My Biking Chronicle: Avoiding Anxiety in the Times of Corona
Has the COVID-19 pandemic taken a toll on your mental health? Mine too! Being stuck indoors for months, the fear of losing my job, and not knowing whether my loved ones are safe from the deadly virus really fuels my disproportionate feelings of anxiety. I had to look for ways of toning down my thoughts lest anxiety and panic would have consumed me. Biking did it for me and it will hopefully work for you too.
In case you are wondering whether it is safe to ride outside during a pandemic, the answer is yes! The trick is to ride solo or with a small group of people you trust (preferably members of your household). I was lucky enough to have a supportive family who was more than happy to enjoy the outdoors with me. We mostly bike in open areas but when we feel like hitting popular biking trails, we always take the least crowded routes.
Motorized bikes as the ultimate solution
I must mention that I had zero biking experience prior to the pandemic. As you’d guess, pedaling for long distances was killing my old, tired legs. Manual-propulsion bikes can really be cruel to beginners. We are lucky that we can always get the help of a motorized bike. I bought a motorized bicycle kit and my legs couldn’t have been happier. With the help of the motor, I am now able to climb all the intimidating hills in my neighborhood without pushing my old body to exhaustion.
I know you aren’t here to read about my tired legs, so I will jump into what really brought you here: How cycling helped me tone down my anxiety. Welcome to my biking chronicles!
Staying Focused on the Here and Now
When I bike, I feel at one with my world- the here and now. It helps me forget all the troubling thoughts about the pandemic and its repercussions. When I bike solo, I focus only on the landscape around me and other road users. When biking with family members, I bask in the warmth of their company. I literally experience the feelings of empathy and connectedness growing in me, leaving me feeling serene. And now thanks to my e-bike, I can ride for up to three hours non-stop and maintain optimal concentration all through. You know, feeling like time’s been suspended; like nothing can possibly ruin my high spirits. My anxious mind doesn’t wander when I’m in this deep, subconscious state.
Riding My Way to Calmness
Biking to me is a form of meditation; I start meditating immediately after gearing up through the recovery “downtime” when I get back home. I speak positivity into my brain and tell myself to give my ride 100% focus. When I hit the road, the awareness and the focus I give to my breathing patterns as I push up hills come with many meditative benefits that I didn’t know I could get from biking. I have come to realize that biking as a form of exercise is very different from other body workouts. The timing rhythm of my breathing, the unique inherent tempo, and the steady supply of oxygen across my body works great for my mental calmness. It keeps me in tune with the movement of every muscle in my body, and other inherent physical sensations, which brings me a great deal of peace and calm.
Biking with Family
Roads in my neighborhood have been blissfully traffic-free during the pandemic and that has worked to my advantage. The air is also a lot fresher than on normal days. And with schools closed now, the time has never been more ideal for us to venture out for some group exercise as a family. I won’t lie that I have any biking skills to teach my kids, two of them are teenagers by the way, but I really enjoy spending quality time with them. They have been teaching me how to negotiate traffic lights and roundabouts on a bike which, I must admit, has been a steep learning curve for me even with the incredibly empty roads. I think this new (fun) challenge has in a way helped me deal with anxiety.
Biking My Way to Longer, Deeper Sleep
I don’t know the science behind this but, since I’ve started biking on a regular basis, chronic insomnia that my struggle with anxiety precipitated has died down. I stopped bringing my phone to the bedroom, toned down a bit on watching the news, and I have since been falling asleep faster and staying asleep for longer.
This is actually a bonus tip: To help lower my anxiety even further, I decided to avoid unhelpful media and misinformation. I have cut-off all anxiety-inducing news sources from my life and have instead deliberately chosen to distract my mind from coronavirus. That might help quell the panic for you too.
- Sarah Mendy -