Presented by NWU

Feeling the silly season slump? Here is why and what to do

Spring is in the air and it should be all downhill from here, but why does this time of year feel like a vexing, uphill battle?

At the North-West University (NWU), research to promote sound mental health is one of the tasks of the School of Psychosocial Health at the university.

Their unique research is ensuring that more light is shone on a subject that, in a post-Covid world, is becoming increasingly important to understand.

One such researcher is Professor Johan Potgieter, whose focus areas include the optimal functioning of individuals, groups and communities, as well as the facilitation of resilience and psychological strengths by means of adventure or nature-assisted therapy.

According to Potgieter, there are a host of factors that could contribute to why this time of year leaves us without a spring in our steps.

“Few of us realise that the change of season can have a direct impact on our health, both physically and mentally.”

“Many interesting theories have emerged to try and explain this common occurrence.”

“For instance, research shows that increased sunlight during spring could affect our circadian rhythm and sleep cycle, as well as our hormone production, which is directly associated with our mood and mental health.”

“Heightened levels of allergens like pollen have also been associated with increased symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental disorders.”

“But there may be a more obvious reason for feeling demotivated and even hopeless during this time of the year. ‘Silly season’, as this time of the year is often referred to, arrives just as we realise that there is not much of the year left to get important things done.”

“Of course, reaching our remaining objectives requires energy, but the year has already taken a toll on our energy reserves.”

“Our motivation is therefore often at an all-time low, just when we need to ready ourselves for that final, big push.”

Then there are the after-effects of the pandemic that are thrown into the equation: “There is no doubt that the pandemic – and our attempts to ‘return to normal’ – plays a role.”

“For very few of us it is a case of picking up where you left off before Covid hit.”

“Things have often changed dramatically, and the uncertainty of what the ‘new normal’ is supposed to look like is contributing to the mental health pandemic that is now emerging.”

“As people struggle to redefine themselves, their lives and their relationships after the significant losses that Covid has caused, we realise that things have changed, and change, as we know, causes stress.”

Potgieter also explains that, due to the stress of our modern, fast-paced existence, we easily get into a routine of rushing mindlessly from one fire that needs to be put out to the next.

“What could help to regain some of our energy during this time of the year is to get out of the rat race, even for a short while, and try to become more mindful.”

“One way to do this is to allow yourself time to take stock of the year so far. Acknowledge what you have been through and what you have achieved.”

“It is important to reward ourselves for even small, seemingly insignificant successes.”

“Secondly, you could revisit your goals and become intentional in terms of the personally important goals that you still want to achieve this year.”

“Remind yourself of what they are exactly and whether they are still priorities. If so, remind yourself why they are important to you.”

“Thirdly, take some time to figure out what the best possible pathway is that will take you towards that goal.”

“In our rush to get the job done, we often miss a more direct route to what we want to achieve, or we run into an obstacle that may have been avoided with some forethought.”

“And, lastly, be kind to yourself, like you would be to others. Do not beat yourself up for struggling and not being able to do everything at once.”

“As was said before, if you are struggling with the silly season, you are definitely not alone. Even just realising this often lets us look at ourselves with softer eyes.”

Potgieter advises anyone whose motivation and mood do not improve or deteriorate to the point at which they require professional help to contact NWU Centre for Health and Human Performance (CHHP): Psychology and Wellbeing (PW) at 018 299 1737 or [email protected]. Online counselling is also available.

It is sage advice, built on the endeavour of the School of Psychosocial Health at the NWU to teach well-rounded, professional students who can contribute towards the psychosocial health of South Africans through research, clinical practice and service.

You can find out more about NWU here.

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Feeling the silly season slump? Here is why and what to do