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


My arthritis and me …

I was diagnosed with arthritis just after my 30th birthday.

I had been involved in a couple of minor car crashes in my early 20’s which had resulted in whiplash and had suffered subsequent episodes of lower back pain and torticollis (a very stiff neck, where it gets stuck in one position)!

At the time, the recommendation was bed rest – usually two weeks bed rest accompanied by strong painkillers.  At the end of the two weeks, I was still in a lot of pain, felt depressed, had lost two weeks of pay and had no further understanding of how to prevent this occurring again.

Over the following years, I have flare ups of lower back or neck pain, again resulting in more time off work and having to rely on family and friends to help with daily chores and childcare. Then it was confirmed that I had Osteoarthritis just after my 30th birthday.

I was so worried about further flare-ups that I avoided activities which I thought might make it worse including exercise and I even changed career as I couldn’t manage some of the physical demands.

Lower back pain was my daily norm and frequent periods of my neck muscles spasming requiring strong painkillers and anti-spasmodic medication.  Again, my GP kept suggesting daily painkillers and sleeping tablets to manage the condition.

I realised that I had to take more responsibility for myself and find things that worked for me.  So, I tried a variety of different complementary therapies.  Some worked better than others but the trick seems to be regular monthly maintenance treatments to keep flare-ups at bay.

I lost some excess weight I had been carrying to take the pressure off my joints and try to limit foods which can cause inflammation.

However, the biggest change I made was to start exercising regularly!

Research was starting to suggest that weight-bearing exercise was beneficial and maintaining full range of motion of movements.

So, I tried various exercises and gyms but still didn’t stick with anything consistently.  Until I found ‘bootcamp’.

Despite being really unfit and inflexible to begin with, I persevered.  I would watch the clock intently and will it to get to the finish time, but I kept turning up.  Why?  What was so different that I kept coming back regularly?  The answer was I was having fun despite myself!

It was obvious there was people of all ages and abilities, but they all encouraged each other, and we had a laugh every session.  Everyone had exercises they found easier or harder.  Every session, I didn’t know what to expect because such a variety of exercises were used.  This meant, I couldn’t get anxious about it beforehand and just turned up.  With my various physical issues, I was given different options for each of the exercises so on a good day I could push myself but if the arthritis was flaring up, I could opt for a more manageable option.

Attending the sessions regularly, gave me the confidence to try other things.  I started a 0-5km running course, then moved onto entering 5km and 10km races.  Even entering a couple of Half-marathons and one Full Marathon.  I have also taken part in obstacle courses and proudly showed off my bruises to anyone and everyone the following day!  To me, this is my equivalent of a gold medal!

I still don’t look athletic or super-fit but my day-to-day life has improved dramatically.  Due to the increased core strength, I do not experience the debilitating back pain I used to.  The bodyweight exercises have helped me build up strength in my leg muscles which in turn mean I don’t have the knee problems I used to.

As I have a desk-bound job, attending the FUNctional Fitness sessions means I get to exercise outdoors whilst having a laugh with other like-minded people.

As I am getting older it is really important to me that I can keep taking part in all the activities I enjoy now and all the adventures we haven’t yet had including more world-wide travel and playing with our grand-children.

 

 

  1. Arthritis is painful.
  2. It may affect your spine, neck, hips, knees, hands and feet and even adversely affect your internal organs.
  3. It is a complex condition, with over 100 forms, which affects people differently.
  4. There is no cure but there are things you can do to manage the condition.
  5. There are a number of factors which can affect the condition eg the weather, your job, being over-weight or your daily routine to name but a few.
  6. Relief can be found using either hot or cold compresses or a combination of both.
  7. Although arthritis commonly occurs in the over 40’s, it can affect people of all ages including children.
  8. Arthritis accounts for one in three of all GP visits and every year millions of working hours are lost resulting in forced retirements.
  9. Injuries can aggravate the condition so ensure you have an appropriate exercise programme, for YOU, to reduce the risk of aggravating the condition.
  10. Movement can help … studies show staying physically active is THE most important thing YOU can do to help your arthritis.

 

According to NHS.UK, Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting over nine million people.

It often develops in people in their mid-40s, most commonly in women and where there is a family history of the condition. However, it can occur in any age group and be associated with other joint conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis or Gout.

Osteoarthritis affects the smooth, cartilage lining of the joint, making movement more difficult and leading to pain and stiffness. As the cartilage lining degenerates, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder. This can cause swelling and create bony spurs called osteophytes.

Severe loss of cartilage can lead to bone rubbing on bone which may alter the shape of the bones.

The most commonly affected joints are the spine, hips, hands and knees.

The weekly recommendation for aerobic exercise is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity or an equivalent combination. Ideally this should consist of 30 minutes exercise daily, which increases your heart rate, preferably with at least three 25-minute sessions at a higher intensity rate.

“Exercise is good. But exercise intelligently,” says Bashir Zikria, MD, an assistant professor of sports medicine at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore. “Low-impact exercises, are smart choices … if you do high-impact activities, avoid hard surfaces and don’t do it every day.”

Multiple studies show that mild to moderate exercise is beneficial for people with arthritis. However, everyone’s circumstances are different, so it is vital to so an individually designed exercise programme, following a thorough assessment is vital.

For arthritis sufferers it is also important to get the right balance of activities which help maintain flexibility without aggravating the condition .  An area which is often overlooked, is range-of-motion exercises.

Range of motion refers to the ability to move your joints through the full motion they were designed to achieve. These exercises include gentle stretching and movements that take joints through their full span. Doing these exercises regularly can help maintain and improve the flexibility in the joints.

For anyone over 50, regular exercise, combined with a daily regime of range of motion exercises is vital to maintain body functioning to allow you to live life to the full.

Ring Paul on 0780 0780 039 to discuss an individual exercise plan for your needs.

Depression

How many of people in the UK suffer from depression? It’s estimated that 1 in 4 of us will suffer some sort of mental health problem in our life time.

I am no specialist when it comes to depression apart from the fact that I have lived with it since my teenage years, back then though you were told to man up and get on with life, fortunately now mental health issues are understood a little more. Not by everyone though there are still those that shy away from you when you say you suffer from it.

Trust me it ain’t catching.

Got to be honest, sometimes it can be quite enjoyable seeing the world in such a different way, other times though it just crushes your soul when you slip into that pit of despair and self-loathing. The world just goes black and there is no fun, no love and no beauty to this life.

So many times I have thrown away opportunities, relationships and possessions when the darkness has taken its icy grip. There have been times when I haven’t even known that it has gripped me; it’s not been until my partner has said welcome back that I have any idea I’ve been away! My focus has just been surviving each day, coping with each little bit I can manage. When it’s like that no one else exists, it’s just me and my friend “misery”.

Don’t get me wrong, I have never stopped work or just given up and sat down all day (wanted to) that’s not me.  I have shouted and screamed that I don’t want to do what has to be done. I have had to get up and perform for my boot camps or tai chi sessions but as soon as they have finished BAM I am back on the floor, would rather do a round with Mike Tyson than be hit by this.

Thankfully there is exercise, a proven method of coping and managing depression. It’s not a magic cure. I don’t believe there is one but it is a way to deal with it.

“Research shows that exercise and physical activity can be as effective as anti-depressant medication in treating mild to moderate depression”.

I have made it quite clear to the Doctors that drugs and me are not going to work, there are other ways.

Eat the right foods, stay away from alcohol, meditate and exercise. Food and exercise are the only drugs I need.  Yeah I have tried drugs (illegal) and alcohol and they did nothing except send me over the edge and cover up the symptoms.

Also tried eating shit food, comfort eating and throwing up again, just ended up hating what I saw in the mirror each day,

When I train I am happy, life is good. It’s not a cure all but by god it lifts me up, I feel love for myself, pride in my appearance and invincible. All the things depression strips from me.

According to the Mental Health Foundation report taking part in exercise will;

Create

– less tension, stress and mental fatigue

– a natural energy boost

– improved sleep

– a sense of achievement

– focus in life and motivation

– less anger or frustration

a healthy appetite

– better social life

– fun!

There are several theories about why exercise is beneficial to mental health. These are related to biology (exercise leads to an increased release of endorphins and enkephalins), sociology (attendance enables people to build new relationships), skillmastery (exercise improves body condition and creates achievable goals), and distraction (exercise creates a diversion from a preoccupation with negative thoughts).

Signs and symptoms of depression

Tiredness and loss of energy.
Sadness that doesn’t go away.
Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.
Difficulty concentrating.
Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting.
Feeling anxious all the time.
Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends.
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
Sleeping problems – difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual.
Very strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
Finding it hard to function at work/college/school.
Loss of appetite.
Loss of sex drive and/or sexual problems.
Physical aches and pains.
Thinking about suicide and death.
Self-harm

It’s worth remembering that the foods we eat all have a major effect on our mind state, eat the wrong foods and watch your mental health deteriorate. Food can support or stress the body and mind.

Let’s not forget many of our modern day diets are lacking in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) from intense farming, foods being held in warehouses for long periods of time and through being highly processed.

To redress the balance there needs to be a focus on foods that support and heal the functions of the body and mind, foods that develop neurotransmitters (serotonin and noradrenalin being the main imbalance in those of us who suffer).

The obvious choices are wholesome, natural foods as we were intended to eat, water, nuts and seeds, oily fish, healthy lean proteins, fruits and vegetables alongside wholegrain foods.

These are foods the body recognises; they help support, regulate and maintain the body’s equilibrium.

It seems obvious then that the danger foods are sugar, dairy, processed foods, cakes, pastries and sweets, along with drinking alcohol, coffee and sugary drinks. All of these help to stimulate and unbalance the mind.

Even so it is noted that when depressed we reach for these very foods, foods that exacerbate the problem, foods that we know can harm us in more ways than one.

Recognise the self-destruct mode?  Shove those biscuits and cakes down your throat, feel the guilt, hurt your mind and body some more, feel a little more hate towards yourself, fuel that fire. Watch your stomach swell, fat start to accumulate around your arms, legs and in in your face. Feel the despair, the anger the hatred towards yourself for letting this happen and yes, that’s right feed it some more, slip into that downward spiral that all-consuming pit.

Does have to be this way? NO

Avoid the danger foods or consume limited quantities, eat natural foods.  Exercise, talk and destress yourself. It isn’t going to cure you but it will help manage the problem.

For more information check out;

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/

Or

www.mentalhealth.org.uk