By Mental Health First Aid USA on March 22, 2022
The moment that many of us have been eagerly awaiting, the beginning of spring, has finally arrived! Did you know that natural medicine traditions like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine base their entire understanding of health on the distinctions between the seasons? Each season, according to these traditions, has its own set of rhythms and rituals.
As human beings, our general well-being is intimately linked to nature. The amount of daylight we experience, the time we spend in green and blue spaces such as parks and meadows or lakes and rivers, the seasonal foods that are locally available to us, the temperature, and even the quality of the air all affect our mental well-being. Think about it: your body needs more energy when the weather gets colder, so you’re craving for hot things (hot chocolate, cozy sweaters, fireplaces) that make your body’s work easier. On the other hand, summer weather wears down our bodies. Extended periods in heat can cause insomnia, lethargy, lack of appetite, and dehydration, all of which can lead to aggressive behavior and anxiety.
Two years after the pandemic, it is time to recognize that things will never be the same again. exactly as they were and create new practices that prioritize mental and physical wellness both inside and outside the workplace. The seasons are changing around us with purpose, and with these five tips from Mental health first aid at workyou can do the same.
Self-evaluation: identify how you feel.
Acknowledging your emotions can make things feel less overwhelming. Take some time to sort through your emotions in the way that works best for you: write in a journal, talk with a friend, or spend some quiet time thinking alone. Once you have a better idea of the specific feelings you are experiencing, you can start making plans to deal with them.
If you’re having a hard time identifying how you feel because your mind is racing, try using the acronym STOP
- yes: Stop what you’re doing. Put things down for a moment.
- T: Take a break. Breathe naturally and follow the breath that goes in and out of your nose. You can even tell yourself “in” as you breathe in and “out” as you breathe out to help with concentration.
- EITHER: Observe your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Recognize that thoughts are not facts, and they are not permanent. If a thought arises that you are inadequate, notice the thought, let it be, and move on. Research from UCLA shows that simply naming your emotions can have a calming effect. Then look at her body. Are you standing or sitting? How is your posture? Any pain or discomfort?
- P: Follow up with something supportive in the moment, like asking a friend for support, rubbing your shoulders, or drinking a glass of water.
Acknowledge what you have lost.
While spring is generally greeted with joy, rejuvenation, and celebration, it can also be a stark reminder that we are still in the midst of a pandemic and may not be able to do all the things we normally would. If you miss a loved one, think of ways to honor them in the new season. If you lost a job or had to drop out of school, take time to acknowledge the challenges that came up and reflect on what you’ve learned. Even if you haven’t lost anything concrete, we’ve all lost our sense of normalcy to some degree since the pandemic and it’s okay, it’s even healthy, to mourn that.
Get the most out of it.
There is no denying that things will be different this year than they were before COVID. However, there are sure to be a few spring activities you can keep on your calendar, from physically distanced days at the beach or park, to cleaning and reorganizing your home or office. For the things you can’t do, brainstorm how to adapt them to the times of COVID. If you’re disappointed by the cancellation of the holidays, consider planning a small gathering outside. Do you miss the social aspects of being in the office? Try setting up work dates at a coffee shop with a co-worker or close friend if it’s safe and comfortable for you. Do you feel alone because you will not be able to see your family? Try hosting a group video chat to reconnect, share fond memories, and talk about what you’re most excited to do the next time you see each other.
Don’t idealize your typical plans.
While the warmer months are often filled with excitement and joy, they can also be very stressful times. In fact, suicide death rates often increase during spring and summer, and people report higher levels of anxiety. Heat can dehydrate, reducing healthy brain function, and too much daylight can interfere with sleep and even exacerbate manic episodes of bipolar disorder. Even though you may be giving up some of your favorite things about this year’s warmer months, you’re probably also giving up some stressors (social media-induced fear of missing out (FOMO), anyone?). Be careful not to distort the situation and make it appear worse than it really is. Change can be hard, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Find creative ways to adapt or consider starting new traditions; they can even add more meaning to your life.
Make a conscious effort to regularly identify a few things for which you are grateful. It can be something as broad as your health or work status, or something as specific as your favorite song playing on the radio when you get in the car. It is shown that practicing gratitude diminish depression and anxiety and is associated with a number of mental and physical benefits such as improving sleep, mood and immunity.
Personal care is vital to maintaining your well-being. Be proactive and create a seasonal self-care plan with the help of our blog, Self-care: Where do I start? With these tips, we hope you have a seamless transition into spring. Thank you for choosing #BeTheDifference!
center stone (North Dakota) How summer affects suicide rates. center stone https://centerstone.org/our-resources/health-wellness/how-summer-affects-suicide-rates/
Cortez, M. (2022, February 13). This is what the pandemic has in store for the world next. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2022-02-13/when-will-covid-end-what-new-covid-variants-post-pandemic-life-mean-for-2022
Folk, J. (2021, May 16). Summer anxiety: why you may feel more anxious in the summer. Anxiety Center.com. https://www.anxietycentre.com/faq/more-anxious-in-the-summer-anxiety/.
Halloran, K. (nd). A history of spring traditions. Living Mother Earth. https://www.motherearthliving.com/gardening/a-history-of-spring-traditions/#:~:text=A%20History%20of%20Spring%20Traditions%20An%20American%20painted,of%20a%20new% 20season%20in%20every%20passing%20day.
Kennedy, M. (2020, December 15). 5 easy ways to practice gratitude and make giving thanks part of your daily routine. Well-informed person. https://www.insider.com/how-to-practice-gratitude#:~:text=5%20easy%20ways%20to%20practice%20gratitude%20and%20make,Create%20a%20gratitude%20jar.%20… %20More%20items…%20.
McPherson, K. (2019, November 20). There’s a good reason why a bread bowl full of bread is all you crave in the winter.. Mameluke https://www.romper.com/p/why-do-you-crave-carbs-in-winter-its-plain-old-biology-experts-say-19362997
First aid in mental health. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA for Adults Assisting Adults. National Council for Behavioral Health.
Schumann, M. (April 8, 2021). Can expressing gratitude improve your physical and mental health? Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/talking-about-health/can-expressing-gratitude-improve-health.
Tracy, N. (January 7, 2022). What is a manic episode? What do manic episodes feel like? HealthyPlace. https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-symptoms/what-is-a-manic-episode-what-do-manic-episodes-feel-like.
University of California, Los Angeles. (2007, June 22). Putting feelings into words produces therapeutic effects in the brain. daily science. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070622090727.htm.
White, P.; Coventry, P. (nd). green and blue space. University of York. https://www.york.ac.uk/healthsciences/closing-the-gap/research-themes/green-and-blue-space/