Sunday morning at Katherine Legge memorial park

Embracing Summer Vibes To Manage Stress

Utilizing Summer's Atmosphere To Manage Stress

Whether you happen to be working with a mental health professional or not this summer, or you are taking a break from therapy because of the understandably helpful summer vibes that are occurring, there are still plenty of wellness and grounding strategies to incorporate into your everyday routine to ensure you are engaging in effective emotional and psychological care for yourself. Remember, focusing on your emotional care and emotional-regulation is key to journeying through each day in a more regulated emotional state, whether or not you decide to engage in therapy this summer. 


Whenever the weather swings into the springtime, definitely summer, and even into the warm fall months, I campaign – ad-nauseum – for everyone to get outdoors as much as possible. My hope is that everyone finds an approach to incorporating as much of one’s life outside; and, if you happen to have little ones in your life, being outside as much as humanly possible is extremely helpful for caregivers’ nervous systems as well while juggling the difficulties and overwhelm that comes with the unstructured summer schedule(s). Growing in connection with the outdoors encourages – and parallels – the growing connection within oneself, and bridges people towards more mindfulness practices which all result in greater well-being and regulation.


As a parent myself, whenever there is a tough moment in the household – and just like I congruently recommend to my clients that are also parents/caregivers – I find a way to get everyone outside [or, have a sensory experience with water] to help re-set everyone’s nervous systems and stress responses. Maybe some of us have heard the phrase “add water!” whenever the overwhelming moments happen at home, which is a helpful approach. 


This reminder to “add water” [i.e. : have the little ones take a bath/shower, or have some kind of sensory experience (water tables or sprinklers) with water] acts as the re-set, re-calibration, emotional regulation component and mechanism that is helpful to both children and adults – the whole family system. This is a friendly reminder that us adults also need something sensory to help ourselves out, too.

outdoor sensory experiences to manage stress
Outdoor Sensory Experiences To Manage Stress

Please incorporate sensory experiences related to the outdoors as much as possible, or as much as the weather allows you. Incorporating the outdoors to achieve a grounded, regulated emotional state is called “’green therapy’ or ‘ecotherapy’”, and some eye-opening scientific research proves how beneficial it is to all components of health. Cooley, et. al. (2020) found that “time spent in natural outdoor spaces has physiological and psychological benefits, such as reduced stress responses and improved mood.”, and an amazing finding from this study is that when mental health providers engage their clients/patients in ‘walk and talk’ therapy outdoors, a higher quality, enriched experience is achieved. 


Cooley et al (2020) found that those mental health professionals that obtained written consent and engaged their patient/client outdoors reported that their clients/patients expressed the following benefits: “the therapy was enriched by added mutuality, freedom of expression, mind-body holism, interconnectedness with the natural world, and even practitioner well-being”. Therapy in itself is highly effective, whether it occurs inside an office or outside; but, why not incorporate a beautiful sunny day if one is comfortable opting-in for that format, towards the goal of gleaning even more benefits.


Due to the evidence showing the benefits that outdoor sensory experiences/ mindfulness moments provides, as well as the effectiveness of outdoor therapeutic experiences with mental health professionals providing therapy, our providers at Authentic Growth Wellness Group will often suggest this approach to our clients at the beginning of their sessions. But, just like all other professionals will do, we will always honor what feels best to the client while making sure we explain the true benefits that are possible from that experience. Either way, and no matter what, we all need to find a way outside to help us feel more connected with the Earth – this goes for all ages.


As a result of feeling more connected with the Earth by getting outside a bit more, we grow more in connection with ourselves, and begin to realize that this process is also the gradual incorporation of/ engagement in mindfulness practices. Think about [and visualize] this: whenever we swing open that door, step outside, with earbuds in or not, and we see [fingers crossed] the sun shining, and we soak in the greenery – do you take an automatic, but slower, inhale and exhale? Sometimes I often think, “wow, I really needed that deep breath”!. Feeling more connected to ourselves is a healing feeling, which “us clinicians” call integration, where feelings of self-esteem, self-assurance, self-efficacy, and empowerment can grow. 


I hope we all can find a way to prioritize engaging more physically with our Earth/the outdoors, whether it is movement or stillness, and know that the positive growing emotional connections towards oneself will ensue. Finding a way to grow this green therapy/ecotherapy approach for oneself, little by little each day, will inevitably feel beneficial – no matter the pace of your feet, or whether being still with a coffee cup in hand sounds like a more approachable idea. The more we take this approach, I have seen the interest/appeal in screens/electronic devices decrease…this is a fun shift that will cause some beautiful opportunities for growth within oneself, within one’s relationships, and within a family system.