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Getting out and active during Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 14 to 20 May 2018 and this year's campaign is focused on stress. Get Out Get Active (GOGA) is promoting partners' activities across the country to highlight the programme's positive results. Among the benefits, GOGA is boosting people's mental and physical health- proved to be a great way to keep stress levels down.

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It is all too common to feel stressed these days. It has almost become part of everyday life. Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this. We can become so consumed and overwhelmed by stress that it may lead to mental health problems. It can also make existing problems worse.

If left unchecked, stress can be deadly and is often referred to as the “silent killer”. Although its effects are not immediately apparent, it can lead to a number of serious health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease. This is why many people have found being active a way to improve stress levels. This is why the GOGA programme has an influential role to play among the communities it works in.

The Mental Health Foundation lists seven steps to help protect yourself from stress

1. Eat healthily

  • Eating healthily can reduce the risks of diet-related diseases
  • There is a growing amount of evidence showing how food affects our mood and how eating healthily can improve this
  • You can protect your feelings of wellbeing by ensuring that your diet provides adequate amounts of brain nutrients such as essential vitamins and minerals, as well as water

2. Be aware of smoking and drinking alcohol

  • Try not to, or reduce the amount you smoke and drink alcohol
  • Even though they may seem to reduce tension initially, this is misleading as they often make problems worse

3. Exercise

  • Try and integrate physical exercise into your lifestyle as it can be very effective in relieving stress
  • Even just going out and getting some fresh air, and taking some light physical exercise, like going for a walk to the shops can really help

4.Take time out

  • Take time to relax
  • Strike the balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself, this can really reduce stress levels
  • Tell yourself that it is okay to prioritise self-care · Are you needing time out but saying 'I just can't take the time off', if so read more about how taking a break is important for good mental health

5. Be mindful

  • Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life that helps us to relate differently to experiences. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in a way that increases our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices
  • Try to practice mindfulness regularly
  • Mindfulness meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time
  • Research has suggested that it can reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and related problems such as insomnia, poor concentration and low moods, in some people
  • Our Be Mindful website features a specially developed online course in mindfulness, as well as details of local courses in your area

6. Get some restful sleep

  • Are you finding you are struggling to sleep? This is a common problem when you’re stressed
  • Could your physical or mental health be impacting your ability to sleep?
  • Could you amend your environment to help improve your sleep?
  • Could you get up instead of staying in bed when your mind is worrying at night?
  • Could you make small changes to your lifestyle to help your get a restful sleep?

For full details on tips on getting a good night’s sleep read our guide How to sleep better and ten top tips for good sleep

7. Don’t be too hard on yourself

  • Try to keep things in perspective.
  • Remember that having a bad day is a universal human experience
  • When your inner critic or an outer critic finds faults, try and find truth and exception to what is being said
  • If you stumble or feel you have failed, don’t beat yourself up
  • Act as if you were your own best friend: be kind and supportive
  • Take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself

Get Out Get Active supports disabled and non-disabled people to enjoy being active together. Funded by Spirit of 2012, all partners are focused on getting some of the UK's least active people moving more through fun and inclusive activities. Last month we featured a story on Nottingham. Read about the yoga activities in Nottingham.

Read more about Mental Health Awareness Week and how you can join in.