No matter how old we are, we all probably hear the term “spring break” and images of laid-back living in tropical locales pop in our heads. Summer vacations may conjure up family road trips and siblings crammed into the family car. Summer trips also connote freedom and escape from the daily grind. Whether hitting the road, flying the friendly skies, or wandering down the unbeaten path with friends, family, or on your own—doing so is essential to mental well-being.
Here in Western New York, though the first official day of spring has come and gone, we are still anxiously awaiting warmer temperatures and a break may be just what the doctor ordered.
Accordingly to Psychology Today, Researchers who study the effect of vacations on well-being, attitude, and other related variables have found that it is actually the “looking forward to” aspect of a vacation that provides the mood lift as compared to the “just returned from the Caribbean and back at work” mindset that follows. In fact, it appears that a single multi-week vacation is no more refreshing or revitalizing that a couple of days or long weekend at a nearby getaway spot. This is because looking forward to a break in routine—in spring, summer, or any other season—positively influences our mood and brings us happiness and an optimistic frame of mind.
Here are some suggestions to help you overcome mental health problems this break:
Loneliness often makes you isolate yourself from the world. It convinces you that you really are alone, and doesn’t let you try to meet others. If you are feeling particularly blue, fight the urge to be by yourself and force yourself to go out. You may not enjoy it at first but you’ll soon be forced to let go of how lonely you felt before. Force yourself to go out of your comfort zone and start a conversation with someone.
Enjoy alone time
Alternatively, there’s nothing wrong with spending time alone – the trick is to keep yourself busy with activities that you love. Is it time to find a new hobby or pick up an old one? Perhaps it’s time to take a stroll through that park you always wanted to visit? Buffalo is home to six Olmsted Parks—check them out here. Spending just an hour or two a week on something you enjoy on your own can really improve your mental health.
Find old friends
Maybe there are old friends or family that you could get in touch with, this is really great especially if you’ve not met up for a while.
Take it easy and take breaks
Never push yourself too hard – it can end up worse for you and this is the last thing you need on your mind! Remember to treat yourself, take breaks if you need to and get a good night’s sleep before starting the next day. If you’re feeling too stressed, take a moment to understand the situation, breathe and start again.
Start the Conversation
As one in four people experience a mental health problem each year, talking openly about mental health has the potential to make life better for all of us. Though the stigma surrounding mental illness can sometimes make talking about it seem difficult – It doesn’t have to be! Here are some ways to get the conversation started…
- Get some fresh air with someone
Talking doesn’t have to start with talking. Sometimes it can start with walking. If you spend a big part of your day inside, ask someone if they’d like to get some fresh air and see where the conversation takes you.
- REALLY ask a friend ‘How are you?’
It can be difficult to keep count how many times you’re asked ‘how are you?’ in one day. But for many of us it can be much easier to count just how many times you give the real answer. Pick up your phone and catch up with someone you haven’t managed to for a while. A little uneasy talking face-to-face? Then just check-in with a friend or loved one via text or email.
- Tell someone how you’re feeling today
Revealing how you’re feeling can be daunting. But if it’s someone you trust, being open can often inspire an open response and an honest conversation. Just be sure you only say as much as you are comfortable doing so.
- Thank someone for something they’ve done for you
We don’t always realize the impact of the small things we naturally do for others on a daily basis. An unprompted ‘thank you’ is a nice way to show someone how much you value them and open up a conversation in ways you may not expect.
- Find out what someone does to unwind on a tough day
Sharing ideas on how to relax is an interesting and helpful way to start a conversation about mental health for all involved. Not only could it prompt a colleague or loved one to take a look at how they manage their wellbeing, you may also pick up a few tips for yourself!
If you or someone you love is dealing with a mental health issue, help is available. There are a variety of organizations and programs across Western New York standing by to assist children, adolescents, adults and families with prevention, treatment and recovery. You are not alone in your mental health journey. Reaching out to a trusted resource is the first step to getting the support you need.