If this were a physical workout what is the first thing you would do?
You wouldn’t just grab some weights and start pumping away. Ideally you would look for guidance on how to start from someone who has the experience to help you create and maintain your goals. Hopefully they’d be someone you could trust and who would look after your best interest.
Physically that usually comes in the form of a personal trainer or group fitness teacher. For your mental health that comes in the form of a therapist, counsellor or a safe reflective space you can share with another person.
Therefore, comparable to embarking on a physical fitness journey, having someone or somewhere or someone that helps you to help yourself and checks in with you each week is where we shall start on Your Mental Health Workout journey.
Workout number one is simple:
1 x Therapeutic space per week – your psychological personal training.
Because mental health is something that we can’t see, unlike physical health even the most consistent of us might not be able to visualise and tangibly understand the changes in our mental health whilst sitting in our therapeutic space or working on our mental health alone. So, how do we get an accurate reading for where our minds are at? What evidence can we use to help us get a reading or insight? The answer, although ultimately accessible within yourself, can be easier to get to when we allow others to act as mirrors and help you check your form and technique. Think about this workout as a way of checking the form and technique you’ve been working on in your theraputic space.
Social events not only act as a diagnostic tool, they also give you an opportunity to work on your self-esteem, practice boundaries and challenge unhelpful developments in your ego. They help you figure out where your vulnerabilities are and what you need to focus on. They can draw your attention to what you need to reflect on in therapy and most importantly will hold you accountable to others and keep you responsible and committed to yourself.
2 x Social Events per week – your form and technique check-in.
Cardiovascular exercise consistently comes out on top as a way to manage mental health hygiene and help stabilise your mood. Exercise can, in fact, be as good an intervention for mental health difficulties as time-limited psychotherapy.
When you exercise your biochemistry fires off in a way that allows you to reduce psychological pain and promote happy feelings. In this space you are more able to process challenging emotional events and receive positive messaging about yourself, thus adjusting those negative core beliefs. It also increases your capacity to remember things and acts as an excellent relapse prevention tool.
In addition, exercise has a direct effect on your relationship with your body. When you exercise out of love for yourself you give your body the message that you care for it and do not want to punish or harm it. Excellent for those working on body image issues.
3 x 30 minutes per week of cardio vascular exercise.
Self-Care as a mental health workout comes in two parts, 2 x EXTERNAL self-care, and 2 x INTERNAL self-care per week:
External self-care activities are the things that make you feel nice, the treats, the pampering, the time out, etc. All these things give you an opportunity to self soothe and reset your nervous system. Stopping here only gives yourself the message that something external will fix what is bothering you. Use external self-care to create the space and time for you to also do the internal work.
Internal self-care involves listening in to yourself, being honest, brave and kind, changing the way you talk to yourself when you make mistakes and forgiving yourself for the things you have done in an attempt to cope.
Using self-care as a tool gives you the message that you are worthwhile and therefore helps improve self-esteem from within.
4 x 30 Self-Care per week.