What to do with summer anxiety… nature + focus+ slowing down= improving health (pssst! even weight loss!)
Summer is a time of transition. Our schedules shift, the weather change (at least here in the Midwest, it’s a drastic shift!), our routines are altered as school lets out, summer camps begin, etc.
Sometimes we may even forget that summer is supposed to be a vacation – a time to rest and rejuvenate. And, if used properly — summer can transform our mind, body and spirit. Ironically, how often do you find, a strange sense of anxiety slowly creep in? Yeah, me too.
When I go on vacation, I usually grant the first couple of days for adjustment. I tend to have a difficult time turning my thoughts off as they bounce back and forth from work to my other responsibilities to my grocery list. I notice that in these first few days, I actively fill my schedule up to the brim to stay as occupied as possible. I know this about myself and I know this is a pattern so I try to grant myself some space to slowly but steadily trek through the anxiousness without overscheduling. It can be extremely difficult to grasp this newfound stillness.
Summer anxiety is impacted by technology
A similar experience seems to occur at the beginning of summer. Mixed with a rush of excitement for the longer days and sunshine, I am also aware of a quiet angst that I hold like a backpack full of heavy stones. One by one, I must work to unload some of these rocks but how do I even begin?
It is incredibly important to get grounded and regulated. For me, this means actively not over-scheduling my vacation time. Actually consciously penciling in time to be still is difficult but beneficial.
In this age of technology, we are inundated with messages, alerts, voicemails and more via our mobile devices. I once heard someone say that it is getting more and more difficult to be attentive without being entertained because of the amount of media that is consumed on our phones and computers.
This is where I choose to begin.
How can we move away from technology and summer anxiety and move towards being attentive and grounded and embrace stillness?
Let’s start by taking advantage of what the summer months in the Midwest have to offer us – green space. Dr. Qing Li (2018) writes in his book Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness,
“the more time we spend with new technology, the more likely we are to suffer because of it… Symptoms run from anxiety, headaches, depression, mental fatigue, eye and neck strain to insomnia, frustration, irritability and loss of temper” (35).
However, to counter this, Dr. Qing Li argues that nature is the golden ticket. Shinrin-yoku is a technique used to absorb nature, specifically forests, and the different sights, tastes, smells, sounds and feelings offered by them. Different than exercising in nature, shinrin-yoku is more meditative and focused on the present experience versus accomplishing a goal. According to Dr. Qing Li,
“There is now a wealth of data that proves that shinrin-yoku can: reduce blood pressure, lower stress, improve cardiovascular and metabolic health, lower blood-sugar levels, improve concentration and memory, lift depression, improve pain thresholds, improve energy, boost the immune system, increase anti-cancer protein production and help you to lose weight.” (38)
Use all the green of Summer to maximize your health and reduce anxiety
With all of these amazing health benefits, green spaces, big and small, allow us to feel more grounded during this transitional time. As we walk through a local park on our work break or have our morning coffee with the window open, the outdoor spaces naturally ebb and flow in front of us
We remain attentive but not entertained and enter into a meditative and calming state. We hear the sounds of nature and feel the grass beneath bare feet. We notice the sweet yet subtle scents of flowers in all of their colorful beauty.
Our connection to nature is important as it brings us back into our bodies. It takes us out of our heads and off of our phones. We are connected to something larger than us, our bodies begin to re-sync and, as we do so, we slowly unload our backpack of heavy stones so that we can enter summer vacation light and steady.
Written by Gretchen Zagzebski, MeD, LPC, full time therapist at Inspire who loves nature, her clients and is always working to live her best life. To schedule an appointment, call (847) 919-9096 x1.
Source: Li, Q. (2018). Forest bathing: How trees can help you find health and happiness. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Company.