E is for Exercise

This blog is originally from The Pandora Box Gift Company, A-Z on mental health series

There are a few things we can try to do to keep our mind and body in shape and exercise is definitely one of them. Not only does it give you something to do, it gives your mind a rest, gives you targets that you set and achieve and after a workout you get a release of some lovely endorphins that can help boost your mood, even if it’s just for a little while. Do it regularly and exercise is a great way to keep you healthy and give your life a simple routine.

There’s so many different aspects and ways to exercise, it’s hard to not find something that you might enjoy. I’ve gone through different types of sports and activities that I’ve tried in the past or am currently attempting. There’s also links to websites that have great information about the different types of exercise and challenges that give you something to train and aim for. Having that challenge as an end goal gives you something to focus on and an excuse to keep going, even when you don’t feel like it.

Walking

Going for a walk is great if you need some space or time out to think things through. It doesn’t require much preparation to do it, just some comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing for the weather. You’d be surprised what you can find when you walk around your neighbourhood.

Thinking of going for longer walks? Walking for 6-7 hours is a great way to pass the day, especially when the weather is great. To do this you will need some walking boots and walking sticks to help you get further. I did some long walks in preparation for a 100km walking challenge and found that it was a great thing to do on a day off. It got me out of the house and made me feel like I was achieving something.

Challenges to train for:

100km London2Brighton challenge: http://www.london2brightonchallenge.com/

Thames Path Challenge (Anywhere from 25 to 100km): http://www.thamespathchallenge.com/

Running

I’m not much of a runner myself, but I have to admit after doing it for a couple of months it does get quite therapeutic. There’s always the point you reach a couple of minutes after starting where your mind and body just want to quit. Once you learn to get past that point you start to relate the same things to your mood. You learn that with the right thoughts and determination eventually you can get over something or push through it. Running takes a bit more preparation. You need trainers and clothes that you don’t mind sweating in and a good idea of the route you want to take (or a gym with a treadmill!). I find it’s a lot easier to run when you know where you want to go. It’s very easy to constantly stop and take unnecessary breaks when you don’t know where you’re going.

Websites to help:

Couch to 5k is a great way to get into running if you’ve not tried it before or have tried but failed (like me!): http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.aspx

Challenges to train for:

5 or 10km run: http://raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org/index.html

Fancy running 26 miles? The London Marathon: https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/

Weight training

I am loving doing a bit of weight training! I’ll be honest, the idea of doing it used to scare me and I was put off by going into “that” section of the gym because I found it quite intimidating. Lucky for me I have a gym buddy that makes me feel confident enough to go in there. Over the past three months I have been slowly increasing the amount I can lift, and with that I’m getting stronger and can do things that I couldn’t previously, (Press ups! Woop). Not only do you increase your strength but it’s also a great cardio workout as well. To get into it, I started doing bicep curls with quite a small weight that I found easy to handle and then branched out onto the different weight training machines at the gym and other exercises that use dumbbells.

Websites to help:

Bodybuilding.com has great tutorials on which exercises you need for what you want to achieve as well as introductions to weight training and how to do it. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/training.html

This website provides great pictures on how to do different exercises: http://www.weight-training-exercises.com/

Challenges to train for:

5k Pretty Muddy: http://raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org/types-of-event/pretty-muddy/index.html

Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest: http://www.mhsurvival.co.uk/

Tough Mudder: https://toughmudder.co.uk/

Kickboxing

Something that I definitely need to get back into and would recommend to everyone. Kickboxing is great if you need to release some stress or anger. It’s great fun and a great workout that helps with your co-ordination, strength and confidence. You may be surprised just how good you feel after hitting those pads!

Cycling

Good for those whose knees are a bit weak or want strong leg muscles! I’ve had to do a lot of cycling to make my legs stronger to help my knees out. You can choose to go on a nice long cycle on a low gear with minimal effort, or you can go on a quick cycle on a much higher gear for an intense workout. If you cycle outside, it’s a great way to find some excellent places that you may not have known about before. Inside the gym, I find it’s a great as a warm up for the session ahead or a nice place to read a book whilst you go on a slow long cycle.

Challenges to train for:

Coast to Coast: http://www.globaladventurechallenges.com/uk/uk-coast-to-coast-cycle/

London to Paris: http://london2paris.co.uk/

Obviously the list of exercises don’t end there and there are plenty of other challenges available. If you’re thinking of starting something new, look up information about the local area. You’d be surprised how many sports groups and activities take places. One great website that connects people with other like minded people is http://www.meetup.com/. Once you sign up you have access to a wide variety of activities and sporting agendas!

If you’re looking for a gym to go to, I recommend The Gym , http://www.thegymgroup.com/. You can either buy a day pass for around £6 or join for a monthly fee. For me they were the cheapest I could find, open 24 hour and you can freeze your monthly payments if you’re running low on cash.

If you’re feeling anxious about going to a new place, try taking someone you know along with you. If you can’t find someone, don’t worry. Lots of people go by themselves and feel anxious about it but after a while you will wonder why you ever had a problem as you start to fit into the routine of going. So, what are you waiting for 🙂

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C is for Christmas

– This post was taken from the blog from The Pandora Box Gift Company’s A-Z on Mental Health series –

Christmas, other holidays or special events can be great. They bring people together, they’re full of fun and activities and they give us something to look forward to. However there is another side to it all. Special events and holidays can prove to be tough on your mental health in multiple ways. We’ve listed how holidays and special events can effect your mood and how to help yourself.

Added pressure

There can be a lot of extra pressure placed on someone around a special event which can lead to extra stress and anxiety or increase different aspects of poor mental health. This can come from organising and bringing people together or trying to make sure that nothing goes wrong on the day.

Tips to help:

  1. Organise everything into lists: Make sure that you put only attainable goals on daily lists and place them in order of importance. Sometimes the best thing to do is to put lots of little tasks that you know you will definitely get done amongst other larger tasks. This way you’re guaranteed to complete some tasks and make you feel like you’re getting somewhere.

  2. Take some time for yourself: Make sure that you set time aside for yourself within your schedule. Take a bath and relax, read a book somewhere quiet or just take some time to chill out in front of the TV.

  3. Get enough sleep! Make sure that you get as much sleep as you need. Not getting enough sleep will leave you more susceptible to poor mental health.

Guilt

When your mental health is poor in the holidays it can lead to feelings of guilt and frustration. You may start to ask yourself why you can’t just be as happy as everyone else around you and why you can’t enjoy an event that is meant to be fun. You may also find that you get constant questions from those around you if everything is OK or your self confidence drops because you don’t feel like you’re ready to socialise.

Tips to help: Just remember that it is not your fault that you’re feeling this way. Unfortunately poor mental health doesn’t go away just because it’s Christmas or someone’s birthday. Relax, and tell yourself that you don’t have to force yourself to be as happy and cheery as everyone around you. As long as you try and make yourself feel the best you can feel at the time, it is fine. If that means taking some breaks away from the celebrations, writing feelings down or excusing yourself early, so be it.

Loneliness

Sometimes your situation means that you won’t have people to meet with when it seems like everyone else does. Or you have people to meet with but you feel disconnected and lonely even though you’re in a crowd of people.

Tips to help: If you find yourself alone during the holidays read this great guide by Stand Alone, a charity that help those estranged from their families and communities.

http://standalone.org.uk/guides/festive-guide/

If you’re feeling lonely when you find yourself amongst a crowd try writing these thoughts and feelings down. It’s a great way to try and establish why you’re feeling lonely, whether it’s the company around you or whether it’s your mental health. If you feel comfortable and confident, reach out to someone around you. Let them know how you’re feeling.

Alcohol

When it comes to celebrating, alcohol sometimes plays a major role and we can get caught up in the celebrations and overindulge. Alcohol is a depressant and can effect your mood, causing swings or susceptibility to a decline in mental health.

Tips to help: If you find yourself in a position where the alcohol is constantly flowing, make sure that you limit yourself and consider how much you can handle. Consider drinking only one or two drinks a day with meals and make sure that you have plenty of water and other soft drinks throughout the day as well.

***This advice is not for anyone whose medication states that they shouldn’t drink alcohol. If this is the case we suggest indulging in some of the many tasty non-alcoholic versions or drinks or making some lovely juices, smoothies or virgin cocktails. ***

Lack of exercise

When you’re busy getting together with people or resting for the holidays, exercise can be the last thing on your mind. Whether you have a usual exercise routine or never consider it, the holidays can be a great time to do some casual exercise.

Tips to help: Make sure you get a little walk in every couple of days. If you have people round or are meeting in a group, it may be a great time to suggest group sports or exercise. You’ll be surprised how many people may miss being active over the holidays or would love to do a bit of group sports!

We believe that if we all look out for how the holidays can effect our mental health, we can help each other and ourselves and reduce the effect that they have on us. Look out for our Christmas campaign that launches November 25th! It’s all about making sure we take extra special care of ourselves and others over Christmas.

Want to read more blog posts like this one? Go to http://www.thepandoraboxgiftcompany.com/#!blog/czwt. Don’t forget to also check out the range of Gift Boxes, Postcards and Greeting Cards that have all been designed for people with poor mental health. http://www.thepandoraboxgiftcompany.com/#!gift-boxes/c3yu