12 Ways Can Too Boosts My Mental Health.

by Emma Brown 09 Oct 2020

Can Too devotee Michelle Nemec has completed many Can Too programs as a runner, swimmer and even a singer. The Team Captain of the upcoming Learn to Ocean Swim program shares how she has benefitted from Can Too, especially when times are tough it allows her to defiantly not give in to grief.

"It’s the Can Too journey rather than the goal race or end-product. It’s all about the people, support and sense of community that bring the greatest benefits," says Michelle.

"Even when there are hard days you can still go to Can Too training and focus on the positives."

My top mental health benefits from Can Too:

1. It’s fun

You get to laugh a lot and share lots of fun and social times in and outside of training.

Your circle of friends seems to be ever increasing.

2. Altruism buzz

The fundraising creates goodwill, it builds your confidence and gives you a good feeling from dedicating yourself to a higher purpose - raising funds for cancer research.

3. Exploring nature

Being outside draws a lot of mental health benefits. You’re smelling the roses as they say.

[Research shows that nature has a significant effect on reducing stress levels. A study of 10,000 city inhabitants by University of Exeter Medical School found that people who lived near green spaces had less mental distress regardless of income, education level and employment.[1]]

4. Being in the moment

During a recent run in Centennial Park I stopped to take a photo, at what I first saw was a lake, when I stopped and looked carefully I realised it was full of lily pods and huge carp. It was so beautiful. This is an example of a mental health strategy called mindfulness.

5. Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise is the perfect anti-depressant, if you feel a bit depressed just go for a run feel and you’ll feel a lot better.

[According to Black Dog Institute 16 weeks of regular exercise has been found to be equally effective as antidepressant medication in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.[2]]

6. Rediscover who you are by learning what your strengths are

You can learn about yourself by seeing how other people perceive your strengths. You also help others see what their strengths are, as they emerge in the dynamics of the group.

I saw strengths I didn’t know I had so I could be a lot freer and relaxed from Can Too, it’s like a rediscovery of who I am.

7. Gain a support network

There’s so many people in Can Too that have experienced similar circumstances in terms of grieving and dealing with the effects of cancer, it’s a great support network and people really are so giving and inspiring.

8. Build relationships with like-minded people

The Coaches, Mentors and Team Captains as well as the Can Too team such as the Chair of the Board Anne Massey bring enormous positive energy to the programs. The staff bring a sense of fun which enlivens the training.

The Foundation draws a certain type of person who participates on a physical, mental and service level. Even though they are an eclectic bunch from psychiatrists and doctors to marketing professionals and artists.

“Even though you meet a diversity of such different characters, I’ve never met a bad Can Tooer.”

9. Find way to express positive emotions

Each group find ways whether that be naming their pod a fun name and taking funny photos. This brings an upward spiral of positive emotions which is very contagious you can’t help but be happy even when it’s freezing cold and raining, it’s still fun.

10. Sense of achievement

Completing the challenges brings a great sense of self-belief, from the self-discipline, mental focus and goal setting.

When people say that sounds difficult, as we often underestimate ourselves, I say it’s all achievable, you can do it too.

11. Transformation

To see Can Tooers continue training, especially people who were overweight or inactive before the program, without the support of the foundation’s network shows that Can Too have done their job well. They’ve created wellbeing for that person. That’s empowering for mental health.

12. Helps deal with grief

My father had bladder cancer for 10 years he passed away in February 2016 which cemented my commitment to Can Too. I was already committed, but it took on a different realm in what it means to me. I dedicated my Queenstown marathon to him and have since run the Melbourne and Sydney marathons, that’s three marathons in 11 months. My dad used to run part of the Melbourne course as he ran marathons too. Many of the Can Too participants have similar meaningful stories to tell.  

Even when my mother -in-law died on a Friday I went the next morning to Can Too training as otherwise I was going to be at home crying, the support and training helped with my grief and in a way helped me to defy it.

I’m proud to be a Can Tooer, people say it sounds like a cult, I say yes it is, it’s the positive kind though.

[1] Go Green, (n.d) 10 Ways Nature Benefits Your Mental Health, < viewed: 2.11.18: http://www.gogreen.org/blog/10-ways-nature-benefits-your-mental-health. >

[2] Black Dog Institute, (n.d) Exercise and depression, < viewed: 2.11.18:  https://blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/factsheets/exercise_depression.pdf. >