I speak from experience when I talk about mental health challenges. My own struggles with my mental health began when I was 17. I lost my brother; only 15 months my junior, he was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident. The course of my life changed on that day forever and as anyone having had this experience knows life goes on but is never quite the same.
Some time later when I was 33 and a first time mum, shortly after celebrating my Son’s first birthday, I noticed a worrying lump began to appear around the base of his spine. His tummy was swollen and his nighttime crying was wearing us down. A trip to the GP and an agonising wait for an urgent referral to a paediatrician. Two weeks later he was admitted to Southampton hospital for tests which confirmed he had a Malignant Tumour attached to his Coccyx. Ten months of Chemotherapy followed and surgery to remove the remains of the tumour left us all in a state of shock.
It will therefore come as no surprise to know that I have had my battles with depression and anxiety. In fact I have spent significant chunks of my life exploring different strategies to support my mental health. For me movement plays a huge part and is my ‘go to’ approach on difficult days.
Pilates for Mental Health
The mental health benefits of physical activity include: less tension, stress and mental fatigue, a natural energy boost, improved sleep, a sense of achievement and guess what exercise can even be fun. Practicing Pilates, Yoga and enjoying the outdoors is my movement prescription for myself.
The mental health benefits of Pilates can be overlooked because of the traditional focus on Pilates for back health and core strength. But when we do Pilates we connect deeply the body with the mind; focusing the mind on the technique and how your body feels while in a class is a very mindful activity.
Pilates is brilliant for stress reduction; aside from the feelings of wellbeing from moving and mobilising your body, the focus on breathing is key. Breath-work can help to switch on the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes the rest and relaxation response and reduces the impact of stress.
The fundamental principles of Pilates; concentration, precision and movement control all call for a significant mental focus. Simply the act of concentrating deeply on Pilates movements for an hour provides a total escape from the worries of our daily lives. This deep mind body connection and mental focus is an excellent way to bring more mindfulness into your day. There is evidence that mindfulness practices are effective ways to manage emotional fluctuation, stress and anxiety common during menopause and ultimately enhance overall well being. Check out my podcast with Mindfulness Teacher Sune Markowitz Shulman as we explore mindful approaches to Menopause.
Move More, Feel Better — It’s not just my idea!
Now we know that movement is not just good for muscles and bones but our mental health too. Did you know that movement actually creates changes in brain structure and function, improves mood mental abilities. I came across a great video this week all about the science of how physical activity impacts the brain. Checkout some very digestible science here from Dr Tom Bullock Cognitive Neuroscientist
Better still it doesn’t have to be extreme sports to create an impact! Moderate physical activity has a part to play in managing stress, mild to moderate depression and anxiety whether induced by your time of life, your personal circumstances or your professional life.
Get moving today with my LIVE online group classes