Most of us will feel stressed at one time or another, but in these modern times more and more of us are suffering from stress chronically. It's not only bad for you mentally, it's bad for your physical health too. Sundried take a look at 4 easy ways to manage stress on a daily basis in order to protect your health.
1. Go hiking outdoors
Fresh air will boost your immune system and energise you with fresh oxygen. Getting a healthy dose of fresh air each day will help to combat stress and alleviate the related symptoms. People who work in office jobs tend to be chained to their desks and it can be a struggle to get any fresh air or even daylight from day to day, especially in winter. Going for a hike outdoors is a great form of exercise and can be great fun too. Not only is it good for your physical health, you'll end up finding new places and exploring parts of your local area you never even knew existing, boosting your mental health and well being too.
2. Go for a long run
Sometimes stress follows us home from work. Perhaps your stress is stemming from family or home life and you just need to get away. It's not practical to get up and run away, but going for a long solo run is the next best thing. The exercise will give you an endorphin boost and help to melt away your stress, which can harm your health if you suffer from it long term. It can also help you to manage your thoughts and process everything that's going on in your life at any given time. It'll give you time away to be alone with your thoughts and allow you to make plans and come up with ideas that you might not be able to otherwise.
3. Practice yoga
It's no secret that practising yoga and meditating is great for battling stress. It has even been found that certain types of yoga can ease the suffering of cancer patients. Taking 10 minutes out of your day to meditate and relax will do you a world of good and can be an ocean of calm in an otherwise hectic day. If you're not sure what to wear to yoga, Sundried have a handy guide you can follow. However, you don't need to go to a specific class in order to practice yoga; you can find a quiet space at home and listen to a guided meditation.
4. Make exercise fun
If your workout or training session is something you can look forward to each day, you will be more likely to stick to your training plan and not skip sessions. Having a fun and enjoyable training session planned for after work will mean you have a goal for the end of the day and something to look forward to. It may help the day go quicker and will keep your spirits high throughout the day. Participating in a group fitness class at your local gym can be a great way of meeting new people, making friends, and relieving stress at the end of a busy day. This is your time with no distractions and no one asking anything of you.
Sport brings endless opportunities to meet new people. I have been active in the running and triathlon world for a few years and now the majority of my friends are people who I have met because of something to do with sport. Relationships in life are vital in being able to maintain a healthy state of mind. Saying that, having a few close friendships is much more fruitful that having many "just friends". Personally, I have come to the realisation that these close relationships take precedence over nearly everything else in life such as money, career, and materialistic things, as for me it is the one thing which has the most significant positive effect on my mental well-being.
When it comes to sport, it is so much easier to train with other people. Some of you may not necessarily realise that a lot of the pro athletes at the Olympics are actually part of the same training groups and have the same coaches, even though they represent different countries. For example in triathlon, the same coach would coach pro athletes from a number of different countries even though these athletes then end up competing against each other. This highlights the importance of being around other people who are on the same wavelength and who understand you so that you can work together effectively.
This is good to know for us because it is so much easier for people with mental illness to get out the house and participate in sport if they have made plans with other people. It's hard to motivate yourself to go alone, so it is good to remember that even the best athletes do not live in isolation and they prefer to be around each other as it can help them to thrive. It helps them being with other people who understand the type of tough training schedules they have and can relate to how they are feeling. The same applies to everyone, especially those who suffer from depression, an eating disorder, or any other mental illness; you are stronger in numbers than you are alone.
Therefore, there is power in choosing the right people to be around. And it is also nothing to be ashamed of if you have to distance yourself from certain people who are not right for you if they work against your positive aspirations in life. Think of you, "number one", and make sure that you have good people on your side.
About the author:
Alister Brown is an athlete and coach who has been using sport to combat his own struggles with depression. Alister tells us why he feels surrounding yourself with the right training buddies can have such a positive influence on your mental health.
Any mention of mental health generally conjures up images of isolation, institutionalisation and danger to society. I want to change this.
In 2014, I suffered numerous psychotic episodes that would culminate in attempted suicide. It took me a long time to realise I had a problem but eventually I sought help from my GP and local crisis team. I confided in friends who ultimately turned their back on me and set up fake social media accounts in my persona, sending me messages of hate – all I could think about doing was taking my life to make everyone happy. After receiving various diagnoses, I started to cope with medication, therapy and comfort eating, the latter being my more destructive way of self-help. Eventually my weight skyrocketed and this was having a detrimental impact on my mental health.
In 2017, I realised that at my heaviest weight of 23 ½ stone, something had to change. I turned my attention to wanting to lose weight. With the support of my wife and whilst supporting a charity which helped to save my life, Mind, I began following slimming world which as a food lover suited me perfectly, and I started to run short distances. Just over 7 and a half months later I have lowered my weight to 16 stone, losing 7 ½ stone in the process and have started to cover larger distances.
I learned that physical exercise for myself was one of the best controls for my mental health: an outlet where I could tame the demons that follow me around every day. Now that my goal of weight loss is complete and I am using exercise to improve my mental wellbeing, I have a new challenge. I am now sharing my story to help those suffering with mental health issues to realise that “It’s okay to not be okay” and to do this I have set up my website: MentalHealthRunner.co.uk
I want to break down the mental health stigma and start conversations to prevent the hatred our community often receives. I want people to realise that 1:4 people suffer from mental health issues and many suffer in silence, feeling like they don’t have a voice and won’t be heard.
Thomas lost a huge amount of weight and uses running to help with his mental health. He talks to Sundried about life as a runner.
Have you always been into sport?
I’ve always liked sport and at one time played basketball for my local team RAF Waddington. I went onto coach an under 18 team for a year before landing my apprenticeship in mechanical engineering. I picked up running in 2013 before I developed mental health issues. I gained a lot of weight and decided to get back into running and help those suffering with mental illness, so I started my blog to discuss my own personal experiences, to help those suffering get out and get fit; and finally to keep me going!
What made you decide to become a runner?
When I was at my heaviest (23 st 6lb – 328lb) I wanted to lose weight and really enjoyed it before my mental health took a nosedive. I decided to get back into it with my wife’s encouragement and support and within 8 months I lost over 8 stone!
I love how running gives a release where I can put some music on, lace up my trainers and just run. The feeling of letting out stress, accomplishing something and having that time of personal reflection always ends my exercise feeling refreshed and happy (albeit fairly tired!)
Its also a sport which has a huge support network and can be done by almost everyone!
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
I would have to say the Liverpool Rock and Roll half and full marathon. The course is incredible with a different musician at almost every mile! The people running and spectating are massively motivational and supportive; I was even photobombed by two guys dressed as Axel rose and Slash while I had a photo on the famous Penny Lane!
And your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement would be losing a huge amount of weight to something manageable and healthy; sharing my story to help motivate and inspire those who may need it.
Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?
The toughest race I’ve completed is the Rat Race dirty weekend at 20 miles and 200 obstacles which at the time was the farthest I’ve run in a single event – never mind the amount of obstacles!
The only racing disaster I’ve had is where I got to the last obstacle, about 50 yards from the finish line, and fell off the 12 ft wall landing on my back and head.
How do you overcome setbacks?
Suffering with an anxiety disorder, PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder, it's important I keep a positive head about setbacks. Rather than dwelling on things, I put a plant together of “Okay, What can I do now then? What’s next?” The worst thing you can do is look back on it, as you’ll miss what’s coming up ahead of you.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Don’t skimp out on your footwear! And get a gait analysis!
What are your goals for 2018?
Come back after my recent ankle injury and continue to push down my personal bests in training and help and support those with mental illness to exercise and seek help.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I take my inspiration from my family. We’ve all had our own personal battles and we have always been there to love and support one another. I also take inspiration from my wife because she dedicated every minute of our relationship to supporting me and cheering me on, keeping me in line and not letting my own demons affect me.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I love how the company ethics of sustainable and responsible products are such high quality, made out of recycled materials and still so comfortable to use!
I adore my Olperer T-shirt because its so comfortable and made out of recycled coffee grounds!
Living and dealing with depression can be very lonely and it can often feel like there are limited options for help. Therapy and counselling can be expensive, so we've put together 10 ways you can battle depression from the comfort of your own home without spending lots of money.
Find 10 or 20 minutes each day where you can sit quietly by yourself and meditate. There are lots of guided meditation apps or videos you can follow which can help immensely. Removing yourself from negative situations and thoughts and replacing them with positive feelings will improve your mindset and can be your 10 minute island of calm each day. For ideas on how to fit meditation into your work day, read our article.
2. Learn how to talk to yourself.
Challenge your negative thoughts and give yourself affirmations. This can feel awkward at first, but with practice, it really starts to make a difference. Remember that a lot of the time, the way you talk to or about yourself is not how you would talk about a friend of family member. Remember that you are your own best friend, and only think about yourself in a way you would think about a good friend.
3. Vigorous exercise.
The famed "runner's high" is a real thing and it feels amazing. If you are having a particularly bad day or you have not left the house or even your bed in a while, drag yourself out for a run. It will feel awful at first and getting up to go will be tough, but once you get going you'll instantly feel better due to the endorphins.
If you can't manage a run, a brisk walk is just as good, especially if it's uphill. If you are limited on time, try our 5 minute punch bag workout to let some stress and anger out, or our 10 minute tabata workout to just exhaust yourself and take your mind off the negative thoughts or help you feel something at all. We also have a 20 minute home workout you can easily do at home if you don't fancy going outside.
A lot of the time, you'll find once you articulate your negative thoughts, they don't seem so bad. We've all had that moment when we vent to a friend and find ourselves saying "hmm it doesn't sound as bad when you say it out loud." Don't let your negative feelings manifest in your head, get them out onto a piece of paper. Write about how you're feeling, what's happened to you today, what your goals are, what you'd love to achieve. It will rationalise your thoughts and can be very useful to look back on.
5. Feel your feelings.
It can be easy to get stuck in your head and learning how/when to cry/feel angry is very healing. Find music or a film that makes you cry and let the feelings flow out, it's extremely therapeutic and cathartic.
6. Find a hobby
Picking up a hobby and finding something to focus your attention on can be a great distraction and give you something to focus on now and to set goals for the future. Try taking up a new sport or perhaps teach yourself to play a musical instrument. There are lots of resources online to help and it will give you a focus for each day.
We have a beginner's guide to skipping if you'd like an active hobby, or for something more adventurous you could try gym rings. Sundried ambassador Emma's main hobby is hula hooping which can be great fun, or perhaps something slow like yoga might be more your thing. Anything to take your mind off the negative thoughts and give you a distraction can help dramatically.
7. Face your fears
But in small, manageable doses. It can easy easy to retract into yourself and stop doing everyday activities when your depression is particularly bad. Going to the shops or even just going out into a busy place can be all it takes to raise your heart rate for the day and give you a sense of achievement once you've done it.
8. Surround yourself with positivity
Supportive people and inspirational music can make a big difference to your mindset. Don't allow negative thoughts to take over and instead fill your world with warmth and happiness. If you can, try getting a pet, as stroking a cat or dog is proven to alleviate the symptoms of depression and improve your mental health. If that's not possible, watching videos of pets online can be just as good.
9. Avoid mindless/compulsive activities
We've all heard of 'eating your feelings' and sometimes it can be all too tempting to watch endless hours of mindless TV while eating junk food. However, this will definitely make you feel worse in the long run as the additives and chemicals in the food will affect your hormones. As hard as it can be, try to stick to a healthy diet and limit TV to a couple of episodes at a time before you move onto something else, like your new hobby.
10. Take a Vitamin D supplement
In the winter especially, the effects of depression can be heightened. With very limited sunlight it's possible for those metaphorical dark days to become real ones, so boost your energy levels and mood with a Vitamin D supplement. It's proven that taking a Vitamin D supplement can improve your mental health, so research one that suits your needs and your budget and take it daily.