Mental Health Week – Stress Awareness

Run Wales are keen to emphasise the importance of Mental Health Awareness Week, and Day 1 focuses on the awareness of stress. We've been fortunate enough to receive another brilliant blog from Sophie with her top tips for stress awareness and the importance of dealing with stress in your life:

"As a runner, I’ve always been very aware of my physical health- what am I eating, am I drinking enough water, exercising enough, resting enough…. it’s only really been in the last few years that I’ve really appreciated the importance of being equally on top of your mental health, and knowing what the warning signs are when things are starting to go wrong.

Knowing these tell tale signs, much like knowing that when you’re overtraining your knees will hurt, is a great way to make sure you’re actively managing your mental health as much as your physical health. There are all kinds of questionnaires and surveys out there that you can do, but for me it’s a case of ‘checking in’ with my brain- I think about how I’ve felt over the last week or so- how many times have I felt tearful? Anxious? Like I can’t cope with something? Can I link these to other factors, for example, a busy week in work, or not getting enough sleep? In a world where being constantly busy is the new normal, it can be difficult to remind yourself that you shouldn’t feel constantly on edge, worried or like you can’t catch up with yourself. If I find that I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by things, there are a number of ways that I try and manage this- but the first step is always being aware of the stress in the first place!"

Top tips

  • Look after yourself- boring but so, so important. Eat good food, drink water, avoid alcohol as much as possible and do all you can to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Find something that absorbs you- for me, the ability to lose myself in an activity is such a great stress reliever- an escape hatch out of my usually busy brain. I choose getting wrapped up in a book or going for a run; I’ve always been an over-thinker, and if I’m stressed about something it will take over my every waking second (and often pops up in my dreams too!). Concentrating on my run forces me to stop the endless cycle of thoughts, and this time out is often enough to help me stop thinking about the problem altogether.
  • Try mindfulness- I was sceptical about this, but it has actually really helped me to quieten my mind, and I do find that I get a more restful sleep as a result. There are loads of free apps out there, I’ve used Headspace and Breathe.
  • Get organised- this is a big one for me- I’m much more likely to stress about things if I feel that I am not in control. This can be little things like having a diary and using it to plan out all my commitments for the week ahead, planning my meals in advance, making sure I’ve packed my running kit the night before I train, making to do lists…… generally doing all I can to make sure that life runs smoothly and that I don’t turn up to things late and in the wrong clothes!
  • Ask for help- I’ve always been a perfectionist. I hate not knowing all the answers, and am usually very reluctant to ask for advice. Running has changed that. I started as a complete beginner, and knew that to progress I would need all the help I could get! I now apply this lesson to day to day life, and if I find I’m struggling to cope I will talk to those around me and ask for the help I need.
  • Learn to say no- Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a very real thing, and it can result in you saying yes to being out on the town 3 nights in a row. While I’m not suggesting that you become a recluse, don’t feel like you have to turn up to the opening of an envelope just because ‘everyone will be there’- sometimes a night on the sofa with Netflix can be better for your mental health!

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