Spring 2020 is now upon us, reminding people of the type of renewal only possible with warmer, more inviting and intimate weather. Some even liken the season to a renaissance, which in French means rebirth. Spring is all about rebirth, the budding of nature, and the possibility of transformation. This is a future-focused season, and, if mastered through self-determination, brings with it the possibilities of better and more meaningful times ahead.
In the spring, people connect with nature again, their surroundings, and extend themselves beyond their comfort zones and self-constructed shelters that keep us safe during the winter and out of harm’s way. As spring unfolds, begin to re-evaluate what it means to be comfortable. How long have you been comfortable for? We shelter ourselves, albeit artificially, but sometimes out of necessity. Spring can be a timely reminder to evaluate if these self-imposed shelters are still necessary?
With the COVID-19 pandemic, these self-imposed metaphorical shelters, fear, and trepidation over connecting with the outside world may seem critical and important to hold on to. Let’s be honest here, when it comes to this new virus, we are all walking into the unknown and cannot be sure if this global threat to our health and welfare will persist much longer.
This is troubling because when it comes to accessing the world at large, connecting with friends, family, and establishing new relationships, the virus continues to be just plain problematic and a nuisance.
However, this is still a season to extend beyond our personal comfort zone; to charge forward after months of bunkering down. The spring is an excellent time to implement new strategies and action plans. Regardless, take this time to evaluate your readiness to grow. As people with mental health or substance use issues, we spend so much time worrying about relapse or our condition unravelling. Spring can be a healthy pause from this pattern of thinking and an opportunity to take leaps, put ourselves out there, and expose we to new behaviours and thinking. This is not as easy as it sounds.
A good way to start is to first set a goal. What is it that you want to change? What is interfering with you getting there or achieving your goal? What are the steps, the in-between points that will indicate you are moving in the right direction to meet your goal? Answering these questions will be helpful in thinking about goal setting and creating a successful plan to experience change first-hand.
As peers, we experience all shades of stigma, from covert to overt, and all stops in between on the landscape of discrimination. Perhaps, this is why we’ve constructed our walls, the shelter around our feelings. I am not suggesting dismantling our defences altogether; having thick skin can be very helpful when blocking out or actively ignoring hateful interactions and microaggressions, which colour our worlds more hostile than receptive.
I am merely gesturing to the notion that knowing ourselves and our own mental health better can only increase the likelihood for creating the right conditions for growth and transformation.
Sometimes, we enter into holding patterns which can be as destructive as a relapse, if not equally frustrating and potentially dangerous to our mental health. If these patterns can be reduced, minimised, and avoided for the right reasons, why not be an active player in creating the right conditions for change? Be the agent of change, not the object, and have a role in setting yourself up for a journey down a path of your choosing.
Your new path to personal providence is about to blossom this spring. Take this opportunity very seriously. Understand what space, energy, and conditions are most optimal for you to create the right ingredients for a new life, habits, and healthy changes. Turning the page now, and not looking back, is sometimes all that is necessary to launch a person into a happier lifestyle.
I don’t recommend drastic changes all at once, but small, meaningful steps towards your goals with the help of friends, and family. Turn the budding of new healthy habits into the healthier you by summer. So, do the right thing this spring and when we reconnect in a few months, celebrate your success under the sun, at the beach, in a relationship or confident, single, and successful.
Maxwell Guttman, LCSW teaches social work at Fordham University. He is also a mental health correspondent for Psychreg where he shares his insights on recovery and healing.
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