Someone once told me mental health is like a car. (Stay with me here.) Some cars need an occasional oil change, the cheapest gas and they will run, problem free, for decades. Others need a pit crew full of people on headsets to constantly change tires and fill with expensive looking fluids just to keep turning in circles for an hour. My mental health is definitely the latter. My brain benefits from seasonal shifts to my routines.
My mental health plan during the colder months was all about recommitting to my routines and staying healthy. This time around, I’m focusing on breaking out of my comfort zone and taking on new challenges to give me a boost for the months ahead.
Summer’s just around the corner, so let’s get after it.
Check in on my mental health.
As always, the first step for me is to take a long, hard look at how I’m feeling. We’ve been in pandemic mode for an entire calendar year, which can impact our mental wellbeing in some unexpected ways. Regular self check-ins are a must. These are the questions I ask myself.
- Consider your mood and behavior over the past few months. How have you been feeling? Have you developed any new habits that may not be serving you? I’ve been spending more time on my phone at night and my sleep has suffered.
- Define your needs to help you succeed. For me, it’s all about physical activity, a balanced diet and, occasionally, some solo-style shuteye. Trust me, Penn loves the guest bedroom occasionally where he can fall asleep with a TV show blaring.
- Connect with friends and loved ones. You never really know what someone else is going through — maybe that call, letter or text was exactly what they needed that day. Recently, I’ve made a rule that I have to check in with a different friend once a week.
Commit to spending more time outdoors.
The frigid (don’t @ me, it was cold for me) days of winter are behind us and it’s time to get outside. Stepping out of the house, breathing in the fresh air gives me such a mental boost, even if it’s just for 10 minutes and I hear more lawn mowers and screaming kids than birds chirping.
- Spend more time in nature. Try hiking (yes, more walking) or moving your exercise routine outdoors. Roll out a yoga mat or set up a strength/cardio circuit in your yard.
- Get your hands dirty. Gardening can help distract you from everyday stresses. Planting flowers or vegetables will also (fingers crossed) produce tangible rewards. I have a black thumb but the process is still rewarding, and hey, I’m learning.
- Bring everyone outside more often. For physical activities or meals, get away from the TV or other distractions, so you can better connect with each other.
Look after my body inside and out.
I’m acutely aware of how my physical health is connected to my mental health. I can’t have one without the other. Like peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and chocolate. Moral of the story, looking after my body helps me look after my mind. And peanut butter makes everything better.
- Try a new workout. Once you’ve been on a consistent workout routine for a while, you can start plateau, get bored or even cheat. Mix up and set some new goals.
- Shop for in-season produce. To maximize your fitness routine, stick to a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables like asparagus, cherries, leeks and rhubarb.
- Look after your body’s biggest organ — your skin — by staying hydrated and slathering on that sunscreen every single day.
Give my home a once-over.
I know, spring cleaning can seem a bit cliché, but it really is the ideal time to spruce up your space. If you’re like me, you’ve been inside for months, maybe staring at stuff you used to love and wondering why you chose that paint color in the first place. We all fell for grey, it’s fine.
- Consider how each area of your home serves you. Figure out how to make the most of each space so work, school and family time can stay separate.
- Donate unused items. Donating your previously loved clothes or household items is an excellent way to give back to the community and clear your home of distracting clutter.
- Choose one room to overhaul. Stop ignoring a neglected space and take on a DIY project. Or five.
How does the arrival of spring impact your mental health? Share your seasonal strategies in the comments.