Psyching the Zietgeist:
Current Culture Through a Mental Health Lens

Smoky Summer Affecting Mental Health Around Pacific Northwest

We’ve had two summers now with significant smoky air from west coast wildfires. We northwesterners look forward to and treasure our short, perfect summers, so it’s disheartening to have to stay inside during our precious warm weather. There are health impacts as well as significant environmental degradations from these increasingly frequent and intense fires, but we’re affected also on a personal level, as our brief summer slams to a close.

Local shop owner/herbalist, Karyn Schwartz wisely observed about our smoky skies on her Instagram feed:

Remember that your physical well being and your emotional well being are not two separate things…. [I]f you have been agitated or anxious or just overwhelmed with feelings – you are not alone. This is part of the sickness we are all enveloped in. The smoke is exacerbating struggles we already have, and making it impossible to ignore a lot of things we all wish were not true. Part of our collective medicine is to be kind and gentle with ourselves and each other.

A recent story on the CBC website focused on these personal impacts on our mental health. For many people, they feel isolated and depressed, having to stay inside during the one time of the year when we normally can savor warm sunny days, dine al fresco, swim, and enjoy long, light-filled evenings. For others more drastically and directly affected by wildfire, they struggle with loss of home and livelihood.

These long-term significant disruptions to one’s place in the world can have profound effects on your mental health. If your feelings of despondency don’t fade when the air improves, it’s a good idea to seek out mental health assistance.

by Judy Koven

How to Survive Seattle’s Long Rainy Season

The cold, gray rainy days of Seattle a winter can make even the perkiest people eventually feel blue.

I’ve just perused several articles on this topic in case you are too waterlogged and gloomy to do it yourselves. The good news is that there are things you can do to make soggy weather bearable. The bad news is that it won’t do to just do one of them; you’ll need to make a plan to jettison yourselves out of the doldrums. If you suspect that you might be clinically depressed, these suggestions can help, but they probably won’t be enough. Consulting with a therapist and/or medical provider is recommended.

The Stranger (“Survival Tips for the Cold, Dark, Horrible Next Few Months in Seattle“) suggests:

  1. Make soup. Don’t laugh; making soup is almost as comforting as eating it.
  2. Visit the Pacific Science Center’s Butterfly House. Eighty degrees! Tropical plants! Too bad you can’t bring a sleeping bag and camp stove and move in.
  3. Park yourself in the steam room in one of the local bath houses, like Banya 5, “…a coed bathhouse in South Lake Union.” Don’t worry, it’s not actually in Lake Union but in that neighborhood.
  4. Go out in the rain. Yep, put on your rain gear, hold your head high and adopt the attitude of Seattle’s teenagers: Rain? What rain?

Thrillist (“A Seattle Local’s Guide to Surviving the Darkness”encourages you to go skiing. Maybe you’ve moved to Seattle from San Diego and have never trusted your breakable human body to a pair of boards or a snowboard. Go sledding or snowshoeing instead. Or park in one of the Snoqualmie Pass lots with a pint of hot chocolate and just stare at the mountain. It’s snowy and bright. They also suggest that old standby, the lightbox. It definitely works for some people. Worth a try.

Seattle Magazine’s Gray Weather Survival Guide recommends:

  1. Immerse yourself in a nice warm public pool. If public pools aren’t your thing, and if you have a bathtub, get on intimate terms with the tub. Bring on the music and candles!
  2. Visit the otters at the Seattle Aquarium: squeeee!
  3. Go out dancing or stay in and dance to your favorite jams.
  4. Head over to Sequim on a dreary Saturday. Guess how many sunny days it has per year? That’s right, 320.
  5. Visit the Volunteer Park Conservatory. “[W]ith rooms full of palms and cacti,” the conservatory is  “a light filled oasis.” Just don’t absentmindedly pet a cactus like I did once and you’ll be good.

So make a plan. It’ll help. Scouts’ honor.

by Peggy Shafer

Posted on February 15, 2018
Posted in Self-careTagged , ,


The opinions expressed in this post are the views of the author(s) and don't necessarily reflect those of other members of the Women's Therapy Referral Service.