The phrase self-care is all over my social bubble recently, so I'm sure you've heard of it. We use it as a permission to say no, or to have a day in bed, ot to put ourselves first. We're encouraged to administer some self-care to look after our mental health, whether by seeing friends, not seeing friends, hibernating for a weekend or treating yourself to a new purchase.
We all have mental health, some of us have better health than others, and self care is for all, whether you have mental health problems or not. You have to administer your own oxygen mask before assisting others remember!
Having fallen off the fitness wagon, this week I've heaved my body back to it. On a rest day, while my muscles were tight and reminding me that I hadn't used them in a long time, I realised that we need to consider fitness one of the ultimate pillars of self-care.
Visiting the gym (or insert your fitness preference here) isn't a punishment. It isn't a penalty for eating too much, nor is it because you hate your body. We should stay fit and exercise because we love our bodies (or want to!), and because its a way of caring for ourselves and our mental wellbeing.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists reminds us that:
If you keep active, you are:
- less likely to be depressed, anxious or tense
- more likely to feel good about yourself
- more likely to concentrate and focus better
- more likely to sleep better
- more likely to cope with cravings and withdrawal symptoms if you try to give up a habit, such as smoking or alcohol
- more likely to be able to keep mobile and independent as you get older
- possibly less likely to have problems with memory and dementia.
If that list isn't the ultimate in self-care I don't know what is! I also really liked that they challenge the excuses we give for not exercising, "If you are tired, exercise tends to give you energy. If you are worried, it can take your mind off your concerns for a while." - See more here. They also remind us that when we feel tired or depressed, we're less likely to do anything, which leads to us feeling more tired and depressed, which leads to us missing out on things that may make us feel less tired and depressed. Leaving us in a cycle of lethagy and emptiness.
So I challenge you to try and flip your thinking about exercise. To view it as self-care for your mental health. To know that your body will respond well to becoming fitter, that the chemicals pumping around your brain are good for you. Find some form of active exercise that you will enjoy, and find a way to bring fitness into your lifestyle. No one regrets getting fitter.