Why talk about Chronic Fatigue?

Today let’s talk a bit about chronic fatigue, what it is and how you can manage it. We spoke to Dan Thompson from Southend Acupuncture to hear his perspective on chronic fatigue and how you can include acupuncture and exercise in your routine to help with symptoms. Chronic Fatigues is very akin to Long Covid and many of the things that help chronic fatigue also have been found to help Long Covid.

I burned out in 2011. When I came back to work I knew I was really struggling to concentrate, but I did not know why. I felt tired and really struggled to concentrate. Luckily the works doctor spotted that all was not well and sent me to St Thomas Hospital for an assessment. I had a chronic fatigue syndrome called Fibromyalgia. Finally everything I was feeling made sense. From here I embarked on a journey of discover, recovery and resilience.

What is chronic fatigue?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a long-term illness and is very common. There is an estimated 250,000 people who are affected by chronic fatigue syndrome in the UK alone. It usually develops between the ages of 20-40, and it is recognised more in women. It is recognised by a case of extreme tiredness that is not relieved through bed rest and is not related to any underlying medical condition. Although the main symptom is fatigue, that isn’t the only common symptom. Other symptoms can include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Brain fog
  • Pain in joints and muscles
  • Headaches
  • Sleeping problems such as insomnia
  • Extreme tiredness

A range of different symptoms means there is no one way to treat or manage chronic fatigue, it cannot be generalised. It is very different for each individual, therefore dealing with the symptoms needs a flexibility and combination of things in order to help with the illness.

How can you manage chronic fatigue?

When figuring out the best solution to dealing with chronic fatigue symptoms, there are a lot of factors to think about. You must of course take into consideration your nutrition and diet, hereditary factors, constitutional factors and emotional factors. These all contribute to long term chronic fatigue syndrome. Additionally, trauma can be a trigger. Trauma triggers a physical response, and this can result in your body going into a fight or flight response.

When dealing with a negative emotion or unresolved trauma, our bodies will naturally go into a fight/flight state. This is where the sympathetic nervous system is triggered, starting a whole host of chain reactions throughout the body. The brain sends a trigger through the nervous system and our adrenal gland will produce adrenaline and noradrenaline. This can induce an increased heart rate, muscle tension, sweating and shallow breathing. These responses are actually vital to how we learn to cope with uncomfortable or negative situations. The fight or flight response is part of our body telling us when we are in danger and preparing us to act on it. We tend to react with the options of fleeing, freezing or fighting, hence the name “fight or flight.”

However, our body cannot always tell when a threat is real or not, so even if there is not any actual danger we still respond in this way. Some people have a little more sensitivity to these situations, such as those with anxiety, PTSD or in this case, Chronic Fatigue Sydrome, which is why the fight or flight response is triggered more than usual.

How can acupuncture help?

Acupuncture can actually help regulate your fight or flight. By putting a needle into the right pressure point it triggers our rest response right away (The opposite of fight or flight). By having regular treatments to help regulate the fight or flight, your body will soon start regulating your other organ functions and bringing a natural order of health. It improves your sleep pattern, energy and also your mindset. By having a healthy mindset you gain more clarity and focus, and in turn brings that back to you wanting to do more exercise despite feeling like you couldn’t due to chronic fatigue. By opting to do acupuncture and exercise regularly your metabolism improves, making you want to eat the right food. All of these are subtle changes that day to day will push you towards feeling better.

Treatment is carried out with Acupuncture, based on the symptoms that are demonstrated. The needles will be used at different points at different times based on presentation, and, as all symptoms can present themselves differently, they will be used whenever or wherever required during the session.

What exercise can you do?

As muscle pain and joint pain are present in chronic fatigue, doing muscle or joint heavy exercise probably not possible. Start by walking, and it doesn’t have to be a mile long walk every day. Maybe start out with a walk around the block at first depending on how you feel! A couple of days later you could go a little further. The more you do it the better you will feel. But remember not to push yourself too far, you do not want to hit that wall of tiredness again. It is your personal journey, it is up to you to find your limits and have total control over feeling better.

For someone with chronic fatigue, just simply getting out of bed can feel too difficult. But once you do, and you take that first step to becoming more active you will feel a whole lot better. It is entirely possible to do that, and once you start to do more physical things such as walking on a regular basis, you will notice the increase in energy and motivation that you have.

What about Pilates or Somatic Movement?

I tried Pilates. It is a gentle form of exercise that can help the pain in the joints and muscles. I started slowly at first, and to be honest it really did not feel like I was doing much. Pilates is a very deep muscles level exercise but this only really becomes apparent as you become more connected with your body and more experienced at the movements.  The more I did the better I felt, the better I felt the more I did. More recently I discovered Somatic Movement and have chosen Somatic as the movement that I teach others. It is absolutely fantastic at helping regain control of the body and dissipate stuck stress.

It’s important to remember that chronic fatigue does not come on overnight, and neither does recovery. It will take time to recover, it is a marathon not a sprint! As long as you are feeling like you are on the right track to feeling better in yourself then you are on the right track. Just take one step at a time!

Thank you to Dan Thompson from Southend Acupuncture for sharing his expertise with us. If you would like to know more about acupuncture and Chinese medicine, you can visit Dan’s website or contact him here.

Over the course of six blogs we are looking at Menopause. Why? Because so many women go through it, without understanding the changes, and how they can manifest. I was diagnosed with burnout back in 2011. I realise, with hindsight, that menopause was a major contributing factor to my symptoms and mental state. Are you in a similar situation? You can have a much better transition if you have a better understanding of menopause. You can learn to work with your body and find our personal path. I wish I knew then what I know now, and I wish I had met Sarah when I first started experiencing symptoms. My experience would have been very different. Your experience, if you are not post menopause already, still can be.

How should we deal with stress during menopause and what are the effects it has on symptoms? We spoke to natural menopause expert Sarah Davison to understand what menopause is, how to prepare for it and how to manage symptoms.

Why is menopause so stressful?

Menopause can be a very stressful time in a womans life. Coping with all of these mental, emotional and physical changes is difficult enough. It is not just the transition through menopause that is stressful. Menopause comes at a time in your life when you have a lot of stress for other reasons.

At the age when menopause hits there are also a lot of other factors contributing to how we deal with it.  Women do it all. We have children, raise them and care for them. We have to deal with the stress and loss of them leaving home when the time comes. Some women have children later on in life, so can you imagine dealing with young children and perimenopause at the same time? Another responsibility that seems to naturally fall on women at this age besides looking after children, is the possibility of looking after sick or dying parents or relatives. As you could imagine, or even have experienced, all of these responsibilities weighing on you can be overwhelming. Especially if you’re trying to balance work too!stress

Did you know that certain other organs besides the reproduction ones also have a part to play in menopause? As your ovaries are slowing down the production of progesterone and oestrogen, your adrenal glands (that produce the stress hormones) take over and produce those hormones. Your body is designed for survival, and will always put that first above anything else. This means that while your adrenal glands are producing a lot of stress hormones they can’t produce a sufficient amount of sex hormones.

So there is an overlap between symptoms of adrenal fatigue, which results from chronic stress, and symptoms of perimenopause. Such as exhaustion, depression, weight gain, insomnia, low sex drive, digestion problems and back pain.

Managing stress

There are plenty of ways to manage stress, even in menopause, such as simple breathing exercises or meditation. It’s also a good idea to make sure your body is getting the right nutrition. This is different for everyone. Find a nutritional specialist if you need help finding out what is right for you. Perhaps monitor how much sugar you are consuming, and get a sufficient amount of protein.

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. However, if you overdo exercise you can release too much cortisol. Hard exercise is not for those with adrenal fatigue – it will make it and your menopause symptoms worse! Everything in moderation. Go for moderate exercise. Make sure you do something you love too. It can be a nice walk, a bit of gardening,  or maybe dancing is more you groove? Anything that gets you moving on a regular basis.

Thank you to Sarah Davison for the contribution and information. Sarah can be reached at

Sarah offers a free perimenopause assessment that allow you to check how many of the 49 possible symptoms you have. Click here to take the assessment. You do not have to suffer alone!

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring the other elements of menopause.

  • Taboo and Ignorance
  • Natural VS HRT
  • Menopause in the Workplace
  • The Hidden Gift of Menopause



Why exercise?

Today let’s take a look at exercise and how it can benefit your mental health and wellbeing.

Many people reading this are under lockdown due to Covid-19, and let’s face it, exercise can be a challenge. Dashing around people, motivation, missing the sports and gym. But we all know it’s good for us don’t we!! Finding a way to keep up the exercise is a must and for many people is a first, forced by the need to just get out of the house. I do hope that those that have just started will keep it.

Well if you need to change it up for a variety or just want some fresh ideas here are a few.

1. Cardio and Aerobic Exercise

Make exercise fun

Make exercise fun

Cardio exercise is about increased heart rate, while aerobic exercise entails increasing oxygen intake. However, many activities achieve both of these at once. So how can you incorporate running, jogging, walking, bicycling, swimming, gardening or dancing into your routine and why is it good for your mental health?

All of these are things you can do right now. Well, maybe a little chilly for swimming. The sea is still a ways to go to warm up enough for most people. You know the saying, dance as though no one is watching.  Even in the smallest space, you can turn up the volume on your favourite jam and dance around the room. Maybe with headphones on if you want it really loud or you live with others.

Cardio and aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce both anxiety and depression by doing the following:

  • Increasing blood flow to the brain
  • Endorphins are released into the body, helping reduce pain and improve mood
  • Positively affecting parts of the brain that impact motivation

Getting outside is excellent for your mental health in a variety of ways. It’s surprising how a gentle stroll surrounded by nature can give you a completely new perspective. Sometimes it’s simply the change of scenery that helps. Here are some reasons why getting outside is beneficial for the mind as well as the body.

Vitamin D

Make exercise fun

Make exercise fun

According to Public Health England, adults and children over the age of 1 should have 10 micro-grams of vitamin D every day. Getting outside in the sunlight will give you a much-needed vitamin D boost. Vitamin D is connected to your mood, and if you’re lacking in it, your mood may be affected.

There’s a reason why people feel happier in the sun because it can really improve your mood. So, if you look outside and the sun is shining, like today, pop out for a bit to soak up some rays (but make sure you protect your skin with sunscreen, even at this time of year you can still burn and remember to moisturise the skin afterwards). We are allowed now!

The fresh air helps too. Fresh air helps to send plenty of oxygen through the blood and allows your lungs to work at full capacity. Plus, oxygen to your brain = more brainpower.

My husband and I have taken up running here and there but walking is our favourite at the moment.  It is amazing what beautiful places we have discovered on our own doorstep that we did not know were there.  Normally we would drive somewhere like RHS Wisley.

High Intensity

Simple High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is also possible at home. Great for a quick workout with maximum benefit. There are lots of different ideas available but I have found one of the simplest and most effective was one promoted by Dr Michael Mosely on his Truth About Getting Fit series:

2. Strength Training

If you go to the gym regularly you are probably, like me, missing it a lot.  You already know that high you get from a good workout. Of course, a stronger body helps release muscle tension, increases strength and helps reduce pain. There are some simple exercises you can do at home to increase strength that are good for beginners and advanced alike.  Try Yoga or Pilates. There are many online resources you can accessand apps you can download. Also, many gyms and gym instructors are providing virtual classes via zoom. That way you can still get the personal support and have your posture checked.

Many of us are sitting a lot more than normal. Working from home brings many challenges. Are you sitting on uncomfortable for long hours? Are screens are ergonomically placed?  This is leading to stiff back and back and neck pain. Targeting the muscles with strenth exercise will help, either more traditional strength training or postoral based training.

I love Somatic movement for reducing tension and relaxing the body after sitting at my desk but I still do some pilates and yoga moves as well.  I love variety. What is your preference? I also take a break every hour and move around. This is also good practive.  Pain and tension will reduce your ability to focus.  Most people can only focus for a maximum of 90 minutes, so take a break before you max out.

Not to worry if you dont have any equiment at home.  A tin of beans can double as a light weight for many exercises. There are also many cheap items that can help, like exercise bands to provide resistance. Have a look on your tube too for inspiration.

3. Flexibility and Stretch

Flexibility is good for overall health and is achieved through stretching.  The jury is out about whether to do this before exercise and after, however every training instructor will advise you to stretch to release tension.  Performing stretches on a regular basis may improve your circulation. Improved circulation increases blood flow to your muscles, which can shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness.

Hopefuly I have inspired you.  I am remember an old TV show that was on when I was a child.  “Why Don’t You!”

Why Don’t You? or Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?


How important is your health to you, more specifically your physical health? Now what do we mean by physical health? Well physical health means that you’re free from illness or injury.

Physical health is critical for overall wellbeing. Some of the most obvious and serious signs that we are unhealthy appear physically. Addressing physical health is crucial for sustaining overall health and wellbeing.

While physical health consists of many components, here is a brief list of the key areas that should be considered:

  • Physical activity – includes strength, flexibility, cardio vascular and endurance
  • Nutrition and diet – includes nutrient intake, fluid intake, and healthy digestion
  • Rest and sleep – includes periodic rest and relaxation, along with high quality sleep
  • Hydration – keeping the body hydrated with fluid

Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.

Physical activity

Most healthy people should be active on a daily basis. This should be a mix of both leisurely physical activity and structured exercise. Examples of leisurely physical activity include gardening, housework, hiking, biking, dancing and walking. Examples of more structured forms of exercise include strength training, running, and swimming.

If you are new to exercise then do find someone that can help you plan a routine that is good for you.

The best form of exercise is the one that you enjoy doing.  Nutrition and diet

A well-balanced diet should contain carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Hydration is a key component of physical health and mental acuity and should be. Water should be consumed throughout the day. Meals should be regular and portion sizes should be sensible. Restriction of sugar is recommended and consumption of food in it natural form rather than processed.

And it can be quite hard, when you’re feeling stressed, to think about eating healthy. You just want the quick hit; you just want something to be easy. It can be quite difficult to look after your physical health when you’re in a high-stress work environment, but when you’re highly stressed, that’s when you really think about good nutrition and getting exercise and fresh air. That is what will support you back to balance.

If you are really busy then one of the best things you can do is sit down and plan your meals.  Maybe cook several meals on the weekend that you can take out the fridge or freezer and reheat. It helps move you towards a healthy diet.  Also, plan your breakfast and maybe think about things that you can prepare the night before. Keep it simple.

Like everything, experiment, have fun, find out what works best for our body, whether that is a high protein diet, vegan, high fibre, etc.

Rest and sleep

Too little sleep has the same influence on brain as too much alcohol.  You can end up feeling groggy and have trouble co-ordinating and concentrating.

While regular activity is essential for physical health, allowing the body to rest is just as important. Spending time relaxing or taking short naps can help rejuvenate the body. Sleep should take place in a quiet, dark environment and should last approximately 7-9 hours. Sleep, quality as well as quantity is really important.


Hydration is important for the body to function. Lack of hydration affects mood, energy levels, reaction time, memory, co-ordination. Make sure you drink water or eat foods that also hydrate you.

Making Changes

Massive action can feel overwhelming. Making small changes are much easier to manage and will help you towards your health goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, 80% of your results will come from making just 20% of the changes. Reducing sugar is key change. Make some small changes to your sugar intake. If you want to improve your fitness get  off the train or bus a stop early and walking a little each day. You will be amazed at how invigorated you feel.

“Uninterrupted sitting constitutes a substantial risk to physical and mental health,” according to a study by Dr Alexander Mussap. Take regular breaks and walk around.  Get out in the fresh air if you can. It will help you feel energised, help you sleep better and help improve your mood.

Focus on building up fluid intake slowly too.  If you are not used to hydrating throughout the day, then it is a bit like watering a flower pot that the soil has dried up.  It just goes right through the pot! Taking electrolyte hydration can help the body absorb fluid and rehydrate the body.

Remember, progress not perfection is key!

Written by Alison Charles and Reyhana Jano


Volunteering helps Build Emotional Wellbeing

Did you know that volunteering has considerable benefits for helping manage you emotional wellbeing and good mental health.  It can also help give direction and meaning when perhaps it might be lacking.  When you volunteer you can utilise skills you have already to help others learn, develop and grow.  For example our Soroptimist Club in Cambridge serves cookery lessons at Whitworth house.

When you are in a high pressure, busy job I do know that you might think I am bonkers to think that you might find the time.  Think of this though, what if, one a month you gave up just 1 hour of your time to help someone else?  Doable?  Probably.

I have been volunteering for Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland for 4 years now.  It is incredibly rewarding.

Soroptimist International was founded in California in 1921 with the specific aim of transforming the lives of women and girls worldwide through education, empowerment and opportunities, has a membership of 8000 in the UK.

Those of you that know me, know that I was, myself, off with stress related illness back in 2011.  volunteering was one of the best things I ever did.  It got me out of my own head and helped me focus on the wider world again.  It also helped put a bad day into perspective.

What about joining your local Soroptimist Group?

Our East London Soroptimist Club supports the Kori Project is Sierra Leone.  It is just one of the projects we support.  Supporting projects both at home and abroad broadens our horizons.   We are particularly delighted with the water pump we paid for, (see picture below) which now reduces cases or water borne diseases.  If you want to know more come to a speech I am doing in London on 20th July.  Details and links are below.

I have been so amazed by this organisation I wanted to be more involved to in October 2016 I became President of the London Anglia Region of Soroptimist International

You can find out more about Volunteering and Women: Engineers of Change at a talk I am doing this month on Thursday 20th July

Volunteering helps develop new skills and improves job/promotion prospects

Not only can you help others but when you belong to an organisation like Soroptimist International you also have the opportunity to learn new skills and gain experiences that are relevant for your career.  Employers believe volunteering delivers positive results:

  • 80% Valued on a CV
  • 23% Better team working skills
  • 21% Improved communication skills
  • 15% Organisation & time management skills
  • 10% Can indicate leadership & management abilities

Employees surveyed at the same time, while agreeing with these results, also cited volunteering as a way to:

  • 84% find work
  • 70% earn a better salary
  • 24% gain promotion
(Time Bank Survey June 2009)

Other reasons for volunteering include:

  • Make a difference
  • Build on existing experience and knowledge
  • Develop new skills
  • Gain accreditation
  • Get to know a community
  • Feel valued and part of a team
  • Have fun
  • Make friends and have fun
  • Improve health

With a ‘job for life’ fast disappearing over the horizon, individuals can take a Gap Year before University or a Sabbatical during their professional life. Enlightened companies, such as Shell, provide employees with a Sabbatical, usually spent working in the community. As do some countries: Belgium has a Time Credit system which entitles employees a once-only year’s absence from their job, to prevent burn-out and provide an opportunity to pursue other important things in life.

So volunteering doesn’t just benefit others – we grow, learn and develop our own skills as a consequence or we get to use existing skills in new and exciting ways.


Young people and mental health

This really shocked me recently, how much youngsters are suffering with mental health issues, even really young children as young as 5. According to research for BBC School Report, half of teenagers with  issues try to cope alone. And a third said they were not confident enough to speak to a teacher. Teachers say they are given no awareness training on mental health issues and how to help students. UK figures revealed that Childline gave 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2016-17 – a rise of 11% over two years.

It was good to see that some forward thinking schools are training parents, pupils and staff how to cope with stress. The aim is to provide early intervention before mental health problems develop.

Mental Health and Schools today

I wondered why .health issues are so much more prevalent that when I was at school and what had changed. The problem seems to be several fold from the concerns expressed by the teachers I spoke to.

  • With a continuous focus on how schools are performing, this is translating to pressure on pupils to be continually tested throughout the year to prove performance.
  • Social media is a massive contributing factor, with pupils continually focussed on how well their peers are doing and then putting pressure on themselves to do better. Then there is the cyber bullying.
  • There is a worry about good grades to get university places and jobs thereafter.

What can you do?

I am not saying I have a solution for all the mental health problems that teenagers are experiencing right now. However, I can advise how to cope with the pressure they feel, whether it is any of the above circumstances or ones that I have not listed.

Try these

Try teaching this short meditation to your children and perhaps give it a try yourself, it really helps promote good mental health manage stress.

  • Find a comfortable spot, where it is quiet and you feel safe.
  • Put on some gentle music in the background that helps you feel calm and grounded.
  • As you rest your body now rest your eyes. Take your hands and make a cup so that the tips of the fingers cross over. Place the palms of your hands comfortably one over each eye so they block out all the light. The crossed fingers should lightly touch the forehead. Take a few moments to rest the eyes and just focus on the dark inky blackness and then close the eyes. (It can be more comfortable to sit on a chair to do this. Rest your elbows on the table to support your arms comfortably or if you are sitting on the floor support your arms with a couple of cushions)
  • Now focus on your breath as you breathe in and out.
  • As you breathe in say, in your mind, the word “SO”.
  • As you breathe out say, in your mind, the word “HUN”.
  • Breathe gently and focus on diaphragm gently rising and falling.
  • When you are ready open your eyes and come back into the room.

Spend just 5 minutes each day at a time that suits you. Slowly build up to about 15 to 20 minutes each day. More if you want to. You will find this helps still the mind and resets the body. You might even find that you feel refreshed and energised afterwards.
This exercise is very good to do if you are studying. Take a break every 90 minutes and do a few minutes resting the eyes and focussing on your breathing.

My day

I do 30 minutes myself to look after my onw mental health. I have a music compilation on my iPod that the tracks add up to 30 minutes. That way I know that I can completely relax and when the music is finished my 30 minutes is up and I am ready to go back to what I was doing. Sometimes I prefer to do this in the morning before I start a busy day, sometimes in the middle of work to take a break and sometimes at the end of the day to wind down. Occasionally I might do it at different intervals for a shorter time.

Take care fof your own mental health. If you spend more than 90 minute segments working on something then most of the time you might notice that you become less effective. You will be amazed how much more receptive your brain is to revision or work after taking a break.  You will be surprised at how often the answer will just suddenly present itself during a meditation.

Well I am off to follow my own advice and spend 30 minutes!!



May Mental Health

Why do we focus on mental health?

In the UK we have a whole month focussed on Mental Health, but last week was specifically in the focus of Mental Health Awareness week. There have been a multitude of programmes, articles and blogs.

Why do we focus on Mental Health? Well that is because, like physical health, we can have good health or bad and like physical health, there is plenty we can do to improve. In fact many of the things you can do to improve physical health will also improve mental health. This was particularly well highlighted on the BBC programme, Mind Over Marathon, following a group of ten people with different mental health issues to be encouraged and trained to run the London Marathon.

Running is a great coping mechanism

While I am not a runner myself, I can completely identify with the messages from the programme. Exercise, not just running, can really help improve both physical and mental health. It has certainly been my personal experience.

Here are the great messages from the programme that I really liked, but starting with a phase that I thought was a gem and my absolute favourite “Fall in love with moving forward”. What a great motivational phrase with so many interpretations. So here are my top 5 with my spin on what was said.

1.  Running is a great coping mechanism. Running and mental health are really good companions. It releases endorphins, which make you feel better. If you run as part of a group then you also get community for support and structure from the trainers.

However if this seems a little too intense right now start with something gentle like walking. If you prefer a group and want the sense of community then joining a local rambler group, U3A or similar can be a great way to get some exercise. A lot of WI and Rotary clubs have walking groups too.

© Wong Hock Weng John |

What about swimming?

Swimming is also great. (One of my personal favourites!). Many local council pools have very reasonably priced classes if you feel you want help getting back into a routine. They key is that any exercise really helps.

2.  People assume that if you are diagnosed with a mental illness that you are really ill and that there is something really wrong with you. This is the stigma that, unfortunately, so many people have to go through. Here is the reality. The reality is that you yourself or someone close too you will suffer from bad mental health at some point. Just like a physical illness, the person needs TLC, rest and recuperation. They are just like you and me.

3.  If you are suffering ill mental health yourself, you might have coping strategies, you might not. Acceptance of where you are is crucial. Having a support group to turn to will help. Logic does not work however you try and rationalise the feelings. Just know you will get better. It can feel a bit like a rollercoaster at times. Remember to take each day as it comes and be gentle with yourself in the dips.

4.  If you know someone who is suffering then learn to listen, encourage them to talk if they want to and be open minded.

5.  Having goals is key, and being able to visualise them even more so. There is a lot of scientific study proving that using your imagination improves performance. If we can imagine something our brains can do it more efficiently. Setting small manageable goals is setting you up for success. Spend time each day visualising that small goal. What does it look like? What can you see, hear and feel around you?

Links between physical activity and good mental health

Last week I also attended Elevate at Excel. While it was predominantly about the physical health industry there were dedicated session all day on both days dedicated to physical activity for health and wellbeing, focussing on the links between physical activity and good mental health.

One fact that was particularly interesting from medical studies carried out was the findings that people suffering from a major depressive disorder (MDD) were 68% more likely to be physically inactive. If anyone is a lover of reading the source material the studies used were Lawlor and Hopkins (2001), Blumenthal et al. (2007), Cochrane review (2012) and Schuch F. et al. (2016). Whilst the studies and statistics were largely around MDD they hold equally true for less severe mental health issues like stress.

© Goinyk Volodymyr | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Benefits of exercise

The comparisons carried out MDD sufferers benefitted more from intervention using exercise. The best results were from high intensity exercise but quite honestly if you are currently sedentary or suffering from ill health high intensity training is likely to be such a shock to the body as to cause more stress that it reduces.

It was a key factor in my own recovery when I was off with a mental breakdown in 2011.  I would recommend starting easy with something that you really enjoy doing and focus on the fun rather than the fact that it is exercise. For my Mum it is walking her dogs. For me it is gardening, although I do enjoy the gym too, especially Pilates. Being part of a group class is also very helpful as it gives greater distraction from a bad day or other issues and you get the social inclusion too, which is really important. It is very easy to want to go home and be isolated and resisting that temptation can be hard. They key is if you don’t get there one day then get there the day after. Go with a friend or family member as you will keep each other motivated.



May Mental HealthWhat is happening in the UK?

In the UK we have a whole month focussed on Mental Health, but last week was specifically in the focus of Mental Health Awareness week.  There have been a multitude of programmes, articles and blogs.

Theresa May also announced her ‘sweeping´ reforms to mental health policy. It is definitely a long time coming. A lot has changed since the 1983 Mental Health Act. Unfortunately the largely unpopular reforms for Dementia sufferers followed swiftly afterwards. Let’s hope they back track on that one. There is nothing like adding to stress worrying about the inheritance that you were building up for the children. Now it might betaken by the state to support you in your time of need.

Prominent people speaking out

Prince Harry got a great dialog started by talking about his own person mental health issuesHe sought counselling after 20 years of not thinking about the death of his mother.In fact, along with Prince William and Kate they started a charity called Heads Together back in 2016.It is really great to see the Royals leading the charge.

William also talked about the shock of losing a loved one, especially in difficult circumstances. It stays with you always but managing it gets easier. Bereavement can affect everyone and I will be dedicating a whole blog to that later in the year.

Kilmarnock’s Kris Boyd urged fellow players to speak up about mental health problems a couple of days ago.  He suggested that mental health problems were a “massive” problem for football.

It is great to see very visible people in public life speaking out.  The Royals set up their charity to help remove the stigma of Mental Health issues.  Yet in business this still is a massive issue.  Working with a company last year that was going through massive transformation and having to make a very large number of redundancies, the workforce has a double whammy.  They are worried about job security, finances and the future. This directly leads to stress, the longer it goes on the more stress the person feels.  They can be suffering from mental health problems like stress, depression and anxiety. Employees often feel worried about talking the issue through with their employer, because they they might be the one chosen for redundancy.

Help for business

Having independent support that staff can talk to is absolutely critical in these times of change.  They can provide unbiased advice.  They can help employees with coping strategies, enabling them to cope better, whatever the outcome.  Most importantly they are a confident that enables the person to open up and talk about their problems without fear of repercussions.

It is very encouraging to see the spotlight on Mental Health, but there still remains a stigma for people to admit that they are struggling.  While I agree with a lot of the comments about Mental Health should be a focus all year round and not just for a focussed short period of time, having that focus does help target the issue and allows for people to focus on a topic that might not have been on their radar before.  So many people suffer from mental ill health. The likelihood is that you know, or have suffered yourself with stress related illness, depression, anxiety and other common mental health related issues.

If you are in business and going through a big change do remember that staff will often benefit from independent support and this will help them stay positive and supportive throughout the transition.  Making their transition easier and your too.