One of the aspects of The Rolling Barrage PTSD Foundation / The Rolling Barrage is we talk about mental health and wellness as critical components of our overall well-being, but we don’t write about it nearly enough. When our mental health is good, we feel better about ourselves, our relationships, and our lives. We are better able to cope with stress and challenges, and we are more effective in our daily lives. For our organization, the focus is heavy on a coast to coast motorcycle ride, but there is an underlying purpose in that the ride itself is a form of therapy. In this blog post, we will discuss mental health and wellness, including what it is, why it matters, and how to maintain it.
What is Mental Health and Wellness?
Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and behave, and it influences our ability to handle stress, make decisions, and interact with others. So imagine our annual coast to coast ride. We cater literally to those that may or may not be experiencing some form of challenge as it pertains to mental health and wellness. Mental health and wellness are closely related, with wellness encompassing all aspects of our health, including physical, emotional, and social health.
Why Does Mental Health and Wellness Matter?
Mental health and wellness are essential for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, our mental health affects our quality of life. The Rolling Barrage has played a role in some manner in bettering the lives of those who have participated. When we are mentally healthy, we are more likely to enjoy our lives and feel satisfied with our accomplishments. This is interesting because The Rolling Barrage has had riders who participated in our annual event in August and then some have transitioned to volunteer positions within the organization. Additionally, good mental health helps us build positive relationships with others, which can enhance our overall happiness and well-being. We have seen this extensively in our organization over the years, where complete strangers at the beginning of our annual ride become friends, visit each other, go on vacations or rides together. At the time of this blog being written, several riders from The Rolling Barrage are on their way to the United States to participate in the Run for the Wall.
Moreover, our mental health affects our physical health. For example, stress and anxiety can contribute to a variety of physical ailments, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. By prioritizing our mental health and wellness, we can improve our physical health and reduce the risk of developing these conditions.
How to Maintain Mental Health and Wellness
Maintaining good mental health and wellness requires effort, but it is worth it. Here are some tips to help you prioritize your mental health and wellness:
Practice Self-Care: Self-care refers to activities that help you relax, de-stress, and feel good about yourself. Examples of self-care activities include taking a bath, meditating, reading a book, or practicing yoga. For others, especially those involved in The Rolling Barrage, taking your motorcycle out and even doing things like maintenance, cleaning, polishing it up provides a level of self-care. Really no different from those who do the same with vintage, sports or state-of-the-art motor vehicles.
Exercise Regularly: Exercise has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, and boost self-esteem. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. This is often better said than done. A lot of us who maintained high levels of fitness in the military or the first responder world on retirement are often injured physically in some measure by operational or duty injuries or your body has just taken so much abuse from a fitness program the thought of doing exercise is just not on the menu. It is understandable, but some form of fitness, even walking, can be of benefit.
Eat a Healthy Diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help support good mental health. Additionally, avoiding alcohol and drugs can help prevent mood swings and other mental health problems. Maintaining a healthy diet like everything else as it pertains to mental health and wellness takes commitment and effort. While on The Rolling Barrage, we have grown in many ways in this regard. Our first ride in 2017, many riders joked about TRB being The Rolling Burger. Supporters who have fed us over the years are often on tight budgets themselves and we completely understand that. With that said, our supporters try their best to offer more balanced meals. Doesn’t mean we will turn away a good BBQ burger or hotdog, it really just means on a personal level you have to maintain some form of diet discipline.
Get Enough Sleep: Sleep is critical for good mental health. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night and establish a regular sleep routine. This is very tough for many who were in the military or first responder communities. Throw in mental health challenges that literally affect sleep, and the obstacle of getting enough sleep becomes even harder.
Practice Gratitude: Practicing gratitude can help improve mood and increase feelings of happiness and well-being. Try writing down three things you are grateful for each day. Many veterans and first responders, retired or otherwise, maintain at times a journal. Social Media has overtaken the traditional journaling method in ways but still can play a role in a person being able to express themselves while working through the challenges of mental health.
Connect with Others: Building positive relationships with others is crucial for good mental health. Try to connect with friends and family regularly and join social groups or clubs that interest you. The Rolling Barrage for many fits this connection process. Our annual ride across Canada in August gives lots of opportunity to connect with fellow riders. Many know each other already from either common history of service or previous rides. The Rolling Barrage is also an opportunity to travel and see friends, quite often at times even family across the country.
To conclude, mental health and wellness are critical components of our overall well-being. By prioritizing our mental health and wellness, we can improve our quality of life, reduce stress, and boost our overall happiness and well-being. The Rolling Barrage as an annual event is a perfect opportunity to incorporate and practice the various aspects discussed. Consider riding with us and putting some of the suggestions noted in this blog to the test.
The Rolling Barrage PTSD Foundation / The Rolling Barrage