Move to feel better?

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Move to feel better?

Mental health is extremely important. On the other hand, did you know that the current trend is to equip people so that they can take charge of their disorders themselves and / or optimize their level of satisfaction with life? Moreover, physical activity is one of the strategies that can be used in this regard. This is the subject of today's interview!

Daniel: What is self-management of mental health? Can you give us examples in everyday life and especially strategies in terms of physical activity?

Simon Coulombe, associate professor at Laval University in Quebec and holder of the research charter “Relief in mental health, self-management and work” powered by Beneva.

Simon: Self-management as we are going to talk about it today is increasingly put forward as a strategy to help reduce difficulties, especially related to anxiety and depression. 

A few years ago there were already approximately 3 million adult Canadians, therefore more than 10% of the population, who reported living with an anxiety disorder or a mood disorder. 

The idea of ​​self-management is really that people living with these disorders can take charge of their mental health and can optimize their well-being. 

This approach complements treatment approaches that have been proven effective, such as psychotherapy and medication. When the level of symptoms of anxiety or depression is lower, self-management and support for the implementation of this can sometimes be an effective measure in itself. 

The measures can be to do a physical activity, but also to have a healthier, more varied diet, to adopt good sleep hygiene habits, to do guided or unguided relaxation activities, simply to take time to relax, to manage your consumption of alcohol, drugs, to limit their impact, etc.

We know that different tools can be complementary to self-management. For example, we can seek support from programs such as the Business Challenge or attend a conference like today. 

By studying the more than 80 strategies of people in recovery, we realized that ultimately this list applies to everyone. And it can also be applied in the prevention of these difficulties to manage, for example, the onset of symptoms or even to optimize one's quality of life and psychological well-being on a daily basis.

Daniel: So self-management is, if I feel certain symptoms or I want to improve my quality of life, it's trying an intervention on my own and trying to note the impact of that intervention there, then adjusting accordingly. based on how I felt?

Simon: Exactly. This is fairly new in mental health. Most often we were centered, during a mental health disorder, on a doctor or a therapist who gives instructions. The idea of ​​taking over power is quite new. It's important to learn to observe yourself better, to better recognize the diversity of possible strategies and tools.

Daniel: What would be the short and long term impacts of physical activity on mental health?

Marie-France Lafontaine, doctoral student in psychology at Laval University in Quebec.

Marie-France: What you need to know is that physical activity creates some form of stress on the human body. Spending a lot of energy resources makes our body stressed in some way. 

This is why during a sports session you can feel a lot of discomfort or anxiety. 

However, we see that immediately after the session, it can help reduce anxiety and fatigue, then in the longer term it can have effects on sleep, anxiety and concentration but also on symptoms. of depression.

Daniel: By what mechanism does it work? 

Marie-France: There are several types of mechanisms that work when we do physical activity. From the point of view of psychological mechanisms, anxious people are often afraid of feelings related to anxiety. 

So it allows you to confront feelings of panic and discomfort, and to realize that in the end it's not that dangerous, it's uncomfortable, but it won't threaten your health. 

A second mechanism, this one applies more to people prone to symptoms of depression. The action of adhering to an activity program increases, from session to session and from week to week, our feeling of competence, we feel competent in what we do. Rather, they are psychological mechanisms. 

If we look more at the physical and neurological level, there is an interesting thing about depression and anxiety, it is that generally, certain areas of the brain are a little different from people who do not have these problems. the. Physical activity creates kinds of proteins that stimulate these areas. 

Daniel: Does the fact that these physical activities are often done in groups or outdoors have an impact too?

Marie-France: Yes quite. Engaging in social relationships has been proven to increase or improve mood. 

Simon: There are countless studies that show that getting in touch with nature through outdoor physical activity amplifies the benefits of physical activity itself. 

Daniel: If we want to have the maximum benefits on our mental health, both preventively and curatively, what would be the “dose” that we should aim for per week?

Marie-France: All issues combined, we always recommend at least 2 hours per week of moderate-intensity physical activity per week or about 1 hour 15 minutes at high intensity. 

In a context of anxiety or depression, it may vary slightly. 

  • For anxiety, we recommend sessions of about 15 to 30 minutes at moderate or high intensity in order to provoke the sensations we were talking about earlier, with a program of about 10 to 12 weeks. 
  • For depression, a slightly higher dose would be needed with sessions of about 45 to 60 minutes of moderate to high intensity at a frequency of 3 to 5 times a week for about ten weeks to be really effective and long-lasting. 

Daniel: How do you know if you are at the right intensity of physical activity to get the maximum benefit on mental health?

Marie-France: The speech test can be very suitable. It is enough simply to try to speak or sing during physical activity. 

  • If you are able to make long sentences or sing, for example, the intensity is low. 
  • At more moderate intensity, we are no longer able to sing but we are able to make fairly short sentences. 
  • When we get to high intensity we are only able to say a few words.

Daniel: Is there any intensity that should be avoided, which could have adverse effects?

Marie-France: It is certain that this can have harmful effects in the case where one sets too high objectives that one does not manage to achieve. It can harm mental health and the sense of competence I was talking about earlier.

Daniel: How can physical activity be used in the workplace to prevent problems like burnout, lack of energy at work, or productivity?

Simon: Many studies show that leisure-time physical activity is associated with less work exhaustion and burnout. Physical activity may even help recover from these problems.

However, we also see that people whose work requires a lot of physical activity are less likely to benefit from these benefits.

Daniel: How can we support people with mental difficulties to start physical activity and ideally reach the recommended dose?

Simon: We underestimate the fact that sometimes even the small things of daily life can already represent a great effort. 

Start by valuing small successes and acknowledging what the person is already doing. Then we can set ourselves small SMART objectives: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. The free website get better my way can help you make a self-management plan for your mental health in prevention or for people who are experiencing difficulties, some of which can be related to physical activity.

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