Yes, the title of this post is “How the Cycle Effect Changed My Life”. I know, you are probably thinking “Jill, that seems like a bit of an exaggeration”. But it’s not and I’ll prove it.

It’s been six weeks since I agreed to write this blog post. I’ve been grappling with how honest I should be and whether this is the right forum. May happens to be Mental Health Awareness month and as an educator and advocate for kids, I feel it is my duty to do my part in destigmatizing mental illness… I struggle with depression and anxiety and have been working to manage it for decades. You may or may not be shocked but according to The National Alliance on Mental Health “anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. An estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. (18%) have an anxiety disorder. Meanwhile, approximately 8% of children and teenagers experience an anxiety disorder.” Locally, Vail Health reports that “emergency room visits for anxiety and depression rose 360% (from 63 to 290) in the last five years.” So I know I’m not alone.

My goal is not to scare you or make you sympathize with people who struggle with mental illness. My goal is for readers of this blog to start a conversation with the young people in their lives and realize the benefits of The Cycle Effect (TCE) beyond the physical well-being. Discussing mental health needn’t be complicated or scary. Here are 3 ways that TCE has changed my life and perhaps an entry point into discussing mental health with the ones you love:
1. Mindfulness and focusing on the present moment
Being on a mountain bike and on a trail requires your attention. This time away from the stream of thoughts that fill our heads throughout the day is proven to improve sleep, lower stress levels, and decrease negative feelings.
2. Approaching self non-judgmentally
Here’s a tough lesson to learn at any age… there will always be someone faster, stronger, smarter, prettier (yes, the list keeps going) than you. Judging ourselves against this idea of perfection leads to low self-concept and overall low self-esteem. The Cycle Effect team LIFTS EACH OTHER UP! We encourage each other, we focus on the growth we’ve made, and we remind each other that we are here for each other.
3. Distress tolerance.
We all have bad days. Whether it be at school, with family, or simply an issue with friends, it’s important that we learn how to reduce the intensity of some of the emotions we are feeling. Intense exercise is well known to stimulate the body to produce endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones which can make problems seem more manageable.

The more we talk about mental health alongside physical health, the more we will find the next generation feeling hopeful, engaged and excited about their futures. At Cycle Effect practices we talk to girls about nutrition, sportsmanship, goal setting, and yes… stress management, positive self-talk, and taking the time to assess how we are feeling on any given day. These topics are important for our girls to be able to talk about and being one of the people in their lives that gets to engage in these conversations with them, has changed my life.

Resources cited: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

https://www.nami.org/

Vail Health. (2019, April 19). Retrieved from https://www.vailvalleypartnership.com/2019/04/vail-health-commits-60-million-to-behavioral-health-alongside-county-partners/