We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health.
As runners we are acutely aware of our physical health, in fact many of us run to try and improve physical health. We are aware of every niggle and knock; who hasn’t sneezed during taper week and immediately diagnosed flu and an end to racing that weekend?
As runners we take steps to protect our physical health. We warm up before we run, sometimes, and we stretch after a run, sometimes. We all have a foam roller gathering dust in a corner somewhere…at least we had the intention to use it once. We seek the counsel of others, whether the latest copy of Runner’s World or the seasoned marathon runner in our club, and ask for help to be a better runner. When we are injured we seek advice and do what we need to so that we can get back to what we love, and if we can’t do that on our own we all have a physio or sports masseuse on speed dial and throw some money at the problem to get ourselves physically healthy again.
But what of our mental health?
How many of us recognise or acknowledge when our mood changes or our perception of situations is skewed? Mental health issues run a wide range including social anxiety (perhaps avoiding a club run because you can’t handle people) and unexplainable unease. Depression is a catch-all but itself has a scale, from mild to manic, and at the extreme end we all know the effects of suicide on our population…it’s killing more young men than anything else.
There are things we can do to protect our mental health though, just as with physical health. Think of them as foam rolling for the mind. Widely regarded as the best first steps are the “Five Ways To Wellbeing”, a universally accepted guide to protecting our mental health promoted by the NHS and charities such as Mind. These can be considered the warm up and stretching of mental health, the things we can do every day to protect ourselves. I won’t repeat them now but you can see an example below and find out more here… FIVE WAYS TO WELLBEING
The other great opportunity we have for managing our mental health is running and talking, in fact, it even has it’s own hashtag. #RunAndTalk
At my club we hosted a #RunAndTalk event for World Mental Health Day and it was fab. Lots of honest conversations about lived experience, exercise as medication and how we can support each other. It was a great opportunity to break down the stigma of mental health and normalise the discussion around how we feel and how
we can feel better. It was a brilliant, unifying experience and one we will definitely be repeating regularly for the benefit of all in the club.
And remember, if things do go wrong then there are people you can reach out to for help. Consider the likes of the Samaritans and CALM as physios for the mind, it should be just as easy to call them as it would be to book a massage. If you need it to feel healthy don’t hesitate to use them.
So how do you protect your mental health as you do your physical? How does running and talking help you? Let’s start a conversation and lose the stigma around mental health. Talk to me…