Remember that time you nearly trained to exhaustion and thought to yourself, “I can’t go on. I can’t finish.”? Or maybe even long after an injury recovery you psyched yourself out from doing something for fear that you would injure yourself again? The mind and body work in tandem usually with the mind leading the body. What you think you can or can’t do will determine how good or how bad your body will respond and or perform.
Good physical health and mental wellness go hand in hand. Regular physical activity protects against mental health conditions like depression and anxiety; it helps reduce the severity for those diagnosed with depression or anxiety; it leads to an increase in “feel good” hormones, serotonin, and endorphins; and it also increases GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps reduce anxiety and leads to cognition preservation and improvement—the ability to learn new and retain old information. Physical activity also improves sleep quality and duration, which has more ties to improved mental health.
Poor mental health can affect physical performance when you become distracted by past or future performances, and unable to focus on the current task at hand. Poor mental health can also decrease motivation to be active, particularly if showing depression symptoms (both clinical and sub-clinical). It becomes a vicious cycle where inactivity can contribute to poor mental health and poor mental health further reduces motivation to be physically active.
Maintaining one’s health can be a year-round priority with the right tools and knowledge. The Consortium for Health and Military Performance provides educational, research-based resources that enable service members to understand how they can maintain their physical and mental health year-round to help optimize their performance and wellness across the domains of Total Force Fitness.
In addition to the resources provided on the website, CHAMP and specifically the Human Performance Resources by CHAMP team provides specific holistic resources, and interactive, evidence-based presentation and training to military communities on TFF topics. For more tools and resources check out www.hprc-online.org.
To Maintain Year-Round Health
• Be active when you can. PTing even once a week can help you maintain a relatively high level of physical fitness. Regular PT for at least 30 min/day 5x per week (totaling 150 minutes) is the threshold for mental health benefits.
• Be mindful of your diet.
• Practice mindfulness to stay present and improve your focus.
• Try positive self-talk to keep you motivated during challenging times.
• Develop routines to assess and build your mental fitness and spiritual fitness.
Create Mental Wellness Toolbox: These tools can be used daily or weekly to self-check and build your mental health:
• Make a PERMA to-do list for performance optimization and military wellness