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World Mental Health Day 2023

WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY 2023

Tuesday 10 October is World Mental Health Day. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that despite good mental health being vital to our overall health and wellbeing, one in eight people globally are living with mental health conditions. These impact an individual’s physical health, wellbeing and how they connect with others, as well as their livelihoods. Mental health conditions are also affecting an increased number of adolescents and young people in particular.

In line with WHO, the University of Birmingham is committed to ensuring mental health is valued, promoted and protected throughout its communities. We are part of the Government’s Mental Health Mission, designed to develop radical new treatments for mental health conditions and improve the outcomes and care for young people with mental health problems.

From a Sport & Fitness perspective specifically, we not only ensure that a number of our staff are Mental Health and Suicide First Aid trained, but also collectively endeavour to provide ample and varied opportunities for our students, staff and members to access support, and to participate in sport and fitness at any level to improve and/or maintain their overall wellbeing.

In honour of this year’s World Mental Health Day, we caught up with two of our in-house Performance Sport experts that specifically work with the University’s highest performing and elite student-athletes, to gather some guidance and insight to how we can best prioritise and take care of our own mental health this October and beyond, whilst also equipping us with the necessary skills to support those close to us that may, at times, need it.

MEET THE EXPERTS

Dr Sue Jones

University of Birmingham Sport Psychologist

Joanna Eley

University of Birmingham Sport Performance Lifestyle Lead

Sue Says...

“Throughout my work I apply a ‘Person First’ approach. A person’s chosen physical activity is just one piece of their story and identity. Maintaining a healthy relationship with sport is key to long term mental health and wellbeing, but sport rarely follows a linear path to success, so it’s important to focus on the process building, not just outcomes. The scales between performance and wellbeing can change very quickly, so the better you connect with a someone’s story, the quicker you can react to those changes and empower them to notice these changes themselves.”

Jo Says...

“While the goal should ideally be to experience high mental health so that individuals can flourish, the majority of people actually just sit somewhere in the moderate mental health scale day-to-day and the main focus tends to be on not experiencing low mental health or mental illness. As a result of this focus, much of the support available tends to be reactive-geared and problem-focused, however the optimum mental health requires a much more proactive approach and an understanding of the different dimensions that can have an impact on your mental health. Being aware of what high mental health looks like for you, the strategies that support that and reducing the barriers to delivering those strategies is something I strive to support high performance individuals achieve.”

Sue and Jo's Top Tips

  1. Journal
    Recognise how you think and behave in positive times so that you can spot any changes in yourself and/or identify any certain triggers for future reference. Journalling is a good way to do this.
  2. Periods of non-ideal mental health are exactly the same as niggles and injuries and therefore should be treated as such. That mean you need to adapt your training or usual routine, in order to prioritise and recover.
  3. Be proactive
    Where possible, keep active, maintain balanced eating habits, maintain self-care and hygiene, regulate sleeping habits, be sociable – even in times where you don’t feel fully up to it, these will help to keep the brain and body healthy.
  4. Be self-compassionate
    If you’re finding something hard, it’s probably because it is hard! It’s much easier to process and move through your feeling if you can acknowledge and accept them.
  5. Build your system
    Slowly over time aim to build and maintain day-to-day/week-by-week processes that facilitate the best mental health outcomes for you. This will help you identify stressors and aid you in working how best to create boundaries and strategies that reduce these stressors that contribute to lower mental health.
  6. Talk to others
    The more you talk to others about general things, the easier it will be to seek support for the more difficult topics.
  7. Supporting others
    Practice empathy and validate their experience(s) by being willing to see their perspective, refraining from judgement, accepting how they are feeling and welcoming conversation.

FREE CLASS AT SPORT & FITNESS!

 

To celebrate this year’s World Mental Health Day, Sport & Fitness will be running a FREE Stretch & Relaxation class, taking place 8:30-9:15am in the Dojo.

 

Bookable now via the Sport & Fitness app under ‘Classes’ and open to everyone in the midst of another busy week, we hope this provides the chance for you to take some well-deserved time for yourself.

Endurance training-feet running on treadmillCategoriesPhysiology

BOOST YOUR MOOD WITH EXERCISE

BOOST YOUR MOOD WITH EXERCISE 

We all know that getting out and exercising can make us feel better, giving us that sense of achievement and making our mood improve. But what is the science behind the mood-boost? We chatted to Sport & Fitness Gym Instructor Peter Antonio, who is also a Sport Nutritionist, about the link between mental health and exercise.

It may come as no surprise that moving those different (but wonderful) shaped bodies of ours has many positive effects on our overall wellbeing.

Getting active, raising our heart rate, and putting some force through our muscles are all tried and tested methods of being a sure-fire way of releasing some good old endorphins. These hormones, aside from making us feel great, can aid in reducing pain, increase our self-esteem, reduce anxiety and depression, and enhance our immune system. Incidentally, eating chocolate is also a way to unlock the internal happy hormone safe!

A headshot of Peter Antonio, a Fitness Instructor at Sport & Fitness

We are not designed to be still for long periods of time. Our eyes are made to continually alter the distance of our focus. Blood can pool in our lower legs if we remain standing or sitting for too long. When we don’t move for long periods of time, we can feel even more tired than before we sat down. By not moving, we are telling our bodies that we’re ready for bed. The same is true for not blinking for long periods of time, when reading a book or looking at one of our many screens. This is why, when in situations of long periods of sitting (at work sitting down, travelling or commuting), getting up every now and then to move around and get your blood flowing can be extremely beneficial – reminding your body that it still needs to be active.

student exercising on yoga mat

Exercise can also put us in the blissful state of flow. A flow state is where we are intensely focused on the task in hand, and therefore all other thoughts and emotions are not at the forefront of our minds. We can experience, if only for a moment, psychological freedom from all the to do lists, internal chatter, or one of the many existential crises we may be going through in our lives. 

If you’ve been inspired to get exercising but don’t know where to start, why not chat to our team, visit us or check out our videos on how to set and achieve your goals? Whatever your motivation, our experts are here to support you and help you feel more you this May, so get in touch today!