Recently, someone asked me why I thought I was qualified in training people with mental health issues? Well, here’s the thing.  Besides the fact that I am seven months into a year-long Mental Health Exercise coaching course, I live with the big black hairy dog every single day of my life. I think that alone qualifies me in dealing with issues, especially as I have survived over 40 plus years of it.

Recently, my mental health has taken a dive and apart from using exercise and routine to manage my health, I have taken up drawing since the New Year. This drawing I did of Carnage represents how I feel about my inner gremlin or black dog, call it whatever you will!

A lot of the time I suffer in silence as I don’t like to burden others with my stuff and to be honest, I don’t have many people in my life that understand this BS. That is one of the reasons I jumped at the chance of doing the course I am on, the need to be there for others that need a safe place to train and talk, to provide some sort of empowerment.

Back to the point though, shit happens.  Recently my life had felt quite calm, and the dog left me (it’s such a relief when its gone) and I have felt like I have so much to look forward to, especially with a grandchild on the way (me a granddad – I was sure I was going to be dead by the time I was 23)!

Last week though the first signs of it coming back hit me.  I went through all my usual routines to manage my mind and my mood lifted.  It helped that I went to see Russell Brand in the week and being with other like-minded people and having a good laugh lifted me right back up there.

Then this week happened.  I was tired and run down.  Clients were messing me around dropping out of sessions, so my routine went by the wayside. During my own training session, I suddenly had the feeling of wanting to just curl up and die, to end it all.  I felt sick and tired of dealing with the dog and being in the pit of despair. I have no idea why it hit me then, but I put pen to paper and wrote down whatever came out of my head (which one of the many voices was it speaking today, what a nutter), put it down and went back to training.

After finishing what I was doing, I wrote again and this time I flipped it over and spat out positive self-affirmations. It didn’t go away but I felt better for it. I carried on with my day until my evening clients arrived for group PT, I put the mask on and did what I do best and acted as if.  Phew I got away with it again.  No one knew I was in pain. When I finished I was exhausted. Next day was a 5am and I felt like a different person; happy, confident and on top of it.

I have no idea why I am writing this other than to say we all suffer; even successful business people and athletes go through negative thoughts and depression and there is no magic cure (I wish there was). For me exercise, meditation, writing and gratitude have helped. I was always a functioning alcoholic and the same with regards my depression. I still show up and put the work in be that working for my clients, my family, or my own self-care. I have my non negotiables that I refuse to move for anyone, they keep me sane (I use this term lightly of course).

I am a million miles from ever being cured from this BS, but I manage it to the best of my ability. Some things work for me others do not, but I keep trying to improve myself and learn each day. The feeling of loneliness never goes away even when I am with the people I love and that hurts but I know they are there.

Don’t be alone, find someone to talk to find a routine to help you manage. If nothing else get out of your bed, make it, and take it from there, small things lead to greater things.

Love and peace

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. During this time millions of people, from around the world, will be fighting the stigma against mental illness, educating the public, and sharing their stories.

Yes, I am one of those people.

With so many people suffering, it is important to recognise and understand mental health and the impact it has on you and those around you.

We can’t predict the future, so how can we best prepare ourselves to face challenges as they come our way? There are so many ways to build mental strength, here are just some ideas that work for me:

EXERCISE – Exercising regularly can be one of the most amazing mental strength builders. Whether you prefer group exercise or exercising alone, it is the habit of turning up consistently and regularly and doing something physical which in turn releases our positive hormones.

READING – spending quality time reading, reflecting, and simply escaping the busyness of the day is a proven way to quieten your brain.

REFLECTION, MEDITATION, MINDFULNESS – whatever works for you, but the act of pausing is an amazing doubt reliever and leaves you feeling spiritually nourished.

NUTRITION – getting healthy nutrients into your body to fuel your energy level is one of the most important things you can do to stay strong.  Try to avoid going too long without eating as this can negatively affect your mood.

FAMILY & FRIENDS – spending time with people you love allows you to reset your priorities and see things more clearly. Yes, I know some days you cannot see the wood for the trees and no matter who you are with you feel so alone.

GRATITUDE – practicing gratitude and staying positive in the moment is a de-stressor and fills our head with good thoughts. I do my gratitude every evening and sometimes I am just grateful to be alive.

SLEEP – we all need our rest, and sometimes in the most challenging of times, we get less because we are worrying about everything and nothing which has a negative effect on the one essential thing we need to function well each day. Aim for 6-8 hours of quality sleep and try to develop a positive sleep hygiene routine.

Today, we have the challenge of letting doubt and fear seep into our daily lives. All around us, we are under attack – our jobs, our kids, our family, our friends, and society at large. We are surrounded by noise of one kind or another. We hear more about the bad that can happen or is happening than the good.  The exercises above are just some ways that we can work daily to overcome the fear and negativity that is being thrown our way.

This month, I challenge you to a few things:

  • Reflect on what you do daily to overcome fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
  • Share those exercises with someone in your life, it might help them.
  • Go into situations with an open mind. You never know what might be happening in someone’s life so be understanding. It’s a fact that those of us suffering will always say we are fine. Think before you speak.
  • Take the time to learn something new about mental health and how it is impacting your community.