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Spring Fever

by Rebekah Bohannon, LPC-MHSP, Director of Clinical Systems of The Next Door

Temperatures are rising, the sun is coming out and spring fever is among us! With record amounts of rainfall this year we have been trapped inside for far too long. Parking ourselves in front of our favorite binge-watching app and eating everything in sight is the new normal for a good old fashioned American good time. The average American sits 13 hours a day[i]! Aside from the physical effects this prolonged sitting and eating have on us, what are the effects on our mental health?

Making exercise a part of a routine is a struggle for us all. Making false promises and fluctuating commitments are the crux of failure for most new year’s resolutions. Getting up and prepared for the gym, regretting every moment of your decision and looking for ANY reason to change your mind. But, you don’t change your mind, you suck it up and show up! You get a great workout and leave the gym feeling like a champ! Sound familiar? Working out releases endorphins. But what are those?

When we workout, our body releases endorphins that interact with our brain chemistry to produce feelings that help relieve pain and create a sense of euphoria[ii]. To be honest, just walking 20 minutes a day, three days a week can help keep fitness gains and food goals on track. Not to mention the benefits exercise has on our mental wellness. Exercise can help reduce the likelihood of depression and promote overall mental wellness as we get older [iii].

If knowing how good something was for us was all it took; obesity rates would be down, and we would all eat healthy. However, simply knowing the facts is not all it takes. In most cases seeing isn’t even believing. How many times have you knocked some weight off just to get comfortable and gain it back? I think we look at wellness in separate categories and do not spend enough time examining how they overlap. This could be because it is overwhelming to try and overhaul our entire life. However, if we try and make incremental changes in each area perhaps we will be more successful. For example, if you do not exercise at all, walking only a few minutes each day is a great place to start. Likewise, cutting out unhealthy snacks or fast food is a small change you can make today. Making these small changes will greatly impact our mood and overall mental health.

When all else fails, TRACK EVERYTHING! Tracking our eating, as well as our fitness and mental health goals, can yield trends that may be sabotaging our success. Some may enjoy tracking every calorie while others may just write down what they eat in a day, not necessarily the calories in every bite. A small mark in your calendar to indicate what days you exercised and what time you exercised can help determine a routine that works for you. Finally, tracking our mental health. I recommend tracking your overall daily mood on a scale from 1-10; 1 being very sad or low mood and 10 being energized and happy. Hopefully after a week of tracking you can see what types of food and exercise have the greatest positive impact on your mental health. At the end of day enjoy your life! Incremental changes add up to make a big difference without setting yourself up for failure from day one. Get out and enjoy the sunshine, take in the day, get good rest and look forward to tomorrow!

 

[i] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-survey-to-sit-or-stand-almost-70-of-full-time-american-workers-hate-sitting-but-they-do-it-all-day-every-day-215804771.html

[ii] https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1

[iii] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

Springtime Reflections

by Ginger Gaines, Chief Operating Officer of The Next Door

I love SPRINGTIME!

Every year when I spot the first little tiny crocus petals peeking up through the ground (or sometimes the snow!), quickly followed by the beautiful bright yellow daffodils sprinkled throughout my drive to and from work, I get so excited about Spring! I know that very soon I’ll also see the forsythia and redbud trees in bloom and the pear trees looking so glorious everywhere! Every March I always say, “Spring is my favorite time of the year!” I break out my sandals, put away my heavy sweaters, and happily move my winter coat from the back seat of my car to the inside closet.

But then, inevitably, the temperatures drop again, and I race to cut and bring in at least a few daffodils before the freeze kills them, I pull on my fur lined boots again, and feel like a cold wet blanket was thrown over my spring spirit.

Sometimes I feel like my relationship with God is a lot like the changing seasons. There are days when I recognize Him as the Light, in bright moments all throughout my day, and my heart and life feel like the “well-watered garden” in Isaiah 58:11:

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden; like a spring whose waters never fail.

But on other days, my heart and soul feel like that cold wet blanket. I dwell on the disappointments, the problems, or my failures, rather than His provision and love. Whether one’s struggle is with substance addiction, mental illness, financial difficulty, broken relationships, loss of a loved one, or any other life issue that might knock us sideways, there are some days we are better than others at recognizing that God’s blessings are given according to His rich grace, not the depth of our faith or our performance!

We are also slow to recognize that the troubled times magnify our need for Him, and we can recognize that even “in the valley of the shadow…” HE is with us! He comforts us and gives peace that only He can.

I will move forward on this cold spring day by remembering and accepting His great love and grace with every beautiful bloom I see. I will trust His timing for every blessing, and lean in closer to Him, not trying to live only for the next bright spot, but taking in the harder times and growing in them. I will be still long enough to get a glimpse of His “big picture.”

(I’ll also put on my big fuzzy socks again before climbing into bed tonight!)