By Mental Health First Aid USA on March 22, 2022
The moment many of us have been looking forward to – the start 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 spent in green and blue spaces like parks and meadows or lakes and rivers, locally available seasonal foods, temperature and even air quality all impact our mental well-being. Think about it: your body needs more energy when the weather gets colder, so you find yourself craving for hot things (hot chocolate, cozy sweaters, fireplaces) that make your body work easier. On the other hand, summer weather wears down our bodies. Prolonged periods of heat can cause insomnia, lethargy, lack of appetite and dehydration, which can lead to aggressive behavior and anxiety.
Two years into the pandemic, it’s time to recognize that things will never go back to exactly as they were and create new practices that prioritize mental and physical well-being both in and out of the workplace. The seasons change around us with purpose, and with these five tips from Workplace Mental Health First Aidyou can follow suit.
Self-assessment: Identify how you feel.
Acknowledging your emotions can make things less overwhelming. Take the time to sort out your emotions in whatever way works best for you: journal, talk to a friend, or spend some quiet time thinking on your own. Once you have a better idea of the specific feelings you are having, you can start making plans to deal with them.
If you’re having trouble identifying what you’re feeling because your mind is racing, try using the acronym STOP
- S: Stop what you are doing. Put things aside for a moment.
- T: Breathe. Breathe naturally and follow your breath in and out of your nose. You can even tell yourself to “inhale” when you inhale and “exhale” when you exhale to help you focus.
- Y: 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, write down the thought, let it be, and move on. To research from UCLA shows that simply naming your emotions can have a calming effect. Then observe your body. Are you standing or sitting? How is your posture? Aches or pains?
- P: Do something that will support you in the moment – like reaching out to a friend for help, rubbing your shoulders, or drinking a glass of water.
Acknowledge what you have lost.
While spring is usually 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 everything we normally would. If you miss a loved one, think of ways to honor them in the new season. If you’ve lost a job or had to drop out of school, take time to acknowledge the challenges that have come with it and reflect on what you’ve learned. Even if you haven’t lost anything tangible, we’ve all lost our sense of normalcy to some degree since the pandemic and it’s okay, even healthy, to grieve that.
Make the most.
There’s no denying that things will be different this year than they were before COVID. However, there are surely some springtime activities you can keep on your calendar, from physically distant days at the beach or park, to cleaning and rearranging your home/office. For the things you can’t do, think about how to adapt them in the time of COVID. If you’re disappointed that parties are being canceled, consider planning a small outdoor gathering. Do you miss the social aspects of being in the office? Try arranging work meetings at a coffee shop with a nearby colleague or friend if it’s safe and comfortable for you. Do you feel lonely because you won’t be able to see your family? Try hosting a group video chat to reconnect, share fond memories, and talk about what you’re most looking forward to doing the next time you see each other.
Don’t romanticize your typical plans.
While the warmer months can generally be filled with excitement and joy, they can also be times of high stress. In fact, suicide death rates increase in spring and summer, and people report higher anxiety levels. The heat can be dehydrating, reducing healthy brain function, and too much daylight can interfere with sleep and even exacerbate manic episodes of bipolar disorder. While you may be giving up some of your favorite things about the warmer months of this year, you’re probably also leaving stressors behind (social media-induced fear of missing out (FOMO), anybody ?). Be careful not to distort the situation and make it look worse than it really is. Change can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Find creative ways to adapt or consider creating new traditions – they may even add more meaning to your life.
Make a conscious effort to regularly identify certain things for which you are grateful. It can be something as broad as your health or employment status, or something as specific as your favorite song playing on the radio when you get in the car. The practice of gratitude is demonstrated for decrease depression and anxiety and is associated with a host of mental and physical benefits like improved sleep, mood and immunity.
Self-care is vital to maintaining your well-being. Be proactive and create a seasonal self-care plan using our blog, Self-care: where to start? With these tips, we hope you enjoy a smooth transition into spring. Thank you for choosing #BeTheDifference!
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