SHERIDAN — Spring officially begins Monday, but singing birds outside and zinging energy inside tell us spring fever is already rising as rapidly as the mercury.
For many people, spring is a time of promise. It is a time to shake off winter doldrums and tackle projects that will prepare the house — and themselves — for summer. This can include starting seeds for the garden, painting a room, playing a new game with the kids or getting a new hairdo.
For others, however, spring brings anxiety and sadness. Several studies have found that suicide rates peak in the spring — not the winter like many people believe.
Jennifer White, clinical director of the Northern Wyoming Mental Health Center, said psychologists see several reasons the change in seasons may cause such stress.
Often people who feel depressed in the winter become disillusioned when their depression doesn’t lift come spring even though people around them seem refreshed by the change.
“If you’re depressed and spring doesn’t bring that kind of happiness and excitement for you, it can be a big letdown and feed into more hopelessness,” White said.
For some people who struggle with mental health issues, the extra energy caused by spring fever can turn into agitation. This can lead to negative efforts to relieve the agitation such as drugs or other harmful behaviors. White said it is important to be aware of agitation as a potential risk factor for suicidal thoughts.
“People experience energy in different ways,” White said. “If people are experiencing more energy they should be aware of how they could possibly channel that energy into something that has good outcomes for them.”
Good channels for that energy are abundant: spring cleaning, committing to a new exercise goal, playing outside with the kids, learning a new hobby for those inevitable snowy Wyoming spring days. Even a little courageous self-pampering can be helpful.
“Life is short; cut your hair,” White said.
Ultimately, living a therapeutic lifestyle is one of the healthiest ways to manage the energy of spring fever, White said. Eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep, learn new things and seek positive socialization.
If friends or family members struggle with mental health issues, be understanding when they don’t “snap out of it” come spring. Watch for signs of increasing anxiety, ask direct questions about how they are feeling and if they are considering suicide, and refer them to a professional counselor.
The Northern Wyoming Mental Health Center has an on-call therapist available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at this number: 746-4456. Or reach the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Got the fever?
Here’s some medicine. Consider these options when trying to harness that pent-up energy in healthy ways:
Get a new ‘do
Mae Huson, owner and instructor at True Colors Cosmetology School, said approximately half the school’s clients are seeking something fresh and new after a long winter.
“People want to feel good,” Huson said. “When they have a new haircut, pedicure, manicure or some beautifying thing it makes them feel fresh and good again.”
Rainbow colors are here to stay. Unique color placement is also big: panels of color versus stripes, more texture and dimension throughout.
As for new haircut styles, anything goes. It’s all about whatever makes you feel fun and beautiful. Consult with your hairstylist and go for it.
Prep the house
ACE Hardware/Ben Franklin Crafts store manager Erica Scranton said customers and employees alike get excited about new paint and projects for spring. Tackle one or several today.
• Brush (or roll) a fresh, new color onto interior walls. Clean, subdued hues are the in thing right now: grays, light blush pinks and subtle browns.
• Repair window and door screens so you can let in the fresh air without letting in the bugs.
• Aerate and fertilize the lawn. Lay seed on bare patches so you’ll have a lush summer yard.
• Prep garden beds and start garden seeds. Till the soil, add compost, cover with mulch. Plant seeds in indoor greenhouses or old-fashioned pots on the windowsill.
• And don’t forget the grill, the centerpiece of summer cooking. Buy propane, scrub cooking surfaces and dream about those steaks and hot dogs.
Get the kiddos outside
Kids feel spring fever, too. Get them outside to play — and learn.
Rachel Carlson, early childhood special education teacher at the Child Development Center Region II preschool in Sheridan, suggests adding these activities to the parental toolbox. Using the concept of play-based learning, they are fun and foster development.
• Kids love rocks, so let them gather as they please when out on a walk (bring a bag to carry them in). Help them “write” letters and numbers with the rocks when you get back home.
• Send your kids on a scavenger hunt in the backyard. Suggested items for the list to get you thinking: yellow flower, green leaf, twig that looks like a letter, rock that looks like a piece of food.
• Grab a blanket and a stack of books or a sketchpad and go outside to read and draw in the sunshine.