Photo: Lagoa do Fogo, Sao Miguel, Azores
May is finally upon us. It’s the height of spring, the season of new things, and the time to buy new cute sandals. It’s the time of year when the weather is warm enough to enjoy it and not quite hot enough to loathe the sun. And do you know what else May is? It’s Mental Health Awareness month.
I actually didn’t know that there was a month set aside to bring awareness to mental health issues until just recently, but now that I know I am in full support! I think there are so many untruths, rumors, stereotypes, and stigmas around mental health issues in American society. It seems to only become a hot button topic when there’s a tragedy surrounding someone who suffered from mental illness. This year’s theme is #B4Stage4, encouraging identifying the symptoms of mental illness early and seeking help before it becomes an issue.
While there are many factors that can contribute to mental health illness, one of the most common triggers can be stress. I have had difficult times in my life where I felt that I was on the brink of depression. I’m talking wear my bathrobe and eat cheetos all day type of sad. What I have found to be a great stress reliever for me is to connect with nature. I feel a really strong connection with the sound and the movement of water. It’s like my life force. When I’m surrounded by beautiful scenery and removed from the sounds of anything man-made I feel like I have a direct connection to God.
Photo: Tobago, Magdalena Bay
I can clear the clutter from my thoughts and focus. This helps me to get so much clarity on whatever issues I may be facing. For me, nature = peace. When I feel myself getting to that place of feeling overwhelmed, then I know it’s time to make time for a sanity reboot. Sometimes all I need is a few hours at one of my favorite parks, like the rapids of Hillsborough River State park or at the beach. Sometimes I need an entire sanity weekend getaway. Even if I’m traveling with friends, I carve out that time just for myself. I make it a point to get up and watch the sun rise or I go for a walk.
Photo: Sunrise in Tobago
My recent Azores trip was part bucket list adventure trip and part mental health break. I knew that when I returned I had to face some very difficult life changes. My long-term relationship was ending and I would be uprooting my child and moving. Starting over as a mid thirty-something is a bit terrifying to be honest. Can you say stressful?? I desperately needed that time to get in a good happy place. Although I made time for a lot of adventure on the trip, I had plenty of God time planned in too. When we visited the Sete Cidades crater lake I sat there on the shores and I cried. It was a comfort to know that if God could take the destructive mess that is created from the eruption of a volcano and produce all of this new lush greenery and beautiful twin lakes, one blue and one green, born from those ashes, then surely He can orchestrate my small problems that are really just mole hills.
Photo: Shores of Lagoa Cidades, the green lake, Sao Miguel, Azores
It is so vital to pay attention to our feelings and our thoughts. As moms we wear a million and one hats and a cape too. We tend to be so concerned with making sure that everyone else is ok but we neglect ourselves. It’s not healthy and added stress and pressure can start to manifest itself in very unhealthy ways or forms of mental illness.
We can’t be any good to anyone else if we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Make time for you and allow yourself that chance to reset and revitalize your mind and your spirit. That extra time could be the difference in an emotional break down or a breakthrough. We don’t have to let the toils of life beat us down. I can only imagine how different I would be if I hadn’t discovered that nature is my therapy early on. I could have succumbed to the depression and let it take me out completely. My love of nature saved my life. I hope you can find your peace too.
Photo: Lagoa do Fogo, Sao Miguel, Azores
I realize that when a person is suffering with a serious mental illness that a walk by the river won’t be enough. You are not alone. I encourage you to reach out to someone and seek professional help if you need it. 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health illness. There is no shame, only hope. #B4Stage4
Resources for more information and a personal mental health screening:
Lauren G. , Outdoorsy Diva™
“Adventure Is a Lifestyle!“