Updated: Jun 1
Welcome back to Self-care Sunday. This week’s blog is about environment. If you are doing the work, it only makes sense to do it in a place that will yield the highest results.
“You can’t heal in the same environment that made you sick.”
If you read the previous blog about boundaries, then that is a great foundation for finding your niche. Once your boundaries have been reached, it’s time to take stock of your surroundings. What about this situation is a limit for me? Is this a one-time occurrence or is this the nature of this environment? Your environment isn’t just where it something occurs. It includes the physical setting, conditions, influences, and people that affect your mental health.
When you think of setting, there are the obvious affects of an environment on mental health that come to mind. We often overlook or downplay the other aspects of our environment because they aren’t the extremes that first come to mind when you think of ‘toxic environment’ such as poverty, substance abuse, or violence. These will of course foster certain emotional traumas but they aren’t the exclusive causing factors. Things like climate, natural lighting, and interpersonal relationships can each create 'bad environments' and should also be taken into consideration.
In my circumstance, I grew up in Florida, the Sunshine State. It rains every afternoon and its almost always dry by the magenta sun sets. The biggest adjustment since moving to Oceania is the inconsistency with sunshine. The sun can be obscured for weeks at a time, even if it’s not raining. I can’t understand it. How do people live like this? I get a little dramatic in those moments. I sigh and sing a childhood classic from Thumbelina. An ode to the sunny days when winter has killed everything good (stop judging me, I already copped to being dramatic).
But it’s not just me. Interestingly enough I’ve observed this in my friends too. I have clusters of friends in different regions and whenever the weather is bad, their posts and stories are all complaining about the weather. There is even a condition called Seasonal Anxiety Disorder where people experience depression the same time every year (particularly in regions where sunlight reduced for a portion of the year).
Knowing how important sunlight and warmth is to my mental health, I am less inclined to settle down in places like Alaska which at Winter solstice has a whopping 3 hours 49 minutes of sunlight… in addition to snow.
Conditions are a bit trickier. With a physical setting it’s a bit more cut and dry. I’ve found that the conditions of my environment are a little harder to discern. To use the weather example, what if I am living in a place where it doesn’t snow and it’s sunny most of the year. Great right? Except now I’m in a desert and the heat is unbearable. Am I wrong to complain that it is too sunny?
When it comes down to the conditions it varies from person to person what they will chose to tolerate. Not many people would stay in a situation that makes them uncomfortable, insecure, or happy if it weren’t for some sense of responsibility or obligation. I know that bills and responsibilities are real (no matter how badly I wish they weren’t), but at some point you have to question what is the true cost of remaining in that situation. There is a comfort in certainty. You know for certain how bad this situation is and worry ‘What if it gets worse’. Why not ask the inverse? Could it be better? Are you in a situation that is cultivating your talents, nourishing your soul, or simply not struggling? If not, why aren’t you?
I say this from a place of experience. I have stayed in situations way longer than I should have and when my friends and family were telling me to move on, I wasn’t because I thought it would get better if I just tried a bit harder to make it work. I didn’t want to feel like a quitter. I don’t give up easily.
Now, I’m a bit better at seeing the signs. If I am in a situation where I feel like a proverbial rain cloud is following just me around, I look at my environment. I’m usually not in the right place. Once I have removed myself from that environment, I 'Gone With The Wind' fist shake.
We are bombarded everyday with influences everything from the books we read, to which tv Shows we watch, the people we hang out with. Whether the response is positive or negative, we are processing them none the less.
Who are you following on social media? Are they people that inspire and uplift you? Or do they make you feel not so good about yourself? Which TV shows do you watch, what music are you listening to? How are these things affecting your mood and behavior?
I used to be able to binge watch crime-dramas and the serial killer documentaries like nobody’s business. Now, I can’t tell you the last time I watched them because they adversely affect my mood. I try to keep myself informed about the real life news, but there was no benefit to me or my psyche after having watched those ‘entertainment’ shows. Binge watching Law & Order didn’t suddenly convince me realize that murder is bad.
On this journey, I try to follow people and topics that I don’t have much information about. I make sure I have more exposure to influences that will inspire, uplift and encourage me.
I believe that everyone has a purpose and talent in life. On the journey to realizing yours, please be cognizant of those whom you surround yourself with. Some people will come to celebrate your talent, and others may distract you from your true purpose. Be diligent in discerning the two.
In the words of Dr Maya Angelou, when someone shows you who they are, believe them. If someone isn’t supportive of your dreams, don’t go to them for encouragement. If someone is negative and pessimistic about everything, don’t go to them with your fragile hopes. If someone always lets you down, don’t make yourself dependent on that person. These are boundaries. A boundary is the action you will take if something happens that you have decided that you don’t want to be around.
To grow doesn’t mean that you get rid of everything old. No, not at all. It’s about keeping what serves you and removing yourself from environments that don’t. While on your journey of growth, please be appreciative of the people who have always had your best intentions at heart and have helped you grow. Even though I have lost touch with or grown apart from certain people/places, I can’t deny the impact they had on me at the various stages of my journey.
Before I go, I wanted to say that to maintaining a prosperous environment is an ongoing task. There will be people and circumstances that were once beneficial to you now, but not so much in the future. That’s okay, it’s the point of growth. Just like the actual environment, seasons come and go—and climate change is a thing.
Until Next Time,