Reconnecting for physical and mental health

July 14, 2021
Mental health
5 min read

WRITTEN BY

Moira Nester, CRNP

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Summer is in full swing, and with many of us fully vaccinated against COVID-19, life is starting to feel normal again. We’re easing back into pre-pandemic activities and routines. For some, it might be an easy, natural process, but for others, getting back into socializing, exercising, and other activities can feel challenging.

Taking the opportunity to reengage is worth it, though—for both our physical and mental well-being. Here are a few ideas for reconnecting.

Connect with people. When we think about what we do every day to care for ourselves, most of us would say that to be healthy, you need nutritious food and exercise. But what about social connections?

During the pandemic, some of our social connections probably fell by the wayside. Working from home, we weren’t chatting with co-workers. Get-togethers with friends and family weren’t happening. Now is the perfect time to be with people again—especially with the opportunities summer affords for socializing outdoors.

Simply put, friendships are good for our health. Social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and improve our immune systems. If you’re an introvert, or your social skills are a little rusty, there’s no need to go big. Get a few friends together for a Sunday hike, meet up for dinner at a favorite restaurant, or invite a few neighbors over to hang out on the deck. Communicate what’s best for you, and be flexible.

Connect with nature. Summer is a great time to get outdoors, and opportunities to enjoy nature—hiking, camping, biking, or just relaxing over a picnic lunch—are abundant in the Centre Region.

Research has shown that our environment can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn affects our bodies. Being in nature can reduce anger, fear, and stress. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it also contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.

Time spent in nature can also connect us to each other and the larger world. In studies that measure brain activity, when participants viewed nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love lit up. But when they viewed urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were activated. It seems that nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our environment.

Connect with your body. As anyone who feels that sense of well-being after a good workout knows, exercise is good for physical and mental health. If your exercise or workout routine has suffered during the pandemic, now is the time to get moving again. How to start?

Going slow and taking measurable steps will have the most impact. You’ll be more likely to make actual behavioral changes if you set small, successive goals that are easier to achieve. Build up your exercise routine slowly, adding a little bit more each day, and eventually, you’ll get to a point where your success feeds on itself.

As you plan on increasing your activity level, consider participating in Centred Outdoors' weekly adventure. Learn more at centredoutdoors.org

About The Author

“My philosophy of care involves treating each patient as a whole person,” says Nester. “We all have our own personal, medical and spiritual needs. It’s important to work with patients to create a care plan as unique as they are.”

Nester earned both her bachelor’s degree in nursing and her Master of Science in Nursing from The Pennsylvania State University.

Outside of the office, Nester enjoys spending time with friends, family, and her dog, Eva.

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