May is Mental Health Month. Mental health is something that affects every single person to some degree. As we recently heard on MPR, depression is the "common cold" of mental health. Kurt and I are not immune to mental health challenges, we all get "colds". But in 48 years of living, and almost as many cycling, we have found areas of cross-over in our mind-body practices that have become central in our daily lives, and frankly ~ in our sanity. So this week we thought we would share with you some things we have learned and do. Because, as stated in our last blog post:
Kurt and I believe strongly that äventyr is not just about bicycle bags. äventyr is about sharing knowledge and experiences, helping people feel empowered and motivated, and creating community. For us, our ultimate expression of our knowledge and experience has culminated in starting a company that sells bicycle bags, but this is about so much more, and bicycle bags are just a start.
Today, DeAnn talks about the importance of life tools.
Kurt and I have moved to several different cities, I have been through a number of job and career transitions. And I have to admit I am not always the best with change ~and therefore have had my share of struggles. With each major life transition, I have learned a lot about myself. I know that growth is always hard - but always good, and that having the right tools in place to help you make the most of each day (as well as weathering the big changes), makes all the difference. Here are some of the things I have learned in regard to my own mental health over the years that hopefully you will find helpful as you navigate through your own life path.
True happiness. 2004. Spending time with my favorite guy (Dunker, RIP), at one of my favorite places in the world - Sea Drift Beach, Marin County, California. This was pretty much how we spent every weekend in NorCal.
Me in 2007 at my first job in Minneapolis. A smile hides so much... At this time I was happy with my new job, but I was really struggling with major life transitions (moving from San Francisco and switching careers), much more than I realized in this moment.
Sometimes the people in your life might be giving you the best advice, but sometimes it is hard to listen to them. That’s where therapy was a great help to me. Both in San Francisco and Minneapolis when I was struggling through something difficult, I did a few sessions of therapy to get me back on track. I look at those therapy sessions as tool builders and life rafts during turbulent storms passing through. In therapy I learned about negative self talk, downward spirals, how to accept my reality and make the most of it, triggers, and the power of positive thinking (this one is SO HUGE). This was long before those things were being talked about in the common vernacular; I am so glad people are starting to talk openly about this and so much more - especially women.
Light reading in what is normally the lock pocket on The Social. 2018 test ride in Mesa, AZ.
Reading exposes you to new ideas, new ways of thinking, new concepts, helps you feel like you are not alone, gives you good conversation starters, and literally makes you smart. I will always believe in the power of holding a good book and turning the pages (it is a practice). I am not the best reader (it can take me a year, or more, to finish a book), but I always have about 3-4 books going at once. Typically the line up looks something like what I am currently reading:
- Something inspiring: Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern
- Something Relaxing: Lessons
- Something educational: The Nature Fix
- Something business related: Company of One and Work Wife.
The importance of a Meditative Practice
When I started doing a lot of reading after I left my job in 2017, I read a lot about the importance of having a ‘practice’. I realized I had been engaging in two important practices my entire adult life, and now that I understood how beneficial those practices were, my dedication to them became even more important to me for both my mental health, my daily life, and moving myself forward through life transitions. Cycling and Yoga are two of my dedicated practices.
Me and my first professionally fit-to-me road bike. 2009.
Cycling has helped me through some difficult transitions, and is such a huge part of my mental health, I cannot imagine life without it. I have always loved biking since I was a child, but it was not until I got my first road bicycle in 2009 (and finally had a bike that actually fit me and I wanted to ride) that I realized the benefits of cycling to my mental health. After riding 1500 miles that season and feeling the best I had ever felt physically, and mentally - I knew there was something to the meditative practice of making my rides a priority. Everyone who knows me knows I won’t commit to much in the summer because my cycling dates with myself, and Kurt, are the highest priority. My Tuesday rides especially are non-negotiable, and currently I include these rides as part of my ‘office hours’ for äventyr.
Yoga. Years before there was a yoga studio on every corner, there was VHS and Rodney Yee, and that is how I found out about yoga. I have always been more interested in yoga in regard to fitness, improving my bad back, and building up my muscles. But, I have learned after years of practicing yoga, the mental benefits I have gained through my practice. My relationship with yoga ebbs and flows and I always wish I had more time for it, but I know it is always there for me to ground me both physically and mentally. And as a cyclist with a bad back, I know how much better I feel after making time for yoga in my life. I believe as I get older yoga will become more and more important to me.
Definitely in Flow here. Early Season ride 2019 shaking out the new gravel bike.
Speaking of reading… In 2017 I read Designing Your Life. This has now become a book I recommend to everyone for multiple reasons, especially during personal and professional transitions. Through this book I learned a lot about myself, and about Flow. I realized that when I am cycling I am 100% in a state of flow (hey, there is something to this!).
“...there are these seven conditions that seem to be there when a person is in flow. There's this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears, you forget yourself, you feel part of something larger. And once the conditions are present, what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake.” ~Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, TED2004 “Flow, the secret to happiness”
I believe recognizing when you are in flow is one of the keys to personal success. Are the things you are doing in your daily life helping you live in a state of flow? I am now very cognizant of when I am in this state; am I am Flow or not? Depending on how I acknowledge my state, I understand if I should continue to pursue a certain path. Luckily even though I never planned on personally sewing as part of starting äventyr, sewing has always put me in a meditative state and I recognize now that when I am sewing I am frequently in a state of flow - must be something to it eh?
Ooph, do I hate Winter! I know I should embrace it, but the truth is I really enjoyed living in Colorado and California and having tons of Sun and little to no winter. Moving to Minnesota right before winter started was TOUGH for me, and it did a number on me mentally that took me years to get past. I still struggle, but I have learned much better how to... again… have tools to help me get through these, literally, darkest of days. Here are a few:
- Vitamin D. I hate the idea of taking 'sun pills', but I do it and believe it helps. I take Vitamin D regularly generally October-April (per my doctor's advice).
- Sun Lamp. I was using a sun lamp regularly at work. People made fun of the blue glow when they came to my cube, but I didn't care, those rays of sun were literally - golden.
- Yoga. See above.
- Getting outside. Mainly with my dogs, even when it is only 2 degrees Fahrenheit!
- Spinning. More on this one… In 2012 I started taking Spinning classes during the Winter months, and I have not looked back. Spinning in the winter has had such a benefit to my mental and physical health that in 2016 I became a certified Spinning instructor. And you can guess what I talk about a lot in class - simulating outdoor rides, and… the benefit of the mind body connection through cycling. Like Kurt talked about in his last post, using those physical challenges to help push you through other challenging situations in your daily life is HUGE. I have learned so much from my Spinning, and it has been my pleasure to help guide others through their daily lives by working on building their mind and body strength.
- Go Somewhere WARM & SUNNY! I have been lucky to return to California in the colder months every year since moving to Minnesota. And I also love being in the dry heat of Arizona as much as I can.
Spring training 2018. Testing out the fit of my new gravel bike before swapping out the stem and handlebars.
So there you have it, it takes a lot to hold a human like me together. I'm guessing you are not much different - am I right? So be easy on yourself, and keep building those life tools. The äventyr is too short not to make the most of it.