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I’m not exactly what you’d call a gym bunny. I’m not one to check in on Facebook while I’m running and I certainly don’t take selfies while I’m lifting dumbbells. As far as I can tell, the joke of “if you didn’t check in on Facebook, it did’t happen” is still a joke that I’ll choose to laugh at. This is the laughing that gets to happen as I use exercise as a method to take care of my mental health.
Fitness expert, weight lifter and gym owner James Hanley is all too familiar with the online and offline world of fitness. When we chatted about the recent mental health awareness month, he offered some valuable insights into the impact the trending world of exercise is having and where it’s heading.
Considering the world of fitness on the emerald Isle, there’s clearly been a surge in terms of the amount of gyms popping up. Meanwhile, the country’s love of healthy food is getting stronger with artisan butchers and health food stores becoming more than a passing trend. As highlighted by James, people are investing more in their health and have a better perspective of what healthy really is.
When it comes to exercise, the phrase “He’s not the sort of guy who gets ulcers, he’s the guy that gives them” rings true for James. When speaking of how people deal with stress, he says “it basically stems towards three points – you can release stress by shouting at someone/something, hitting someone/something or exercising it out”. Looking at these, it’s pretty clear which is going to have the greatest benefits.
As touched on in my recent posts on mental health, James also hit on the point of not being idle: “Having an outlet, somewhere that’s not allowing you to stew at home and instead, being able to meet and interact with other people is one of the biggest benefits of being in a group exercise program”. Exercise not only keeps the mind and body occupied, it creates endorphins which means less stress.
Being time-poor is one of the obstacles to effective self-care in today’s day and age. So if you’re in need of a stress-reliever in the form of exercise but your schedule seems too jam-packed, how do you fit it in? Well, getting a notepad is where to start. James’ method of figuring it out involves the following ” From the moment you wake up, write everything down that you did every fifteen minutes for the previous fifteen. It will take some time at first but do it for 7-14 days and it will do one of two things: It’ll validate the fact that you are busy and make you find more time to train. OR it’ll make you realise that you aren’t as busy as you initially thought you were and show you where you’re wasting time, dossing or being otherwise inefficient. From there, all you have to do is make a decision whether what you’re doing is making you happy. If it is, keep doing it. If it isn’t, change something.”
So say you figure out the time, how do you then decide which exercise works best for you? There could be a trend of people lifting weights amongst your friend group, does that mean it’s for you? Definitely not. Likewise if running bores you then keep away. On this note, James’ advice is find something you love and give it 100% – “The best exercise is the one you enjoy the most and can stick to”.
From James’ endless experience of the positive impact of exercise on any given human, the only negative that he considered was what’s happening in the online world of instagram, check-ins and the dishing out of ‘healthy living’ advice by those that consider themselves experts. According to James, “The fitness industry in failing us right now. Influencers are creating a highlight reel on social media and misleading everyone into believing they have everything they want, love their body and have the perfect life.” Married with insecurity and unhappiness, James explained that at times the same people who are dishing out advice (mostly young girls and guys) will delete posts if they don’t get enough likes upfront and censor comment streams for fear that the writings there will destroy their planned narrative. This translates to poor mental health in such influencers real-lives.
In a world where there is a range of mental health challenges, insecurities and unfortunately, still a stigma behind talking about mental health, James offered his advice: “You don’t have to pretend to be 100% all the time. Vulnerability is cool. Not being OK is OK. Talking about how you feel with friends or trusted sources isn’t a show of weakness, it’s a show of strength. ESPECIALLY for guys”.
While mental health awareness month has passed, we still need to keep the conversation going. Got something to share? Hit me up via social media or in the comments’ field below.
If strength training, strong mindset and/or health living is for you then I’d strongly suggest checking out James’ site, social media and if in the area, his gyms. To learn more, you can visit him here.
We all have our days where we aren’t feeling ourselves. Our mood isn’t what we’d like or actually needs it to be. We can feel stuck in our heads, foggy and solutions don’t come so easy. Thankfully, there are ways to alter how we’re feeling and contribute to our overall positive mental health.
I’ll never forget the head of my course saying last year that “a thought has ten seconds to hijack your mind”. It sounds rather scary, right? It’s certainly a powerful way of considering the power our thoughts can have over us. On the bright side, this means that you have ten seconds to allow it to pass and move onto a more helpful thought. Of course, we’re all guilty of allowing the thought to fester and unfortunately this means that it can grow and manifest in others ways through actions and emotions. To be honest, there are days where this can happen and it can be tricky to snap out of it.
How about considering how we can impact our mood positively when we’re not feeling it or would rather stay in bed than function in society?
1. Exercise is number one here, not surprisingly. There are numerous types of exercise that one can practise and they will all create endorphins. The simplest idea can be a walk down the road to the local park. Even ten minutes outside will get the blood moving and get you out of your head. Not feeling it? Then still try and go. Often it’s the feeling after exercising that we need to remember to make us move ourselves.
2. Journaling isn’t just something from back in the day. It’s an effective technique that allows for clarity and expansion . For one, it’s is a method of getting thoughts on paper – making sense of them. Or alternatively, jotting down solutions to a challenge or writing down all the positive elements of your day creates energy and motivates.
3. Planning a trip, outing or even a coffee date with someone you care about means that you have something to look forward to. They say that a large element of the excitement of making plans is the planning itself so get planning. Even if you don’t go, it keeps the mind occupied which is sure to get those thoughts to a more positive place.
4.Eat something healthy! They say you are what you eat so how about a trip to the local health store? Getting those healthy vitamins and minerals into you will mean you feel better afterwards and are adding some nourishment to your body.
This past week, I’ve been guilty of snacking on sweets, cookies and donuts – everything that is considered cheat food. Today, I’ve got a fridge full of fruit and vegetables. If you fall off that wagon, get right back on there.
5.Give yourself a break. I don’t have to say it again – but I will. Beating yourself up and being hard on yourself won’t achieve anything except to make you feel worse. Find ways to stop those harsh thoughts, talk it out with someone you love or practice some affirmations. Being kind to your sweet self is so important.
Other ways of minding your mental health include getting lots of sleep, surrounding yourself with the best (plus avoiding toxic people) and seeking out inspiration online and on TV (take this Conor McGregor documentary for example that worked for me).
I’ve had the fortune of coming across and working with a range of interesting and intelligent individuals over the years – through blogging, work, family and living in various locations. Listening to their stories and what they do, I’ve learned even more so that we’re all making our contribution whether through work, our hobbies or by simply being ourselves. Meeting and staying in touch with psychotherapist Cathy Culloty was no exception.
Cathy is a psychotherapist in DCU, has a private practice and on the side works as a model while running a blog. She’s recently got married and is living her best life as a strong and influential young woman.
As it’s mental health awareness month in Dublin, I reached out to Cathy to ask her for her thoughts on a number of topics related to the stigma attached with mental health in Ireland alongside her general advice to anyone who might be suffering or needing some help. The benefits of psychotherapy, the future of mental health in Ireland and identifying the signs of someone suffering are some of the areas we discussed.
“Exercising regularly, good diet, getting adequate sleep, being mindful of alcohol consumption, talking about your feelings and not being afraid to ask for help” are some of the ways Cathy recommends that we maintain a positive mental health. Aside from these basics, she recommends taking some time out from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether that means a holiday abroad, trip to the countryside or a spa day – rest is what will allow the mind to recuperate and refresh.
Of course, we are all guilty of skipping some steps of what we know is good for us. A struggle with our mental health will hit any of us at some stage in our lives so, what then? There are so many possible options when it comes to getting help and support when we’re feeling unwell. With so many possible ways of treatment out there including medication, cognitive behavioural therapy and coaching, how does someone decide what’s best?
As a psychotherapist, I asked Cathy why someone might choose psychotherapy as an option of treatment. Describing it as something everyone should try at some stage in their lives, it allows one to understand themselves fully, rewrite stories from their past, heal old wounds and decide who they want to be and where they want to go. As a pathway of treatment, Cathy cites finding a therapist you can trust as the most important element of having a positive experience with psychotherapy. Of course, having the motivation to develop and work towards a more healthy mindset is the second element to consider.
Not everyone feels comfortable talking about their mental health and this is where the stigma comes in in Ireland and probably – externally. Feeling like you’re alone and being overwhelmed are some of the reasons someone might avoid getting help with their mental health while caring what other people think pops up as a reason why one wouldn’t reach out sooner than they need to. Cathy’s advice is to remember that “you’re not alone. No matter how bad things seem, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Unfortunately, not everyone will say they’re in a tough place and even more people won’t have recognised it. As loved ones, it’s important that we are able to identify when someone is going through a mental health challenge. Social withdrawal, increased sadness and/or irritability and excessive sleep are some of the signs to look for when identifying a mental health problem. More intensely, significant change in mood, hallucinating and delusions can appear in more extreme cases. In any event, approaching the said person to support them will mean they don’t suffer for longer than they need to.
When we discussed the future of mental health in Ireland, Cathy expressed her hope for its acceptance and progression into a more positive light. “I have a friend in the UK who manages a team and gives them mental health days which I think is brilliant and should be implemented into all work contracts”. The lifting of the stigma, further education and increased awareness around mental health are hopefully a premonition for mental health in Ireland.
In the meantime, being aware of identifying the signs, super self-care and being as open as we can around the topic will mean we take massive strides in the right direction.