May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

If you haven’t checked out our Instagram recently, we’ve been shedding a little light on mental health and sharing a few of our community members’ stories at Zephyr.

Why we care.

In doing so, we hope to help decrease the stigma associated with mental health. We want more people to feel confident and comfortable in sharing their stories and struggles. We also want to spread the message to our community that there is hope, and that you are definitely not alone.

According to Mental Health First Aid, almost half of all adults in the United States will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lifetime, yet not even a third of people will seek help.

This statistic reveals just how common struggles with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, eating problems and self-esteem really are. So why is it so hard to ask for support?

By sharing stories of our own and of our community members, joining forces with amazing organizations like Suffer Out Loud, and creating a safe space to be yourself, we hope to make support more prevalent for those who need it.

Some of the stories we’ve received.

Carolyn Williams / Owner + Instructor / Zephyr Cycling Studio

Tell us a little about your mental health story.

I first went to see a counselor during my junior year in high school (15 years ago!) when life felt like it was too much and too painful. It was the first time in my life when I woke up each morning unsure of how I was going to get out of bed, let alone make it through the day. I went to a small school and as an already self conscious teenager, the idea of going to a counselor embarrassed me. But I don’t know where I’d be now if my teachers hadn’t strongly suggested I make an appointment with our school counselor. Having someone to talk to who could provide an outside, straightforward but compassionate perspective changed my life (and made me realize that there is absolutely nothing shameful about doing whatever you need to take care of yourself, including and especially therapy).

How do you cope?

Since high school, therapy has been a constant in my life, especially when I’m going through major life transitions (countless moves, starting a business, breakups – to name a few). And then of course, I move my body – every single day (even if it’s a walk with the dogs). I first walked into an indoor cycling class my freshman year of college and as someone who had never considered herself an athlete, finding a workout that not only made me feel better but was actually fun while I was doing it was a game changer.

How has Zephyr played a part in your journey?

Zephyr, and movement in general, has allowed me to find strength in my own self. Before I walked into an indoor cycling class, I’d spent my entire life looking for external validation,  acceptance and support. Moving my body on a daily basis not only makes my mind feel better, it allows me to feel more at home in my body and to practice making the response to the things that happen in my life be feelings rooted in self-compassion rather than those rooted in guilt, anger, frustration and/or despair. I work out to work through.

Biggest myth surrounding mental health and what to do/know instead?

Mental health struggles can make a person feel more isolated than almost anything else, I think. We think no one else can possibly understand what we’re going through and/or that they won’t care. But at some point, it becomes a relief to know that other people have experienced similar pain and have come out the other side. That what you’re experiencing, while completely unique to you, won’t defeat you.

And that idea that people won’t care, well, here’s the truth: the people in your life want to help you and be there for you. Imagine if someone you loved reached out to you to ask for help – wouldn’t you be honored and grateful that they did?

What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with their mental health?

Talk to someone (I literally googled counselors when I first moved to Bozeman and there are so many resources online!). If therapy is too expensive, check in with organizations like Suffer Out Loud, who help subsidize mental health care by paying for therapy sessions for those who need them but couldn’t afford them otherwise – which is SO AMAZING.

And, get moving. It doesn’t have to be a Zephyr class (although we’d love to have you!) – what’s important is that you find a way to move that fills you up. If you’re not sure what that is, start trying different things and see what sticks. There are so many incredible fitness options in Bozeman and most studios and gyms here offer incredible introductory offers or even free first classes. It can be intimidating walking into a new workout place for the first time, trust me – I get it. But trust me also when I say that any place you go to is going to be thrilled to welcome a new face. And if going inside isn’t your thing, places like Peets Hill are so easily accessible – take a walk up there and I dare you not to feel even just slightly better afterwards (the fact that dogs are EVERYWHERE up there can only help!).

 

Josie Smith / Zephyr Community Member

Tell us a little about your mental health story.

Growing up my mother suffered from mental illness. Throughout my teenage years it was difficult for me to accept her. I didn’t understand her and feared judgement from others. Mental health wasn’t talked about. Communities for support weren’t within my reach and I was naive to her underlying struggles. This lead to years of disconnect between us, years that I can’t get back. Good news! With openness, enlightenment and a better understanding of her mental health our relationship is better! A few years ago I started struggling with anxiety. I felt defeated, misunderstood, and doubted myself. My mom was my biggest supporter during that time. She steered me towards the help I needed, helping me find ways to cope with my anxiety in a way that I was comfortable with. Now, I have the tools to be a better support system for her like she was for me.

How do you cope with your mental health struggles?

This is a constant work in progress, with lots of trial and error. Right now, I’m working on setting boundaries, not only with others but also with myself. I’m learning to say no to something that’s not fulfilling me and making time for things that do. My mental health takes the biggest hit and anxiety creeps back when I’m trying to please everyone but only giving half of my effort to the things that bring me happiness and ignoring my own needs. I try to remind myself regularly that taking care of myself sets me up to be better prepared to be present for others.

How has Zephyr played a part in your journey? 

Earlier this year, after simultaneously working and pursuing a college degree full time, I recognized how poorly I was handling stress and the effects it had on my mental health. I was feeling more anxious and carried around what I was calling ‘stress anger’(I was mean and impatient with my self and others). I made a goal to find ways to better handle stress. Trying a Zephyr class was first on my list. With the push of a coworker (thanks, girl!) we signed up for an intro week. I left Zephyr with a better attitude, more patience and less ‘stress anger’. Zephyr continues to help me better manage that stress and turn it into something productive. I never regret waking up, stepping in the door, and surprising myself by what I can do. It’s an hour where I can focus on how awesome I’m doing on and off the bike, which drives me into a better mindset to influence others to focus on the same.

Biggest myth surrounding mental health and what to do/know instead?

Mental health only strikes a certain demographic. Anyone, anywhere, anytime, any age can be affected by mental health, whether personal or through the heartache of seeing someone struggle. Mental health isn’t one size fits all, and neither are the ways to treat it. There’s a multitude of options out there. If something’s not working try something new, talk about it, share your experience; you may be sparking courage in someone to make mental health a priority without even realizing it.

What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with their mental health? 

Don’t let anyone, yourself included, dismiss your concerns. If something’s not right, speak up. Whether it’s for yourself or to better support someone you love. Get educated. Try to understand. Find a community. Ask for help. Ask someone to listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. Learn about mental health. Reach out to a resource.

You’re your biggest advocate.

 

Alison Germain / Zephyr Community Member

Tell us a little about your story.

I took my first class at Zephyr as a postpartum mom with two small kids. My second pregnancy, and time afterwards, was difficult. Rapid hormonal shifts, lack of sleep, fatigue, isolation, anxiety…many of the feelings new moms experience. Over time, the highs and lows of the classic “baby blues” evened out.  However, a dullness persisted that I couldn’t quite shake. I didn’t feel like myself. Because my experiences weren’t severe, I turned inward and learned to live with it.

How did you cope with your struggle?

Eventually I grew tired of the dullness. I missed the euphoric feeling that accompanies exercise and well-being. I have always known that moving my body was good for my brain. What I didn’t realize at that time was the transforming role spinning would play in my mind/body connection.

How has Zephyr played a part in your journey?

I was surprised to find an incredible freedom, and release, in riding a bike to nowhere. I could focus on my breath, my heart beat and my own thoughts. I found myself surrounded by positive messages and people who lifted me up. Over time, that positivity and confidence became a part of my self talk. The intense cardio workout with intervals, sprints and resistance training released the “feel good” hormones I needed. The more I made spinning part of my routine, the more the benefits spilled into all aspects of my life.

Biggest myth surrounding what you experienced and what to do instead?

Many women struggle in silence after childbirth. It’s a time of rapid hormone changes and lack of sleep. How could you not?  I was warned about post-partum depression and educated about the symptoms. Because my symptoms were less severe, I did not make the connection. In talking to friends, I’ve discovered I’m not alone in this. After years of reflection and perspective, they can now look back and recognize it. Common in their experiences were feelings of shame and isolation. In talking about this, my hope is that more people will break their own silence and reach out for help. Your life is worth it.

 

Ricky Burns / Zephyr Community Member

 

Tell us a little about your story.

My mental health has been a strong factor my entire life due to the trauma of my birth. I was injured and suffer a condition similar to cerebral palsy.  Being disabled makes many traumas for a person by default due to surgeries, doctors, hospitals.  All very scary places for a kid.

How do you cope with your struggle?

I try to find things to motivate me and to stay active. I think that’s key, keeping your brain and body active and healthy. If I gave up at the beginning I wouldn’t be where I am today – a 3 time graduate of college, an entrepreneur, and an artist, among many other things.
How has Zephyr played a part in your journey?
Zephyr has pushed me to be healthier than ever. I have never worked out this much in my life. I started because of my mental heath, then I started seeing physical gains, then I was hooked, but most special is the community that Z has. It is truly one that I cherish.  Having a family when you live an entire United States away from your own is really supportive and special.
Biggest myth surrounding what you experienced and what to do instead?
Biggest myth surrounding mental health is that pharmaceuticals solve everything. Once upon a time doctors medicated me to a point of paranoia due to mental health. It was scary and I learned I needed to focus on myself and exercise and get healthy which would help a lot of what I was experiencing.
If you’re struggling, seek support whether it’s a friend or a medical professional. Either is a sign of strength, not weakness. Then check in with yourself. Try to get out and get healthy – you would be surprised how much that helps.

 

Where to seek support

There is a local counselor referral network managed by the Bozeman Help Center, which is called the “crisis line” – but don’t be afraid to give it a call 406-586-3333!

For people that may be struggling to pick up the phone, Montana 211 is a good place to start where people can find resources and support groups.

We also have resource cards at Zephyr from Suffer Out Loud that include both resources listed above.

Whatever you may be struggling with, just know you are not alone. There’s a whole community of people waiting to support you with open arms. All it takes is sharing your story.