Although Christmas is meant to be a happy and joyful time, that isn't how everyone feels right now. Christmas can be stressful, especially for families with small children. David Waine is a fitness coach, personal trainer, nutrition consultant and dad to two little boys. He tells us about his own experiences of low mood and stress and the tactics he feels have helped him to boost his mental and physical health.
Hi, My name is David Waine and I am a proud father of two lovely boys aged 2 and 3. I say "lovely boys" as they are, but they have certainly put me through my paces over the last three years! No one ever really knows how hard life can get until you dive in to being a parent.
I have a motivational job which I love, to help other people and parents manage life and find the best versions of themselves through health, nutrition and fitness.
I have had a lot chucked at me over the last 4 years and have managed to keep my head afloat through the darkest times of my life by having a strong focus on my health. When you take care of your body, your body takes care of you.
The day after my first son was born on 1st March 2015, I got the news that my amazing Mum had only hours left to live due to an aggressive cancer that came out of nowhere. I had to leave my wife and newborn in the hospital, drive across the country and managed to spend the last few hours with her before she died.
Following this we found out that our son Harrison had a very rare disability called PTCD. This is a complicated disability but the main symptom is being profoundly deaf. He is also unable to walk without a frame and has many struggles in life.
This was a very hard time for us as a family and I gave my all to support my wife and tried to be the best dad I could.
This is where I think a lot of us dads are in life, looking after everyone else who is close to us that we sometimes forget about ourselves. We may appear strong to others around us and get all the jobs done for our family but sometimes life can be hard for us too.
My priority is always my wife's mental health and making sure she is happy. I have recently cut back on work hours to be more supportive at home to make sure she has the help she needs as Harrison can be very hard work.
We have been learning BSL sign language and we need to put a lot of time in to Harrison's language development.
I have always been helping others in coaching and personal training but never had time for myself and have felt pretty low at some points.
I found myself feeling down and could not work out why at the time. I now realise that I was burning myself out so much looking after everyone else that I ended up chronically stressed and needing to change something drastically for my own health.
This is when I started to take care of myself and it has really made a difference in my life. I now feel at peace and the balance I have created for myself really works.
I had to look at my life and my weeks ahead and change something as I could not continue anymore like I was.
I started to look at my weekly schedule with my wife and managed to create some me time, my time, time for me! This has helped me more than anything and by doing the same for my wife it has helped us as parents to keep our moods high and to manage life's stresses a bit better.
Your time can be anything you wish it to be. If you have a health club membership and wish to take half an hour in the hot tub once a week to de-stress then go for it. If finding a quiet coffee shop and catching up on work emails makes you happy, as you can't get work done at home, then this is also fine. You need to think about what would really chill you out and make time to do it.
It is not all about diet and exercise, it is about your mental health. So many people in this modern western world suffer from mental health problems. Work stress, time pressure, financial stress, social media, it all contributes to our overall stress levels.
Exercise, especially outdoor exercise, is amazing for boosting your mood and balancing hormones in your body to make you feel good. This is why I love my outdoor bootcamp and enjoy my job.
I started a free running club once a week to get out in the fresh air as it really makes you feel so good, this is a great social event as well as exercise. I would never run on my own so joining a group or an exercise class is a great start.
I also started a weight training programme in my garage with a few dumbbells, as I knew I would feel better gaining a bit more strength. I booked myself into my calendar like I would another client. This gives me three days a week where I can grab an hour and push some heavy weights making me feel awesome!
I listen to inspiring podcasts from endurance athletes like Rich Roll, who has hundreds of hours of listening for free and is very inspiring. Listening to positive, motivating people really helps keep your head strong.
I try to be as healthy as I can during the week and allow myself some flexibility at the weekend. It's worth remembering that as soon as you start to consume quick, convenience foods full of refined sugar and addictive chemicals, it starts to effect your mood and can bring you down. My advice would be to stay as far away from processed foods like sweets, biscuits, cakes, baked goods etc. These will cause an insulin spike and could leave you feeling depressed hours later.
I have been 100% strict on my diet before, with no alcohol or junk food, but sometimes you need a night off! It is really important to give yourself that night off if that is what you need. Life is about balance and as long as you are healthy 80% of the time then there will not be a problem. Healthy eating is simply eating whole natural foods in the purest forms, minimal processed foods and lots of plants! Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains are packed full of nutrient dense, fibre rich compounds that boost your mood, increase your energy and make you feel on top of life. This feeds out gut bacteria the fuel they need to create a happy ecosystem that will promote a happy body from top to bottom!
I run a 8 week online plant based nutrition program called LeanFit PBN for anyone needing help in breaking free of addictive food cravings and energy slumps. I have many videos on the connection between food and feelings and how what we put in our mouths directly effects our experience of life. It also comes with 16 home workout videos to do at home with no equipment needed.
There is so much I could say but the main thing I want you to take from this blog is that you do not have to overthink health and invent barriers to success. You do not need a gym membership or to starve yourself to be healthy. You need to just slow down the whirlwind of life that is around you and de-load some stress where you can. It will make a huge difference.
Don't be in a rush for health or fitness, just start making small changes to your everyday life and you will soon notice a huge difference.
Getting Out and About
Spend as much time outdoors and away from the sofa as you can! Eat healthy natural food when you are at home and enjoy yourself when a social occasion comes up. Try to not stress about things that are out of your control. If you can't control it then forget about it.
You can get all the exercise you need from walking, jogging and body weight exercises such as press ups, squats and burpees. If you want more weight training on a budget then the next step would be a pack of resistance bands to increase your strength for under £30. These can be taken in a work bag anywhere you go if you travel a lot.
Make a break and grab life by the horns and look after yourself like you would your own children!
Every new year is a brand new fresh start and can be anything you want it to be. It is a fresh clean slate, unwritten for now. It is you and your choices over that year that tell your story. It is never too late for anyone and with the help of others you can change your life for the better in a very short time and end up living the life you truly deserve.
For more help or advice feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.