In the final part of this series, I’d like to tie together what we’ve covered to here as well as providing a general idea of how to ride our bike in a way that both feels achievable to us as well as providing us with benefits in terms of diminishing and beginning to remove our depressive symptoms. So what have we covered, do you recall? Well, in the first part we took a look at how we might in a way prime our minds to the idea of taking a decision to get out on our bikes. And then in the second part, we’ve given a very brief introduction to how cycling might fit in with the Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy (CBT) protocol for depression and depressive disorders. That leads us neatly to here asking: well, how do we go about this on our bike? 🙂
Hello, Dear Reader and welcome back. As ever, it’s wonderful to have you here. It’d be my wish that you’re able to find a degree of daylight in your outlook, especially from riding your bike. To that end I’d like to imagine you’ve found some utility in the previous two articles. In this final part I’d like to give some more ideas for how to get out on your bike at a time that you perhaps don’t feel you have the energy or inclination. Ultimately as before, it’s about you doing what you can to take that one decision. Once you do, you’ll have set the wheels in motion to lift your self up and out of these symptoms. Nobody’s suggesting it’s an easy thing. I know you can though!
But let’s see where we’ve got to so far…
Tying together the strands
From the first part of our CBT-based bike plan for depression, we talked about trying to put our selves in the right frame of mind to make the decision: I’m going to get on my bike and ride. We noted that it’s gotta be us who takes the decision. While help is available to us when we’re dealing with depression, ultimately the decision to act to effect a positive change within us has to be ours and ours alone! This isn’t always an easy thing to consider. But the first step is simply in taking one decision that you’re going to act at all! 🙂
I put forward the idea that we can sometimes (all of us including those of us in the caring professions) be guilty of “buying into” the condition. It can affect the language we use both to each other and within our selves. If that’s at risk of veering into self-pity it can return a downward spiral of feelings and thoughts conspiring with each other to push us further into the depression. These can cause us to withdraw and cut ourselves off from others or from our former interests, hobbies or activities (cycling!) That in turn gives us unfortunately space to ruminate on the negative thoughts we’re having about our situation which can precipitate lethargy, tiredness and low energy which has us withdraw even more! Therefore the suggestion I’m offering is to be mindful of our tendency to buy into the notion of depression. It’s a condition. It affects a huge percentage of our populations. But it’s absolutely possible (and likely) to be gotten rid of when we decide to act. Which is what we’re doing here. We’re acting to break this cycle by cycling! 🙂 #allpunsintended
To that end, we also talked about it being helpful to see depressive symptoms as occurring within us rather than us claiming ownership of them. The effects of the symptoms can be felt, but it’s not your depression.
From the second part of our CBT-based cycling plan for depression, we looked briefly at how the CBT Cognitive Model describes the way that five different aspects link together in depression (and other) conditions. We have the situation or event that’s triggering off certain thoughts, giving rise to emotions and bodily affects as well as having us behave in certain ways too. A negative change in one of these five, for example, thinking about the situation with a catastrophic tone, can negatively impact upon all the others. This can leave us feeling very low moods, loss of interest in former activities, at times perhaps suicidal. It can precipitate fatigue or lacking sleep, and can give rise to seeking solace in the wrong places. But our cycling can be the positive change (in behaviour) that can elevate our mood, help us feel greater energy physically and that in turn can increase our confidence in our ability to cope with stressful situations as well as giving us back our confiscated sense of achievement, success and enjoyment – these are almost always absent in depression – I’ve explained a bit more on this vid over on the CyclingQuestions video channel here.
Okay, so now we want to find out how exactly ought we to ride our bike in order to maximise its benefit to us as part of a CBT-based plan for depression. Let’s see…
What cycling do I do to benefit me on this CBT plan?
Since we’re not face to face and we don’t have your problem list to talk through, in order to give you some idea of whereabouts the depressive symptoms you’re experiencing lie on a scale, there are lots of depression “inventories” or self-assessment tools online. I’d like you if you’re not already aware or have a diagnosis, just to take a few minutes to complete one for your own information. Again none of these constitute any kind of diagnosis – only your doctor can do that. Rather it’s just a heads up. If your results indicate you might be experiencing depression then that’s a good thing as it might incentivize you to take appropriate action for your self 🙂 So these all use the same general metrics for inventorying depressive and/or anxiety-related symptoms. But if these don’t suit, there will most definitely be a similar depression self-assessment tool from your local, federal or government health agency, please do check there 🙂 They’re all pretty much akin. Here’s a sample:
This one’s a depression / anxiety self-assessment from NHS UK, or this depression test from PsychCentral, and another self-assessment from Mental Health America. As I say which one you take almost doesn’t matter as they use the same general methodology for determining outcome 🙂 Once again, these aren’t meant to scare you nor do they constitute diagnoses. They’re informational so we know where we stand! 🙂 So how did you score? High or low, don’t worry at all. Perhaps that might encourage you to seek the help of your doctor or healthcare provider. I would welcome knowing that 🙂 Remember you can get in touch here any time! But from here, I’ll assume that you have that in hand, Dear Reader.
How does that information help with our cycling plan?
It gives us an indication of your starting point. If your symptoms score you lower on these inventories, then we can get riding sooner and with less preparation than if your score is higher. In other words, while the process of self- or behavioural-activation is the same regardless of the severity of the depression symptoms, the effort required in bringing about that action might be higher with the greatest severity of symptoms. This is a bit of a predicament since those experiencing greatest distress from symptoms are also those who need to find the greatest effort to bring about that positive change. Again though #youcandoit!! 🙂 Please do have another read over the previous two parts, part 1: the mindset primer and part 2: the CBT protocol, of this CBT-based cycling plan for depression series. And if you need, also have another check at my article here on taking that one decision to act to rid your self of depression. When you’ve done that, or if you feel ready to take the step and get on your bike we can get going 🙂
Motivation as our plan-customizing factor
The level of severity of the symptoms of depression that you’re experiencing will likely be inversely proportional to the level of motivation you have – severe depression = lowest motivation. You’ll find on the CyclingQuestions site here lots of articles on how to boost your cycling motivation. I’ve written these because it’s a factor I’m also affected by!
So we can customize our cycling by assessing the severity of the depression symptoms and our concomitant level of motivation. In essence, the more distressing the symptoms are, the smaller your cycling goal needs to be. That cycling goal can be as small as small can be. I’ve seen plenty of clients whose behavioural activation task is simply to get out of bed when they otherwise don’t have to, and sitting in another room for a while. So in terms of cycling, yeah, as little as it needs to be. If things feel that bad, just getting down to the end of your road and back is a good enough start. Do it, come back and congratulate the heck outta your self for doing it! You absolutely must recognize that success as a success. Because it is. Again, don’t allow your ego to persuade you to buy into depression. Don’t allow this to suggest, oh, you only rode your bike for ten minutes, you’re still / things are still <insert your ego’s negative thought here> You must accept the success and achievement for what they are. Sure, on your best day these count for nothing. But this isn’t your best day. This is you actively dealing with your depression by getting out on your bike. Therefore: you win! Success! #makeithappen 🙂
Acknowledge your achievement and reward it!
So the question of how frequently do we ride has got to be set by you your self. Only you know what you can achieve. I hope if nothing else, you can grasp this one idea that all it takes is for you to make that one decision to get out on your bike. If you do this, if you set that intention, if you make it happen and if you acknowledge what you did as a success, well, success breeds success, right? Recognise that small bike ride as an achievement and it could well set you up for the next one. That’s how this works.
Allow your self to feel physically better for having worked your muscles, your heart and lungs a little. Feel the lift in your mood – you can’t avoid it even if you have bought into the idea of depression. Riding your bike will get you out of there if you let it! And allow your self to feel greater confidence in your ability to functionally cope with these symptoms, lessen them and ultimately rid your self of them 🙂
So yeah, customizing the ride frequency is down to what you your self can manage. If your symptoms are very severe and you can get out once a week, you’re doing good. And if that’s all you can manage, well done! It’s the fact that you’ve begun that’s the key here! Of course, if you can manage more than that, you’ll expedite your recovery even more. But if not, don’t worry at all!
If your symptoms are moderate and you can manage to get out more than once congratulate your self. Three or four times is fantastic. Same with mild depression. Don’t set your self unattainable goals. Just get out, accept the success in having got out on your bike and prepare to do it again. If you acknowledge your achievement and reward your self with congratulations or some little treat, then you can’t help but be inspired by the resultant emotions and physical sensations that go with exercise of any form! Cycling I believe more than all the others 😉 #biased
So as you can see, we’re not just acknowledging and rewarding for its own sake here. We’re setting our selves up for our next ride too. Again, a little teeny tiny goal is what we’re aiming for. That way we can be certain of achieving it and deserving acknowledgement of that achievement. You’re with me on this? Good 🙂
Above all else, be compassionate towards your self. You must! I don’t want you to use this as any kind of excuse for self-pity. That’s an wholly unhelpful emotion and state of mind. No. But what I most certainly do want you to do is to recognise that you’re currently being affected by certain physical, psychological and physiological operators that are causing you to feel out of sorts, sometimes badly out of sorts. If you can find a way to acknowledge this, while also recognizing that you’re doing something actively positive about this by going out on your bike, then you can find your way to that place of self-compassion. None of these feelings is unusual. An awful lot of other people have experienced these feelings too. But you deserve to be outta here. Hence this plan 🙂
Here’s a little vid where I add further explanation about these ideas. Was a duller day on this ride, just not as dull as the terrible footage suggests haha. Hope there’s some value in what I’m talking about though 🙂
So there’s nothing here I haven’t put out before. It’s gotta be simple for any of us with depressive symptoms to be able to manage without adding additional stress. In summary overall then, let’s see what we’ve got…
Summary of the CBT-based cycling plan for depression
- Find the right mind – that point from which you’ll confidently make the decision to act; to get out and ride your bike
- Be mindful of our tendency to claim ownership of depression. Distance your self from it. While the various catalog of symptoms can most definitely be felt, it’s not ours to own
- Understand how that catalog of symptoms aren’t all from different conditions. It’s all just expected aspects of depression that we can see as being inter-related and having impacts upon each other. These include, situation, thoughts about that situation, particularly negative, unhelpful ones, feelings such as hopelessness, worthlessness, anger or futility, physical effects such as tiredness or appetite changes, and our various behaviours as we do what we can to cope – some of which actually aren’t helping
- Appreciate that just as a small negative change in one of these five aspects can negatively affect all the others, so too can a small positive change (such as cycling as a functional, beneficial behaviour)
- Appreciate that our inclination to get out and ride might be hampered by the severity of the symptoms of depression. But there are always sneaky hacks to get around this. Setting a tiny cycling goal is the best. But it must be acknowledged as the achievement it is. And it must be congratulated! 🙂
I know when we’re experiencing the worst that depression has to offer, our concentration can be diminished. So if you’ve managed to get through these articles and vids, well done you! I appreciate your effort in doing this for your self. It’s not easy, but nobody said it would be. You can do it though. I’ve seen it in others, and I never get tired of seeing it. If there’s anything I can do to help you with this, let me know in the comments, contact form or on the CyclingQuestions YouTube channel – click to subscribe for all the content 🙂 Meantime, take special care of your self, ride safe out there, have fun – you’re allowed to – don’t let depression or your little ego tell you otherwise!! and kindest, warmest regards to you, Dear Reader, David.