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How Skateboarding Helped My Mental Health




Me, 27, bought a skateboard as part of a quarter-life crisis (I also bleached my hair blonde). Here’s how it helped me deal with stress and anxiety.

I’m not the first old person to buy a skateboard. The internet is full of them. This Voice the writer did. This Outside journalist did. This ABC journalist did.

Every adult learner has a different journey (in fact, I used to skate a little as a kid, but, before the closings last year, I hadn’t skated in over a decade ). But from moms to tech bros to middle-aged men, everyone agrees on one thing: it’s nostalgic.

For that British vogue writer (and mum-of-four), skateboarding helped her reminisce about grungy fantasies about her teenage boyfriend (and the neon pink Pray For Dior skateboard deck she bought during her year in school). abroad in Paris).

For this 35 year old man ABC writer, skateboarding helped her cope with the fact that her friends were often too busy at work or with their children to drink with her in the pub.

For this 25 year old Vice writer, skateboarding was a response to fear that she had become boring (she started skating in the hopes that it would make her less depressed, neurotic, and concerned about low-carb diets).

For that Voice a writer in my thirties, the attraction was that I was special in my own incompetence, and therefore without comparison.

Despite the sneers at all these desperate, skateboarding quickly became my safe space. I started resonating with a culture that was cool 20 years ago and felt pathetically ~indie~ for it.

I became everything I hated: an old person who skated for weird and incomprehensible reasons, rather than a young person who skated for fun.

I put on my headphones and flashed back to a time when there was no lockdown, Blink 182 was cool, and cortisol was a drugstore cream (rather than something that made my heart beat randomly).

Although I wasn’t lyrical about skating at the time (I thought I was bored and had no hobbies during lockdown), in hindsight, all the elements of “going out stress” and “nostalgia” certainly played a part in why I found it so amusing.

I also started associating skating with beer, a great form of liquid courage.

There was also an element of masochism. Coming home battered and bruised is oddly satisfying.

Watch as I try (and fail) to “roll” the bowl in the video above

There’s also something good about having something under your control. Even when you suck at skateboarding, you can always improve. You can be mentally lazy and not plan things out, but pull off a new trick through stubbornness and luck.

When you feel out of control with other things in your life (like a pandemic), it’s nice to have that comforting feeling.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression either. I don’t have clinical depression or anxiety. The pandemic hasn’t affected me that much. Oh, and I also have a weirdly resilient (some might say unwarranted) sense of self-esteem. So, I don’t want to belittle those who suffer from severe anxiety or stress, by pretending to have something like that (so far in my life, I’ve been lucky enough to only be stressed when there is has good reason to be stressed, which are usually caused by f*ck ups of my own making).

So I’m just trying to comment on the experience of a generally quite cold person who found himself a little more stressed than usual during the lockdowns last year, and how skateboarding helped me cope to that.

Even from my very limited experience, however, I can see how coping mechanisms can be both addictive and helpful. If you’re skating late at night, say, smashing cans of VB, while you might be relaxing then, you might end up getting more tired and your stress getting worse the next day.

And that’s before you land flat on your back and have to hobble for a week

To ask if it’s risky to treat anxiety with a hobby rather than therapy (given, it seems, everyone is going to therapy lately), I spoke to the Dr. Lars Madsen, clinical psychologist on the advisory board of The Mindshift Foundation.

He told me: I think most people are vulnerable to feelings of anxiety, there is some evolutionary value in the sense that anxiety is a ‘stable’ feature of the human state.

Learning to deal with anxiety or negative feelings through a range of strategies is a good thing. Talking to others is of course one way to learn to deal with it, but it doesn’t have to be the only one.

Dr. Madsen continued: There are many well-recognized psychological benefits to engaging in physical activities that elevate heart rate and release all types of hormones. While engaging in personally meaningful activities (such as skateboarding), it is also well recognized (and proven) as a strategy for managing negative moods/anxiety.

Dr. Madsen also told me that doing a treasured hobby can engender a strong sense of purpose and meaning in a person’s life. He explained that in addition to feeling a sense of competence, hobbies can help alleviate low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness.

Taken together, these feelings can improve overall motivation, reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and improve mood.

Dr Lars Madsen

No wonder skating is great for a breakdown

As for why I like getting a little roughed up, Dr. Madsen told me it was probably the experience of learning, pushing yourself to the limit, and feeling the limit.

These types of physical experiences can induce a state of what is described as a “flow state”.

Finally, on whether my skating was a healthy stress relief or an unhealthy escape, Dr. Madsen told me: It depends on what’s wearing you out! I think for regular daily stress and challenges (meeting deadlines, mortgage, errands, etc.), reality is stressful and demanding… sometimes there isn’t much to say or solve, etc.

In these cases, skating (or just exercising in general) might be a perfectly suited response to your stress.

A good run or gym session [or skating] can help release stress and recharge [in those cases]! But if the things that bother you are chronic, persistent issues (trauma, etc.), these hobbies can distract you from issues that need to be resolved to get on with your life.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t have your hobbies, but they might not be enough on their own.

After hearing all of this from Dr Madsen and after over a year of (re)learning skating as an adult, I think skating is awesome. It fulfills a physical need (exercise), a social need (if you’re outgoing), and even a spiritual need (#prayfordior).

It’s not a magic bullet, however. If you’re an antisocial, unruly introvert with nighttime tendencies, it can create and solve problems.

So to sum up: skateboarding is just a fun thing to do. And I guess there’s a reason it’s cheaper than therapy.

The good thing is that skateboarding is much more accessible than therapy. And for those who do it well (read: you don’t use this as an excuse to get drunk on a Tuesday or blow up How old am I again? loop), it can be great.

Plus: if your definition of youth is optimistic and bruised, then of course skateboarding can help you find it.

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