• Patrick Smith

Physical and Mental Health

I’ve just posted on my personal blog about my recent weight loss – this isn’t the right forum for those details, but if you want to read more, than you can here. However, it got me thinking about how it is actually helping me at work.

We all know that there is a link between physical and mental health and by taking care of my physical health – eating better, exercising more and ultimately losing a bit of weight – I am helping my mental health.

I suspect that nearly everyone has mental health issues to a varying degree, it’s just that we rarely talk about them. For me it became apparent a couple of years ago when I had a very bad back for the entire summer. I was functioning, but only just and could barely stand, yet alone walk. The day to day struggles of this, not to mention the pain and inconvenience definitely affected my mental health.

What I also realised at that time was how exercise helps my mental health. My bad back meant that I couldn’t exercise and that just made everything worse. I put on weight because I was comfort eating and doing no exercise to burn any of it off, but worse than that I wasn’t creating the time for myself that exercise allows me. I’m mainly a swimmer and swimming becomes my meditation – a time when I am able to clear my mind and think of nothing but the process of swimming. That was lost to me and my negative thoughts grew.

I’ve vowed to do everything I can to never get back to that place – either physically or mentally.

At the moment I’m not as busy as I’d like to be. That alone can start worries and mental health concerns if you are self-employed like me. However, I am using this quiet period to make sure that I exercise more and get fitter. From a work perspective this has a number of benefits.

One of the most obvious is that by exercising I eat into the working day a little bit, so instead of having a day that isn’t quite filled with work I have a slightly shorter day that is crammed with things on my to-do list. You’ve probably heard the expression that ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person’, well I have made myself a busy person by slightly shortening my working hours and this makes me much more productive in that time.

Another obvious benefit is that I’m happier. Mental health, especially depression and other similar issues, isn’t about directly about happiness and people that should objectively be happy can still suffer from mental health problems. However, for me being happier helps. I’m happier because I exercise and I’m happier because the results of that exercise mean that I’ve lost some weight. And being happier means that I bring that to my job and am already in a more robust mental state to be able to attack those difficult tasks or phone calls etc.

On top of that, there are all the benefits of exercise helping you to be more alert and awake – of it boosting your ‘brain power’. And certainly a midday swim does help to avoid the post lunch slump that many people get – especially with a desk job.

I still want to lose a bit more weight. And I still want to have more clients and more projects to work on. The difficult task will be to make sure that I maintain the good physical habits when I do get busier. Will I be able to make myself go for a run or a a swim after a 12-hour working day? I hope so. And I hope that because I can see the very definite benefits of this subtle change in lifestyle that I’ve adopted since the New Year it will stay with me even if I get ‘too’ busy – because of course, that is the time that I’ll need both the physical and mental health boosts the most.

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