relaxation and ‘thinking time’ and it’s often when I get my best ideas for the blog and book.
What is anyone else doing for day two of the Can Do Challenge? What forms of exercise do people find most beneficial for their mental well-being?
If you would like to know more about Men’s Health Week, then you can find more information here.
You can also get involved by using the hashtag #activetuesday to let other people know which forms of exercise you are using to aid your mental well-being today.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,