Spring: Time to Prioritize Your Mental Health

The start of spring signals new opportunities, growth, and development. It can appear challenging and exciting at the same time. We often think about “resetting” in the spring, whether it be our habits or goals. But what about our mental health?

I often hear from colleagues, clients, students, friends, and family that “they have no time” to focus on their mental health. They have ideas about what they want to do and feel overwhelmed. You may be thinking the same as often other life responsibilities are prioritized even when we feel stressed out.

You may also be thinking, yes, all of this is true! But I don’t know where to begin. Luckily, the remainder of this blog provides some ideas and tips on where to get started.

Let’s start with taking an inventory of your current state. Consider how you are sitting or standing. Do you notice your shoulders are up near your ears? Does your jaw feel tight? What about your thoughts – are you thinking about events that will happen in the future or events from the past? Consider bringing yourself back to the present. This action can be completed with in and out deep breaths. Some people will breathe in deeply through their nose and out through their mouth – while they breathe, they fill their diaphragm and stomach. For others, that may be challenging so they gently breathe in and out through their nose or mouth. After completing several deep breaths, go back to your body. If you feel tense, try a gentle stretch or move around. Unfortunately, we often sit in the same spot for hours, staring at a computer screen, which is tough on our bodies and minds.

Then consider your overall stress level – let’s say over the past two weeks. Within those past two weeks, think about any activities you completed that alleviated stress. Did these activities happen often? Or rarely? If it’s the latter, you may already be thinking of the limited time in your schedule. Consider your thoughts? Do you often see the glass as “half empty” instead of half full?

Now having reviewed the questions above, let’s start with a plan. One great and evidence-based approach is the SMART one – Specific, Manageable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. You may still be thinking that you have limited time so I encourage you to consider – what is the Return on Investment (ROI) on your mental health? Spending 10-30 minutes a day doing something that “refills your cup” will have lasting results on how you feel emotionally.

Returning to the SMART approach – set a Specific goal. Specific goals have more detail than “I want to go for a walk more often.” They may be written as, “I will go for a walk 3 days a week for 15 minutes in the morning for the next month.” That goal identifies specifics to be completed. Walking for three days each week is Manageable and Attainable. Timeliness is also shown with the start and end days – starting over the next month or four weeks.

Walking is an example of an exercise that helps you to be mindful, increase your energy levels and be more active – all of which can benefit your mental health. You may already be fairly active in your life and require more “down time.” What might that look like for you and how could you incorporate it within your life? For example, I have a good friend who frequents the local library and reads magazines or new releases for an hour a few times a week. Reading provides her with relaxation and is a great way to focus on something else.

As we enter spring of 2024, I encourage you to review how you feel emotionally and mentally and consider your own habits. How can you incorporate behaviours or actions that you enjoy, that decrease your stress, or help you reconnect with the present? Set a SMART goal for the next month and see how you feel at the end of it. And if you’re struggling with the concept of making time for your mental health remember that Return On Investment and that small steps yield great rewards.

*Disclaimer: if you feel overwhelmed or would like to talk to someone about these strategies, please connect with Yorkville University Student Services https://success.yorkvilleu.ca/wellness there are counsellors, peer counsellors, and an app available to support you