Hearing the words “mental health” to most people is a very scary thing and that is because mental health is said to mean one thing only, going crazy and losing one’s mind. So how can mental health really be described?

It is simply described as the state in which one’s mind is in. Are you happy, sad, afraid, unhappy and if so why?

We all at some point in our lives feel a certain way or go through certain emotions and it is the way in which our minds deal with the various emotions which determines our state of mind. Some people are stronger than others and are able to cope with certain emotions better than others.

Stress is the number one factor which contributes to our state of well-being. When we are stressed out, which is more often than we realise, especially dealing with everyday life, we are affected in unimaginable ways. There are different kinds of stressors that we go though in everyday life, the biggest being financial stress. Also, worrying about the kids and bereavement is another big one. Interestingly, I also found out that being overweight does affect your state of mind. How do we cope with this? Do we internalise it and just carry on with life? When we are under a lot of stress the body reacts in ways we cannot even begin to fathom. We go through all different kinds of emotions, so we could be very sad and your heart feels like its broken. Now, depending on what you are going through at that point in time, that may very well be true and you could actually feel like that. Some will even go as far as to say, they are depressed.

Stress can also get to such levels that it begins to affect one physically. So you might start to feel generally run down, get headaches, dizziness, unexplained pains in various parts of your body, weight gain or loss, palpitations, fear and even raised blood pressure to mention a few.

So the question is, how do we manage stress?

My one answer to this is EXERCISE. I bet you are thinking and wondering how possible is that? You will be amazed as to what benefits can be gained from exercise. No matter how small the exercise, if it done on a daily basis, you will start to see some changes.

Someone I know recently went through some really difficult times and was really stressed out, even though she did not realise it at the time. She did not realise that all the symptoms she was having all pointed at one thing, STRESS. After a series of tests which all came back negative, she was diagnosed with stress. The one advise she was given was to join a gym or exercise. At the time, she like you, asked herself, “would that really help”? But she has been amazed at the changes she has seen. We all know how difficult and expensive it is to join a gym, but that is not the only route to exercise. A mere 30 mins walk a day to begin with and you will be surprised. I know most people are thinking, “but I walk to the train station every day or to the bus stop”, but you know what, the body gets used to that routine and so that does not count as exercise anymore. You have to be able to change it up. So that extra bit of walk after dinnertime could make a big difference to your life. That extra walk at lunchtime instead of sitting at the office could help relax you. Try and push yourself to go further each day.

Another thing she also found out about was changing our diet. Yes, we hear it every day but something as simple as cutting down on carbs to say, just three times a week, makes a world of difference. Also increase your intake of vegetables and salads. Try to cut down on fats as well. So instead of frying all foods as we usually do, switch to steaming and boiling, it still tastes amazing. These are all tips that can help alleviate our stress levels.

In a nutshell, all I am saying is that exercise is amazing for our mental health. You’ll find out you do not require all those pain killers anymore. Instead stock up on some vitamins to help uplift the body. I find that anytime I feel stressed out for any reason, I usually feel better after I have gone on a run. It also helps to focus the mind. You get a boost of confidence when you lose some weight and start to feel better about yourself.