Health isn’t just about your fitness. Your mental well-being is also an important factor to living a rich, fulfilling life. During Mental Health Awareness Month, which occurs every May, ZOZOFIT feels like it's a perfect time a take a closer look at mental health and how maintaining physical health can help support it.
For a long time there was stigma around being open about your mental health — whether you were struggling or not. Now, many people are more comfortable sharing their experiences with mental health, which has helped us all to understand that mental illness affects many people of all ages and backgrounds. This shared knowledge is helpful because it allows us to take a closer look at the connection between mental health and physical health.
There’s a reason why doctors and healthcare professionals recommend regular exercise for people with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses: it works! But, it’s also important to keep in mind that your mental health can affect your physical health too.
How does your mental health affect your physical health?
Struggling with our mental health can impact our everyday activities and thus our physical health. When we’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses, life can feel difficult and everyday tasks suddenly seem insurmountable.
Poor mental health can make it harder to want to get off the couch (or out of bed) and start working out — and that’s really just scratching the surface. When we are dealing with mental health issues, we’re often experiencing higher levels of stress, not sleeping well, and eating less healthy foods than we might normally. Fatigue is also a common “symptom” of poor mental health, as well as being less interested in things that you might normally enjoy.
The combination of these factors can make it difficult to take a shower, let alone go for a workout. This makes it extra important to find ways to support your mental health.
How does physical health affect your mental health?
Exercise is a long-recommended treatment option for people suffering from mental illnesses. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise releases endorphins, which can improve mood. Exercise can also help you get out of your head and feel your physical body. Often mental health issues cause people to feel very in-their-head and have racing and intrusive thoughts. When exercising, you’re using your whole body for the activity, which makes it easier to change focuses.
If you exercise by attending group training sessions or group fitness classes, you’re also getting the opportunity to get out of your house (which can be a huge hurdle to get over for some) and socialize. Exercising is also a healthy coping mechanism to have in your mental health toolkit. Often it is easy for people struggling with mental health to turn to drinking, drugs, or other activities that can harm both your physical and mental health.
Tips & Tricks to Support Your Mental & Physical Health
Now that you see the connection between mental health and physical health, it’s important to prioritize taking care of yourself! No matter how you are feeling, there are plenty of ways to get started with improving both your physical and mental health.
Do gentle yoga
Want to kill two birds with one stone? Gentle yoga can provide massive benefits for both your mental and physical health. In gentle yoga, you’ll stay low to the ground while you focus on breathing and easy movements. The combination of physical activity and mindfulness and meditation can be a boon to how you’re feeling and help you keep going.
Don’t have a yoga mat? No worries! Use a beach towel or blanket instead. The most important thing is just to get started, so don’t let your lack of “real” equipment get in the way.
Eat a healthy meal
Sometimes struggling with mental health means ordering from DoorDash and UberEats all day every day. Eating heavily processed and greasy foods can make us feel worse. To improve your mental and physical health, prioritize eating a healthy meal.
This could mean inviting a close friend over to help you cook or using the grocery store’s delivery service to bring you an pre-assembled or easy-to-assemble healthy meal. If you’re feeling like you’re ready to leave the house, get to the store and prioritize fresh fruits and vegetables to get some much-needed vitamins and minerals.
Go for a walk
Don’t think that you need to power walk. Instead, go on a relaxing stroll and take in the sights, smells, and sounds of your neighborhood, local park, or city. Consider inviting a partner, friend, or even a furry friend to join you on your walk for company and conversation.
Sharing moments like these with others can help us improve our mental health even more.
Get on a regular sleep schedule
Often depression and anxiety can throw our sleep schedules out of whack. When trying to improve your mental health, work on sticking to a sleep schedule where you go to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time everyday.
Not only will you be able to get more sleep, but you’ll be developing a routine to follow for your day. Use this new routine to your advantage and start going through the motions of an average day.
Get help with friends, family, and professionals
While mental health may have less stigma than ever before, making the choice to talk openly with friends and family or go to therapy is still difficult for many people.
Finding a trusted therapist can make a huge difference in your quality of life. During therapy, you’ll be able to talk about things in your life that are affecting you and how to work through different challenges that you may face.
Also remember that asking for help is not defeat. When we’re struggling, sometimes what we need most is support from others. And ZOZOFIT is here to support you along your fitness journey, no matter what your goals may be.