You all know by now that I am the first in line to shout from the hilltops about the benefits exercise has on our mental health. More and more fantastic people are talking openly about this now which I am so happy about. This morning @chrishoy1 was on BBC Radio 5 Live talking about how crucial exercise and getting outdoors is for his children’s mental health. If you have children, you will have seen what a huge difference it makes to their mood when they have been able to get outside and move their little bodies in their own way. It’s no different for us grown-ups .
Like I have said, I am so heartened to hear conversations like this. However, there is another vital aspect to this which is also worth highlighting.
Rest days. Soooooooo important! There have been times when my relationship with exercise has not been a healthy one - and it can rear it’s head every now and then when I am feeling vulnerable.
When you feel the instant and long term benefits of exercise on your mood and wellbeing - this can become a fantastic way of managing your mental health. However, this can sometimes lead to you thinking that you need exercise every/most days in order to feel ok. This is a tricky path to navigate because it can then follow that you don’t allow yourself rest. You begin to associate rest with worry, guilt, anxiety and generally unpleasant feelings - we would all want to avoid that right?
There may be many things underlying this. Exercise may become a method for avoiding certain feelings. Or you may lack confidence in yourself and feel you aren’t good enough unless you are achieving something. There may also be an unhealthy relationship with food at play - using exercise to earn food. Or any underlying mental health issues mean that sitting quietly is hugely difficult for you. Any of these examples will lead you to feel that rest is not a good thing. This can lead to over-exercise, injury, restless sleep, low mood. Not what you were aiming for right?
Not simultaneously feeling the importance of rest alongside exercise is unbalanced. Feeling that it is ok to not do anything, to jump off the hamster wheel for a while is crucial to your mental health AND the effectiveness of your exercise routine. You won’t hit your goals if you are not resting enough.
This has been and still is hard for me. At this very moment I am hoping to have a day of doing no work, no nothing. And to just be with myself. Whilst I know this is what I and my body need right now, I am also having conflicting feelings of guilt, laziness and negative body image thoughts.
However, I will power through and will “fake it till I make it”. I know this is good for me and I need to teach myself to do this.
If you are similar, then I hope you read this and take comfort in my telling you - that rest is just as important as exercise. For your health and wellbeing. You don’t have to exercise each day/most days. You don’t have to push yourself 100% each time - you can have a gentler day. For example, there are times when vigorous exercise (HiiTs) are not the best choice for you if you are feeling anxious during lockdown. Instead be open to more ways of moving your body to suit your mind.
Overall message? Listen to your body. Don’t override it. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. If this feels impossible to do then consider if you need to examine yourself some more .
Happy Friday! Ellie x
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