Mental Health Within the Fitness Industry
One of the most necessary, yet least spoke about definitions of being “healthy” is the mental health/wellbeing of an individual. I am a strong believer that having a healthy mind directly correlates to a healthy body, although underneath the filters, make up and lighting it seems that this is not the case in a lot of people within the industry.
Although fitness and health can exponentially benefit those in certain mental states in many more positive ways than negative, it all comes down to attitude and how you see things, which may not always be crystal clear:
- It can provide a constant in someone’s life, for those going through rough times, things may not always be certain and having something to get up out of bed every day for, a reason to eat, shower etc. All of these tasks may just seem like every day functions for most, but even the smallest of tasks can be mountainous to overcome with those battling mental health issues, having structure and routine to the day is crucial.
- It can provide a new lease of confidence, seeing progress in any form is enough to put a smile on someone’s face, whether it be a new training personal best or an extra kilogram lost on the scale, a sense of accomplishment is excellent for self-esteem.
- It can provide a goal, for those with mental health struggles, a sense of aimlessness and feeling lost is common, having something to work towards on a daily basis is an amazing distraction from the struggles of life that would usually bring someone down into a depressive state.
- It allows for social interaction, some people who have mental health struggles tend to be somewhat of a social recluse, not socializing and opening themselves up to new/old friend groups. Going to a place that has a social setting, e.g. the gym, fitness classes etc is a great way to passively socialize with people as opposed to forcing themselves into a social setting where they may feel uncomfortable such, as going for drinks with friends, this allows someone to socialize without having the pressure to actually be extensively social.
- Exercise also produces an influx in hormones such as serotonin, known as the “happy hormone”, which directly correlates to being in a good mood.
Although there are exponential benefits to health and fitness, the online media presence aspect is one that does not supplement a healthy mindset, things such as misleading angles, filters, photoshop, lighting etc are all tools used by popular “fitness influencers” in order to portray a body image that most of the time is not attainable in a healthy way. This in turn leads to an unhealthy body image for their followers, men and women alike. Apps such as Instagram and twitter etc are available to everyone with a smartphone (which is essentially everyone) and young demographics who have access to these social media apps from a young age are being influenced into the necessity of a certain body image, leading to eating disorders, poor relationships with food, as well as an overly pessimistic and poor mental state from a very young age.
We will have all had our own mental healthy struggles at some point in our lives, some more severe than others, however all should be treated equally. Listed below are my five top tips for managing poor mental health:
No matter how irrelevant you may think your problems are to other people, they are still problems that are affecting you negatively. Surround yourself with good people, no matter how few it may be and talk, these people, whether they be close friends or family, are there for a reason and will be more than happy for you to share a problem with them. A problem shared is a problem halved.
- Stop comparing-
You should only ever aspire to be the best YOU can be, you are unique and are on a different path to those around you. Don’t compare your 1st step on the ladder to somebody else’s 10th. You are the master of your own ship and you control the pace, keep moving forward and don’t forget to look back and appreciate how far you’ve come.
- Set routine-
Routine is an amazing way to keep yourself busy in a productive manner, you don’t have to have it all planned out straight away, little steps to introduce more positive change throughout the day. Simple things such as making your bed in the morning, getting up a set time, going to the gym etc are all examples of simple positive change that will bring with it a sense of accomplishment and thus facilitate a more positive mindset.
- Don’t forget to eat and drink-
Getting caught up in your own head is a time consuming it and it becomes very easy to just sleep off the hunger, it is important to eat meals, it doesn’t have to be a lot, just enough to keep you satiated and build up from there. Don’t binge eat and try to eat somewhat healthy food to begin with and as I said, build on that. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and keep alcohol intake low as this can soon become a coping mechanism.
- Get good quality sleep-
This doesn’t mean sleep a lot, nor sleep too little, getting consistent good quality sleep will improve circadian rhythm and improve overall daily mood. Don’t be sitting up on your phone or Netflix until 5am and waking up at 2pm, if budget allows get some blue light blocking glasses and wear them before bed as this will improve sleep quality, turn all electronic devices off at a set time, e.g. 45 mins before wanting to sleep. Get yourself into a consistent sleeping pattern that doesn’t leave you feeling like you haven’t slept at all when you’ve just woken up, this will reduce the likelihood of laying in bed all day.
Finally, Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor is your mental health going to improve ten-fold over night, take your time and make small, incremental changes to your daily life/ routine, things will fall into place eventually.
This blog has been loosely directed by my own mental health struggles throughout my past, never would I have thought I would be helping others with the same problems I once faced.
Thank you for reading.
By Tireoghain O’Neill
Mental Health Helplines and Services
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum