The Heads Up on Exercise

I’ve been made to look a fool. I’ve fallen for all the spin. For years I believed that good mental health was a matter of pot luck and that if things were getting on top of you, anxiety and depression would almost certainly follow. I also believed that medication was the sole route out of depression.
Now it seems I was wrong all along. There’s an awful lot of factors that make anxiety and depression more likely to get a grip on us and taking time to understand those can have a hugely positive effect on our wellbeing.
The thing I’m kicking myself about most however is exercise. For most of my teaching career, finding a form of exercise that I liked was hard. Finding the time to try out some different sports was even harder. I admired colleagues for spending time playing basketball, rock climbing or going to boot camp but didn’t really understand how and why they found time for them.
If only someone had told me! During those years of full time teaching I struggled constantly with stress and anxiety. Deadlines and demands never disappear in education, they only get more frequent. I had many years of not sleeping well and of recurrent low mood. In my case, my reaction was to throw myself into helping other teachers, whose problems were often more acute than my own. I failed to notice that I was physically ill, with such low blood iron that I was eventually hospitalised.
A couple of exercise sessions a week from early on in my career could have made all the difference in the world. Anaemia aside, regular exercise would have helped induce better sleep patterns and also encouraged me to eat more healthily. I’m not the world’s biggest slob when it comes to food but could do with swapping chocolate for fruit a little more often.
If you look at what happens in the brain, then pardon the pun, exercise is a no brainer. Being outdoors, socialising and setting ourselves goals as well as exercise itself, all help with the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. These fantastic substances give a feeling of wellbeing and can also help depression sufferers take vital steps in the right direction.
Of course, the real problem for teachers is the workload we need to endure in the first place. But saying we have no time to exercise is a false economy for our health and wellbeing. The wellness that sport brings can make us better equipped to tackle our workload as wellbeing. Not that’s one to shout from the rooftops.

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