Our mental health needs to be taken care of as much as our physical, but can often be neglected, supposedly in favor of productivity and achievement. In fact, nourishing and sustaining all round health is what keeps us fit and active, especially through times of stress or difficulty.
Pav Bryan, award-winning cyclist, coach and trainer knows first-hand how important this is, suffering for silence for years with bi-polar disorder. In 2011 he realised something had to change and worked hard to turn his life around through nutrition, exercise, relaxation and the support of those around him. Now he is speaking up and sharing his story with advice for how we can all keep our mental health on top form.
- Be compassionate with yourself
Understand that you are human and not ‘bullet-proof’, we all face challenges and this might include mental ones. Accepting this is the first step to better mental health.
- Focus on your motivation
Find a reason to work on your mental health. This might include family, work, training, anything that motivates you. Use visualization, print pictures or relate this to music you can play when you’re having a hard time. Learn to focus on this and ensure you spend some part of your day working towards it.
- Learn to communicate
Communicating how you are feeling helps you to feel that you are not alone. If you struggle to talk about things with close family members or friends then a local group, support network or helpline could be a good start. You could record yourself talking about your day, like a journal or diary, and show it to someone. Even playing it back to yourself might help you to take a reflective view of your problems.
- Stay on top of the physical
The healthier you can eat the healthier your mind will be. Fresh and organic produce, clean cuts of lean meat, healthy fats all promote a healthy mind as much as they do body. Moving your body for at least thirty minutes per day will also help you feel refreshed and alive. When you are training you should factor in how this might affect your mentality, doing too much might cause as much mental fatigue (burnout) as it will physical fatigue.
- Value relaxation
Find time in your day to switch off completely, de-stress and relax. The body and mind needs rest to properly repair and replenish itself, and if you are rarely in a restful state it won’t be able to do its job. Find something that helps you to do this. I practice meditation, and started through the Headspace app.
- Allow yourself some grace
Having grace with yourself when you have bad days. You might not be mentally healthy for the rest of your life, this is ok. If you have a bad day, accept that and move on without punishing yourself.
Consistency is key. You don’t have to be perfect with these principles but being good with them for a longer duration will make them easier to achieve. Make small changes and go slow. Soon you’ll find that you feel great and its part of your normal routine.
Pav will be attempting to break the World Record for the fastest ride of Bicycle Route 66 next year – 2500 miles in a little over ten days. All money raised will go to mental health charity Inner Cycle. To follow his progresses follow Pav on Twitter, Facebook or go to his website.