(Note: This is an updated repost of my recent guest blog at Camera Chick)
Sometimes there’s an honest and raw need to just shut your doors and lock the world out. When it comes to mental health, it’s a coping mechanism that is incredibly inviting.
As someone who wrestles with bipolar disorder, I find that those really low periods are when I just don’t want anything to do with anybody. I’m afraid that anything could be a trigger, so the world I’ve created at home feels safe and calming.
And that’s absolutely ok! Sometimes.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re battling deep-rooted mental health issues, are weighed down by depression or sadness, or are feeling crushed by stress and anxiety. The key is knowing when enough is enough and the “pity party” (yes, that term makes me cringe, too) has to end.
Time to take control, pick yourself up, and drag your butt outside!
Need to be convinced as to why you should take control of your mental health and get out?
BEING COOPED UP CAN NEGATIVELY IMPACT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
I can attest to this – cooping yourself up for too long does more harm than good.
After going through a particularly bad and extended low point, I realised that I’d not been outside my house for a MONTH. I run my business from home and recently moved to a town where I still don’t know anybody. It had gotten to the point where I was avoiding it altogether.
The thing is, it hadn’t helped me in any way – I still felt anxiety, I still felt very low, and the outside world scared me more now than it did before because I’d locked myself away for so long.
A few days is fine; take time out to get your head clear and calm. However, any longer than that can worsen your mental state and has the potential to develop into Agoraphobia – the fear of leaving your safe environment.
HORMONES, CHEMICALS, AND VITAMINS – HOORAY!
Personally, I’m not really good at the science stuff. But I understand enough to know when something is good for me.
Cortisol is a chemical produced in our body that is associated with stress, anxiety and depression. Scientific studies have shown that cortisol levels decrease when spending time in nature.
Vitamin D is absorbed into our bodies by spending time in the sun. Vitamin D levels can dramatically reduce depression and increase energy levels, so a nice sunny day is the best time to drag yourself out of the house to re-energise!
FOCUS AND GROUNDING IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS CAN IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH
It’s not uncommon for the world around us to feel overwhelming and hectic; a sensory overload. Before long, your brain gets jumbled and it feels like you’re forever trying to untangle the mess in there so you can make sense again.
Rather than locking yourself away, that’s the perfect time to just walk away. I mean, I’m not suggest you quit your job and run away from home or anything … but get out in nature, even for 20 minutes, where the setting is more peaceful and you can train your brain to focus on one thing at a time.
A common grounding technique, that is extra fantastic in natural spaces, is:
- Take slow steady breaths
- Acknowledge 5 things you see
- Acknowledge 4 things you can touch
- Acknowledge 3 things you can hear
- Acknowledge 2 things you can smell
- Acknowledge 1 thing you can taste
This technique helps calm and refocus the brain. It can be done anywhere, anytime, but is a great way to reset the brain a bit when accompanied by a natural setting.
HUMANS ARE SOCIAL CREATURES
Generally speaking, even the most grouchy, hermit-like person has somebody they speak to now and then, whether it’s an occasional family member or the owner of the corner store.
Being a part of a society in some way is how we learn and grow. It’s deeply ingrained in humans to seek out social situations of some kind. Some people are party animals and some, like me, prefer quiet catch ups.
Having close social ties are known to make us happy and provide a certain satisfaction in our lives, decreasing the rate of depression and anxiety, which is why it’s crucial for a person to get back out into the world, whether it’s step by step or jumping straight in at the deep end.
FIGHT THE LOW
If you’re feeling low or anxious, don’t lock yourself in. Grab your partner, your camera, your journal … whatever makes you happy … and head for the hills!