Spring time is flowers blooming, birds chirping, kids splashing in puddles, and excitement abound for summer... right?
The truth is spring has a darker side that we don't talk about often. This seemingly hopeful season can have a negative effect on some of us and here are a few reasons why.
1. It sneaks up on us and we feel unprepared. Where did the beginning of the year go we may ask? The feeling of time slipping by or not being prepared for a new season can be overwhelming.
2. We feel like we failed if we haven't met our New Year's goals or realize we completely forgot about them. Others might be sharing their progress or excitement for the new season and we feel sad or left behind. This leads to the next one...
3. Comparison is in full swing whether we try to focus on ourselves or not. It is almost impossible to avoid comparing ourselves to our peers any time, but in 2021 it is particularly challenging because of social media. Are we hunkered inside still while our friends are going on vacation and attending parties? COVID has been stressful enough, but add on this new divide and judgment over handling the pandemic, which is still devastating the world, and it can be difficult to handle.
4. Lastly, but definitely not least, is a category that encompasses the majority of the spring stressors. Change. Change is scary for many of us and especially if we have anxiety or depression. Spring comes after a season of hibernation and rest and not all of us come bounding into Spring with our bikinis on. Getting closer to Spring Break, Easter, and summer preparations could mean a new semester at school or teaching, a new job, a move, family stress as gatherings are discussed during the pandemic, dealing with weather, allergies, and even a new wardrobe. All of these things alone can bring anxiety, but throw them all together and this might cause paralyzing overwhelm, stress, and panic.
With a little awareness, spring doesn't have to carry these negative side effects. It can be an exciting time full of new energy and motivation that carries us through summer and fall. In order to not get caught in April or May wondering how we got there, we can start our Mental Health Spring Cleaning in March. The beginning of our awakening and adaptation period is ideal over the 4 week transition period nature provides us.
What is Mental Health Spring Cleaning?
I think of it as a time to process the New Year so far, regroup, declutter mentally, and create a simple plan for the new season without any pressure. Here are some of my favorite ways to prepare and strengthen my mental health for spring.
Set a date with yourself. Schedule an hour or 2, or 3 in the next week for some time alone. Think of it like an appointment you wouldn't dare miss. Even if you have to sit in your car in a parking lot or lock yourself in your room, find a way to create some time to truly be alone. Use this quiet time to reflect on where you are and what has happened since January 1st. Grab your journal and write down how you feel, things you'd like to do this spring, and anything else that comes up. Use this time to check in with yourself and participate in your favorite self care activity.
Gratitude. Re-establish or start your daily or weekly gratitude practice. Choose 3-5 things that you are thankful for each day or week and write them down.
Update your schedule. Add new appointments, erase things from your agenda that no longer pertain to you and create a new schedule that works for your current goals and energy.
Set new priorities. A new season brings new things into focus and this could mean changing our priorities. Maybe our health needs to become our main focus or we need to spend more time with family. Whatever comes up for you, take a moment to recognize what should be a priority and cut out the things that are unnecessarily taking up your time.
Restructure routines. With the change of a season sometimes we have to tweak our routines a bit. Create a night time and/or morning routine that you can feel good about. Start with one small change and you could have your dream routine by April!
Let go of a bad habit. You know what it is already and why it needs to go. Reach out for support if you need to and let that habit that is holding you back go for good.
Find or add to your tribe. Your tribe is your support system and the people that get you and make you feel uplifted. Spring is a great time to join a new group or reach out to someone that inspires you. There is not enough time in our lives for toxic and negative relationships so let's start building more positive ones.
Create. Draw, color, paint, put your hands in clay, arrange flowers, anything. A creative outlet frees the mind and calms the soul.
Finish a to do list item/project. Take a look at your to do list and release all judgement. Don't look at the whole list as a curse, but think of these things as opportunities. Choose 1 and only 1 as a priority and take steps to complete that one thing.
Release past criticisms and drama. Stop criticizing yourself, self sabotaging, and allowing drama to run your life. Remember, we've got no time for that. Mindset shifts, positive self talk, and weekly journaling can help, but sometimes we need a bit more support. Reach out to a counselor, coach, or friend to assist you with this one.
Meditate. I'm not sure what could be a better habit for your mental health than meditation. You can try guided meditation, sitting quietly and becoming aware of your breathing, walking meditation, or any other form that speaks to you. If this is a new practice start with 1 minute a day.
If you want a little more guidance this March Join the 30 Day Anxiety Detox and get 1 small step each day to help you stay on track for a calm and healthy spring!
Any other ideas for you Mental Health Spring Cleaning? I'd love to hear yours!