How exercising through cycling helped me to manage my anxiety
Anxiety can present itself in many different ways for us all, and we have different ways of coping with symptoms and managing our mental health. We spoke to Josh and Mellissa, who told us their unique experiences with anxiety and poor mental health, and how exercise and cycling helped them both to improve their mood and ease feelings of anxiety.
Melissa: “I have been a single parent for seventeen years; and I can remember experiencing difficult emotions and intrusive thoughts as far back as my pregnancy with my first child, in 2005. At that point, mental health was not widely spoken about and I didn’t really know I could get help with it. I remember my anxiety would come on in cycles and I would hit a real low in my mood every so often. I would have a good cry, maybe talk it out with a friend or family member and then pick myself up and go again. I can remember my mum calling me the “queen of the bounce-back”. In 2012, I had my first diagnosis of anxiety (and depression), my doctor prescribed me medication but I decided I would rely on exercise and healthy eating to feel better. As a fitness professional, I can absolutely advocate that those two things greatly support anxiety, but it certainly is not a substitute for professional help.
In 2020, after continuing to struggle with anxiety, depression and panic-attacks, I made another appointment with my GP and asked for help. I was prescribed medication, referred for CBT with Talk Therapies. Paired with the forced slow down of life due to the pandemic, it gave me the headspace to really start the working on my symptoms. ‘Healing’ is so individual, for me it was about self compassion and rejecting the idea that I have to always be working my hardest and feeling my best to be successful and happy. I had to work really hard at reframing and rewriting what I wanted my story to be. This year has seen significant challenges for me, but this time around, I’m able to recognise how I was feeling and know I’m not alone, which has really helped.
There are many things that helped my anxiety (and depression) including medication, therapy and reading to name a few. I’ve also found taking classes SoulCycle, getting active and exercising, has given me a positive outlet for my emotions and energy. Some days, I have to just accept it’s not a great day, and ultimately, knowing that, that doesn’t mean I am failing.”
Josh:“Experiencing anxiety is a very new thing for me. I had never struggled with my mental health at all prior to a couple of years ago, but since the end of the pandemic anxiety had become part of day to day life. I’m not sure why or how – it seems there is no cause or reason I can blame, and believe me I have tried to blame something! My anxiety came on suddenly and affected every part of my life. I was terrified of what was happening as it was all so new – it resulted in me taking time off work, stopping socialising and leaving the city to escape all responsibility. Life became way too much for me to handle so I ran away. Convinced I was horrifyingly sick, I kept going to the hospital to be told I was fine eventually resulting in being prescribed medication to help me control my anxiety, which then led me to seek therapy. Which I’m glad to say helped.
It is such a hard thing for me to wrap my head around and I spent ages trying to find an answer to why it was happening. I’ve now stopped trying so hard to fight it and it’s more just a case of accepting that I am anxious, and that there doesn’t always need to be a reason why you feel anxious. I also sometimes still feel embarrassed when explaining my mental health to people. It’s not necessarily that I am ashamed, but I still feel that it’s a taboo subject. I’ve learnt that it’s not something to run away from but more to lean into. Accepting feelings and moving with them. I can’t spiral with my anxiety by being anxious about being anxious. But I can recognise the feeling and reassure myself that I am okay. I think exercise helped me to feel less anxious. Cycling at SoulCycle to me is familiarity and safety with my body – when I’m riding the bike I feel my strongest and most capable version of myself. Anxiety gets put to one side and I regain faith in myself and my physicality.”
Thousands of riders take SoulCycle classes every day to ride through struggles, strengthen their bodies, empower their minds and find joy in movement to become the best version of themselves. SoulCycle was founded on a few simple ideas, that fitness could be physical, musical and an inspirational experience. Learn more about SoulCycle
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