Recovery as a lifestyle choice

Exercise Park

by Elizabeth Kempers

How lifestyle changes can promote recovery and counter the side effects of meds
With some small tweaks to your lifestyle, living effectively with mental health issues and the side effects of medications is possible. Small changes in three areas can produce big results. These things are diet, exercise and sleep.

In previous Panorama stories, Jessica from Enterpraise has shown what can be achieved just by focusing on diet. One of the side effects of medication can be weight gain. This means that if you are on medication which promotes weight gain more attention need to be paid to what you eat and drink.

A common drink that causes weight gain is soft drink. This drink, while pleasant, has huge amounts of sugar, and is unnecessary in a healthy diet. In fact, the UK Government is now imposing a tax on some soft drinks. People drank 14.8 billion litres of soft drink in 2015, or 232.9 litres each. Imagine how much healthier you could be and how much weight you could stop putting on if you just cut this sugary drink out of your diet.

There are many healthy foods that taste just great and can be used instead of the more fatty fast foods that are available. A Big Mac, with a Medium French Fries, and Vanilla Shake can total 1,689 calories. A meal prepared at home that includes half a roasted chicken breast, baked white potato, half a cup of green peas, a glass of skim milk and unsweetened applesauce, totals 546 calories.

This is just one example of how much healthier home cooked meals can be. Eating home cooked meals will also save the wallet too!

There are many ways you can access help in eating healthily. A good place to start is with your family GP. Don’t be afraid to raise the issue of weight gain with your doctor, especially if you think it might be related to the medication.

The second area you can concentrate on is exercise. In my local area, there is an outside gym located at the rec grounds. Here, a full work out can be achieved that is free. Other free or near free options to exercise are cycling, jogging, and walking.

There is also the Park Run that is held in many parks on a Saturday morning ( With just 20 minutes of exercise huge results can be achieved and you may even be able to prolong your life!

Exercise releases endorphins, the hormone for making you feel good. Exercise is also an area where simple goals can be focused on. An example of an aim is to do another 5 presses every time you go the local outdoor gym, until you are able to do 50 every time you visit. Bit by bit you recognise that you are achieving something.

The last area I will discuss is sleep. Sleep can be the first barrier between you and becoming unwell. Looking after your sleep can give you enough energy to face challenges and helps you make effective and positive decisions. Cut down on late nights and caffeine. Exercise can help you sleep better, but not if you do it immediately before bed. The best time for exercise is first thing in the morning.

So with a few changes to your week, you can use your lifestyle to live without some of the side effects of medication, and proof yourself against becoming mentally unwell.

Regular contributor Elizabeth Kempers accesses our service at Taree

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