No one can take away our spring!! It is that time of year that we have long been waiting for; the warmth of the sun, the popping of greens, the airborne freshness and fragrance of the season – a delight to our souls.
Being outdoors is a huge benefit to mental health. For the most part, through COVID 19 and during this Minnesota’s late winter, we have become destined as indoor creatures. As our brains have attempted to survive isolation with these long cold days, many of us have turned to exploring and operating technological advances. However, as time has gone on, many of us have sunk into the grasp of these operative systems. We have lost control and now suffer with its innumerable phone calls, time warps with computer over-indulgence and extended TV/movie successions, and then there are the inundating tagalongs of sequential advertisements from all over, paperwork, political inquiries, fund raising requests; and all sorts of overwhelming information. What happens to the brain with all this chaos? It becomes frazzled, or exhausted, or drained, and weary. It sinks into an android-like state, quivering and drooling, and half-stumped over. What does it need? It needs the outdoors!! Especially in the spring!! Enough of this swarm to this technological magnet!
Going outside seems to be a natural remedy. It reduces mental fatigue and washes away stress, at least for a while. In fact, just 20-30 minutes a day outside in nature can meaningfully reduce cortisol levels and lower your stress level. Spending time in nature has also been shown to improve symptoms of depression or prevent it from occurring. And, of course, there is the sun – the natural light that has been shown to be beneficial, not even to improved moods but now studies point to higher self-esteem, especially when combined with outside exercise. Getting a breath of fresh air, being in the sun, feeling the warm breeze, watching the season of life begin again; a true stress-reliever!
Yet, we have to share this spring with COVID-19!! No parks or recreational areas are open, walking is done mostly in isolated places, and no scurrying about with others as we see distant masked faces looking away to avoid contamination. So, how do we sustain our mental health with the disappointment of limited access to the air we breathe and the outdoors we cherish this time of year? Well, like it or not, we bulldoze ourselves right through. That’s how!! There is room in the air for both!! We draw up some plans to help us get through. We find some ways to make it work. We can’t ignore either the reality of COVID-19 and the need for good mental health by being outside. This is a big world. We can do both. COVID-19 just needs to share ‘cuz spring is in the air and good mental health is a key!!
Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW