My Good Mental Health Was Affected When I Stopped Playing Football

Physical Exercise. Probably the best thing you can do to manage your mental health. But what happens to your brain when you stop playing the sports you love?

For me there is a link between my bouts of depression and anxiety and my gradual decreased participation in sport over the past decade and a half.

As a result, I have slowly learnt to understand that physical exercise acts as a flood defence in preventing the brain becoming overwhelmed with poor mental health.

In other words, it acts as a protector.

Growing Up

Today is World Mental Health Day, but I grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s — a time when mental health wasn’t at the forefront of society. Nobody outside of sufferers and their families spoke about it — especially if you were a male. Awareness of it as a youngster in a school or the wider world was non-existent.

I do remember seeing the brain’s capabilities, though — having witnessed a relative suffer with manic-depression (now known as bipolar disorder), and the effects this had on everyone, not to mention the sufferer. I never really understood this illness of the brain. I also didn’t understand how a human could not have full control over their own thoughts and behaviour. Very naive, granted.

During my school days and teenage years, I was always exercising. Constantly feeding my brain with endorphins. Totally unaware that not only was it benefiting me physically, it was also keeping that muscle inside my head, healthy.

Playing football was my number one form of exercise. I trained and played for my school twice a week, as did I for a separate club team. I participated in athletics and cricket; I played football in the streets. I ran long distance events. I was always sweating and caked in mud.

This level of physical activity remained part of my life until my late teens. At 17 and 364 days I was at peak health and fitness.

And then I hit 18.

Society Pressures

It was at this point in my life I entered the world of work and was sucked into the draw of pubs and clubs and other…

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