You've probably heard the stats. One in four people in the UK are affected by a period of poor mental health in their lifetime. Today, 10 October, is World Mental Health Day, which caused me to think about my own mental health and how it’s so important to take time for me.
I love running and before becoming a working parent I had the luxury of time to run whenever it suited me. However, since coming back to work after having my little boy I needed to be more strategic about making time for running. More importantly I realised that if I didn’t make time in my day to run, there was nothing left in my daily routine that was just for me. That in itself was an overwhelming thought, and as I quickly got back into the routine of making excuses about being too busy, or too tired, the feeling of being overwhelmed started to build up. I was cross, and frustrated too. Frustrated that I was being prevented from running by ‘busy-ness’. This was a toxic mix to start my return to work.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (2017) the physiological benefit of running or exercise, has a positive impact on the uptake of neurotransmitters such as Dopamine and Serotonin in the brain, both of which play a part in happiness and wellness, and combat feelings of stress and depression. In 2017 The Department of Health published new research which reported that 12% of depression diagnoses could be prevented with simple exercise of an hour a week. The Karolinska Institute in Sweden (2017) found that aerobic exercise causes a purging effect on the stress related hormones in the blood, and this natural detoxification can protect the brain from mental illness. Even a study of rats and mice published in Medicine, Sport and Exercise in 2013 found that running on a wheel gave anti-depressant effects. Lucky rodents.
Now I ring fence time in my week to run. Even when busy, and even when I am having to leave ‘early’ to do the compulsory nursery pick up I still make time to run. I found I had to do this for several reasons. Firstly, I had to make time for myself and do something which is just mine, putting guilt and excuses aside, everyone is entitled to ‘me time’. Life just gets on top of you otherwise.
Secondly, I found I was able to break the cycle of feeling like my to do list was longer than the hours I had to do it in and spend time on my run organising my thoughts and planning how to tackle things when I got back to my desk. I am more effective after a run.
Thirdly, all of the science behind running and exercise works and it just makes me feel better. At Deloitte we have a weekly running club as part of the firm’s dedication to the wellbeing of its people. I have met new people through the club and exercise in the day is something that the firm has whole heartedly embraced. Certainly making time to run has helped my mental health in returning to work as a parent and I would recommend making time for yourself in whatever form, even when you are at your busiest.