The changing of the seasons is always very symbolic: nature blooming, the warmth of the sun, and animals waking from hibernation. Springtime is my absolute favorite in Philadelphia. I love seeing the city bustling and the beautiful colors of the trees and flowers.
This time of year can positively impact our mental health as we get more sunlight and enjoy fun outdoor activities. It can also be common to put aside the care we’ve put into ourselves only to face challenges again during the colder months. But, setting self-care aside can lead to depression and anxiety affecting us during the warmer months too, which can leave us feeling disappointed and let down.
Have you ever beat yourself up about not wanting to get out of bed on a beautiful day? Or, have you ever felt too anxious to attend social events only to be hit with FOMO? This is why a regular self-care routine can be vital, and using the newfound energy/motivation of spring can help kick-start this!
Taking care of ourselves should not be reserved for certain times of the year; it is lifelong work. It is a commitment to the relationship with ourselves, just like we would care for any other type of relationship. Seasonal intentions like New Year’s Resolutions generally only create temporary change that often disappoints people. So how do we use the boost of springtime energy to make long-lasting changes?
Think of a goal and strip it down to the most minor, realistic step you can take. For example, if going on walks is your goal, start with 15 minutes three times per week. Or, if you want to start meditation, find a quick five-minute session to begin. Still too big of a goal? Break it down further and leave the shame behind!
We’ve been taught to think “bigger, faster, stronger,” but that mindset usually leaves us crashing later or unable to start at all. I see plenty of programs and fads that promote quick fixes, like “get x, y, or z in 30 days.” I recommend staying away from these- they are designed to make money off of us feeling bad about ourselves, to begin with!
An essential piece to long-term self-care is understanding your intentions. Why are you making these goals? Is it because society tells you to, or do they align with your values? Self-care shouldn’t focus on productivity or changing your body. It should focus on what feels restorative and improves your relationship with yourself!
Need help figuring out where to start? Try breaking self-care into relevant categories: physical, mental, spiritual, social, financial, etc. List one or two small changes you want to commit to in each category. This can be a great brainstorming tool and a way to hold yourself accountable.
Speaking of accountability, what support can you call upon to help you with these new changes? A therapist is a great resource, who can empower you to take care of yourself and explore negative thinking or beliefs that might be barriers. See if you can call a partner, friend, family member, or neighbor to support you with these goals.
Self-care has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves. We cannot pour from an empty cup and we are not full of limitless energy. If you are like me and feeling motivated by the warm weather, use it to care for yourself! Warmer months do not have to be a time of FOMO and anxiety if we choose to be conscientious.
Many of us face the consequences of foregoing self-care during the summer when fall and winter roll around. Symptoms such as burnout, fatigue, and isolation are common. But we can reduce the impact of these symptoms by viewing self-care as a year-round and life-long commitment, even when our symptoms may not be as evident in the summer! Keeping up with your therapy is a great example.
A metaphor I like to use is running a marathon. Suppose you wait to train until a few weeks before- your chance of success is much lower than if you were to focus on deliberate training throughout the year. Just like a marathon, we can feel like giving up when self-care feels like too large of a task. But you will thank yourself later if you begin developing the skills now, when they feel easier to implement!
Be sure to tune in to my Instagram @juliebtherapy to get more ideas!
Julie Belling specializes in trauma, substance use, adolescents, LGBTQ+ mental health, anxiety, and depression. To learn more about Julie, read her bio here.
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