Tag Archives: mental health

Self-Care in Nature

Serene Forest

Self Care: Is It Time to Visit a Forest?

By: Anna Bystrova      February 8, 2016

Photo: Kevin Wang from https://flic.kr/p/hpPwfV

Let me ask you a simple question. How often do you go outside? No, not to get to the car or hop onto a bus to get to work or a place of study. How often do you go for a walk in a park? How much time out of your schedule is dedicated to spending time in a forest? If you are like any average city person, chances are your answer will be “not very often”.

Modern life places a lot of expectations on our lifestyles, often trapping us in schedules that we can barely keep up with. Going to the forest? We hardly have enough time to fit in lunch! Time constraints are often cited as a common reason why people do not spend time in nature. With fluctuating economy and pressing debt issues, we are forced to work longer hours, or find ourselves splitting between 2 or 3 jobs to keep up with bills and dreams. There are also such crucial participants in our lives as family and friends to add to the schedule. Entertainment media has entered our lives quite some time ago, and it found a solid spot there, bordering between giving us an outlet to relax and eating away our precious free time. In more recent years, social media proudly took the title of a Time-eating Monster, planting its roots deep into our schedules. A lot of us have even more commitments we have to comply with on a regular basis. Among all these important commitments and daily hassles, it is easy to regard self-care as the least important of them, dedicating very little time to it, if at all. This absence of self-care in light of busy schedules, challenging and demanding jobs/study programs, interpersonal relations, worries about future and financial stability increasingly more often lead to high levels of stress and extreme fatigue, at times even leading to a burnout or stress-related mental illness.

Understandably, for many the concept of self-care might seem like a luxury one cannot afford. However, do not fall for the claims of corporate producers and questionable know-how entrepreneurs trying to sell you another new product or service that promises that it is the only thing you would ever need to feel happy. There are many small lifestyle changes and inexpensive or free activities that you can add to your routine that will help you relax, unwind, return to your centre or even hold through a very challenging chapter in your life. You can refer to one of our articles for a list of pleasant activities to start with. You can chose the ones that you like, or make your own list.

As part of your journey of discovering the best self-care tools that suit your needs and preferences, consider exploring your relationship with nature. It has been know for a long time that interactions with nature are beneficial to general and mental health. Numerous studies have been conducted to explore this correlation. Exposure to nature and moving to countryside for a prolong period of time has been used by doctors as prescriptions for poor physical and mental health throughout the history of industrial world. Including readily accessible green spaces in cities is a part of urban planning and urban development research is partially due to the correlation between general and mental health and nature.

Social stress has been recognized as a risk factor for development of mental disorders. In addition, city living and urban social stress have shown evidence of being associated with increased prevalence of such disorders. In light of these factors, it is important to find accessible ways to support reduction of stress in urban population. Various modern studies indicate a strong association between availability of green space in cities and fewer cases of stress related mental illnesses. Some studies suggest that even availability of observable green space in the neighbourhood environment can have a positive effect on mental health. However, active participation in green spaces tops the charts of benefits to your general and mental health, offering stress reduction properties, immune function support, cognitive improvements, and much more. Some studies suggest that visiting forests away from the city that offer a serene feeling have even greater beneficial properties. Hopefully, these brief points will encourage you to explore ways to include nature in your self-care routine.

Remember – taking care of yourself is not a luxury. It is a necessity. As with many other issues in life, prevention is always a better choice than intervention. Taking care of yourself now will help you avoid a dangerous slippery slope of stress related issue in the future. Find self-care routines that are right for you and prioritize them while making your schedule.

And do not forget to visit a nearby park or forest. May I challenge you to do it this weekend? Maybe even today?

References

Annerstedt van den Bosch, M., Östergren, P.-O., Grahn, P., Skärbäck, E., & Währborg, P. (2015). Moving to Serene Nature May Prevent Poor Mental Health—Results from a Swedish Longitudinal Cohort Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(7), 7974-7989.

Lederbogen, F., Haddad, L., & Meyer-Lindenberg, A. (2013). Urban social stress – Risk factor for mental disorders. The case of schizophrenia. Environmental Pollution, 183, 2–6.

Li, Q. (2010). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine,15(1), 9–17.

Nielsen, T. S. & Hansen, K. B. (2006). Nearby nature and green areas encourage outdoor activities and decrease mental stress. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, 1(059), 10.

Nutsford, D., Pearson, A. L., & Kingham, S. (2013). An ecological study investigating the association between access to urban green space and mental health. Public Health, 127(11), 1005–1011.

Selhub, E. M. & Logan, A. C. (2012). Your brain on nature: The science of nature’s influence on your health, happiness, and vitality. Toronto, ON: Collins.

Exercise – My Ability to Cope with Trauma

Exercise: My Ability to Cope with Trauma

_______ I like to be with people

_______ I am open to new experiences

_______ I do what I say I will do

_______ I am an agreeable person

_______ I believe my power lies within me

_______ I am confident in my own ability to cope with situations

_______ I try to find meaning in what happened to me

_______ I try to break down bad situations into manageable parts I can handle

_______ I am motivated to solve the problems that occur in my life

_______ I am generally an optimistic person – I can see more positive than negative

_______ I take control in situations whenever possible, or I try to take control

_______ I like a good challenge and I rise to the occasion

_______ I am committed to overcoming the bad things I have experienced

_______ I have a good social support network and there are people I can talk to

_______ I understand my life’s circumstances are what I can and cannot do about them

_______ I have a sense of humor

_______ I have a sense of hope

_______ I like to try new things or look at things in new ways

_______ I am open to how other people feel

_______ I am an action-oriented person, I would rather do something than have it done for me

_______ I try to make plans and structure my own life

 

 

 

What do you notice about yourself when reading the statements you checked?

 

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How many items did you check? ___________________________________________________

 

Did you notice a pattern between those you did check and those you didn’t check?

 

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Tell me a bit more about your strengths and skills that have helped you get to this point:

 

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Trauma Related Beliefs

Trauma Related Beliefs

Check the beliefs that apply to you and then write about a situation in which that belief was created. Try to be specific when describing the situation, are any of these situations trauma related?

_____ I believe I am a victim and that my troubles are someone else’s fault

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I can’t do things because I am physically or emotionally incapable of doing them. (“I can’t” generally means “I won’t or “I don’t want to”)

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that my actions don’t impact others. My actions don’t harm them or cause them emotional pain

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe I am unwilling or unable to put myself in others’ place

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe I am unwilling to do something that is disagreeable to me

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe I have no money, time, etc., to spare when other people ask me to do things

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I develop aches and pains in order to avoid doing things that I don’t want to do

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe I often don’t have enough energy to do things – particularly when I don’t want to do them

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I don’t have to live up to obligations – It’s ok to say “I forgot” or just ignore responsibilities

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I frequently expect others to do what I want them to do, even if they don’t understand my reasoning

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe I am entitled to use others’ property as if it were my own, and to borrow things without permission

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that my “wants” are really my “rights”

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that others betray my trust regularly and therefore cannot be trusted at all

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that things will happen because I think they will

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I can make decisions without finding out the facts

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I am right and that my point of view is right, even when evidence says that it’s wrong.

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that even when I am proven wrong I must cling to my original position

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that thinking ahead and planning ahead are unnecessary or not useful

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I am always supposed to win and that failure is not an option

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that fear is a weakness, so I deny that I am afraid even when I am

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that expressions of anger, like direct threats, intimidation, sarcasm, or passive-aggressiveness, are good ways to get what I want from people

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that if something doesn’t turn out the way I expect it to I will be criticized and found to be a failure

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I will be let down by others

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that I will win in any struggle because I have power

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_____ I believe that debating is enjoyable in and of itself

Situation in which this belief effects my life:

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