Talking about mental health isn't easy. Talking about your own struggles with mental health is even harder. But it's also important. It removes the stigma and sends a message — you're not alone.
In addition to donating all UNITY 2023 proceeds to NGOs with a focus on mental health, Velocio is also highlighting ambassadors who are willing to speak up about their own mental health journey.
Velocio Ambassadors Björn and Jana, aka Ride Punk Ride, discuss their experiences with mental health below.Explore UNITY 2023
Jana: I have been struggling with my mental health lately. It feels like I'm always stuck in a mental carousel and it's hard to compare the state in my mind to anything else. This continues to affect my daily life, as I subconsciously feel stressed all the time and can't calm down. I find it difficult to relax and relieve stress in everyday life. Due to all these to-dos in my head, I very often have the feeling that I can't take time for myself, because then something else is left lying around and is present again in an open tab in my head the next day.
Björn: I've struggled with mental health in many ways. One of the biggest struggles I face is the constant feeling of not being good enough and not living up to people's expectations, both in my personal and professional life. This self-doubt can be overwhelming at times and can be a constant battle. As a photographer, I know I'm good at what I do, but imposter syndrome still creeps in and affects me. The feeling of not being good enough also leads to jealousy and fear of loss in my relationships, which can be hard to deal with. However, I'm grateful that these struggles have become less prominent over the years and that I have a supportive partner, Jana, who understands me and my fears.
"The pandemic brought a new lease on life for me and my partner as we discovered our love for gravel bikes. Getting out into nature, away from people, and being able to breathe calmly was a game changer."
Björn: Cycling has been a source of solace for me during these trying times. The last couple of years before the pandemic, I used to ride my bike mostly for commuting purposes, because of a crash in 2016 that caused me to be unable to work for a few weeks, I lost my passion for it and after all, as a freelance photographer, I had to provide for myself, so I decided not to race any alleycats anymore or anything similar. However, the pandemic brought a new lease on life for me and my partner as we discovered our love for gravel bikes. Getting out into nature, away from people, and being able to breathe calmly was a game changer for me. The fear of catching COVID and the constant stress was gone, and it was just me, my partner, and nature.
Jana: Cycling has helped me to stop my carousel of thoughts and finally find peace again. I can concentrate on the essentials and leave everyday life behind. The fresh air and physical exertion I experience while cycling help me recover from my sedentary work and challenge my body. Cycling helps me clear my head and improve my mental health.
Jana: Cycling for me is an escape from the daily grind, and the all-day rides are what I find to be the most beneficial for my mental health. I have fond memories of a bikepacking trip I took last summer that lasted for 8 days, during which I felt more relaxed in my mind than I have in a long time. The beauty of cycling is that it's not about how fast or how far you can go, but rather it's about taking the time to be out in nature, being active, and being present in the moment. This focus on the present and the natural surroundings is what makes cycling such a valuable tool for improving my mental health.
Björn: Cycling provides a much-needed break from the daily stress and allows me to recharge my batteries. I find that the all-day rides offer the most benefit for my mental well being. A bikepacking trip we took last summer, lasting for 8 days, still stands out as one of the most relaxing experiences I've had in a long time. The charm of cycling is not in speed or distance, but in taking the time to immerse yourself in nature, stay active, and be fully present. This mindfulness and connection to the environment is what makes cycling so effective in promoting my mental health.
Björn: Cycling can often be perceived as all about performance - how far you can ride, how fast you can go. But for me, and similarly for Jana, it's about so much more than that. Rather than focusing on the numbers and competition, it's about the freedom and independence that comes with riding a bike.
Cycling should be a fun and inclusive experience for everyone, regardless of age, gender, body shape, or speed. The focus should be on enjoying the moment and the freedom that comes with riding a bike, rather than on performance or adhering to unwritten rules. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health in the cycling community, and even in society as a whole. Jana and I share the same view that this needs to change, and that people need to be more open about their mental health struggles. We believe that there are likely many more people who are struggling with mental health issues than those who are speaking up about it. It's important for the cycling community to become more accepting and understanding of mental health, and for people to seek help if they need it.
Jana: The cycling community can and must become more open. All the definitions and rules, who needs that? Professionals, yes, they do, but recreational cyclists? Isn't it completely irrelevant how expensive the equipment is? How old or young a person is? What gender the person feels they belong to? What the person's body shape is? Whether a person rides fast or slow, short or long distances? Isn't it all about how much fun you have doing it? I think the fun of cycling has to be put more in the foreground, before the unwritten rules, before the canonization of pain.
And men (probably mostly straight cis men) should rethink their behavior towards women. Unfortunately, there are still always unpleasant moments when I'm alone on the road, which in the end puts stress on me and makes me enjoy the moment less.
Jana: If you have a hard time clearing your head or switching off, just get on a bike and ride outside. Anywhere. To the forest, to the sea, to the mountains - the main thing is to move your body and get out into nature. Concentrate on the essentials and leave the worries and everyday life behind.
But... and this is very important, cycling can never replace therapy. Cycling can only be a tool, which can help to calm or clear the head for the moment. But it will never replace professional help.
Björn: Cycling can be a great way to clear your mind and escape the stress of daily life, but it's important to remember that it can only be a tool for temporary relief. The often heard phrase "cycling is my therapy" can lead to a false belief that you can solve your problems by yourself. Professional help should never be replaced by cycling or any other form of exercise. It's crucial to seek help from a mental health professional if you're struggling. Talking to friends, family, or trusted individuals can also be a great way to relieve stress. Don't be afraid to be honest about how you're feeling and reach out for support. It's okay to not be okay, and it's important to take care of your mental health by seeking professional help and having open and honest conversations with others.