If you didn’t already know, this month is Mental Health Awareness Month and we are here to provide our Wolfpack with accessible and healthy ways to nurture and maintain our mental well-being.
After the last year of quarantine, we have all been subject to at least some level of mental health struggle and as we near the re-opening of society, it is imperative that we remain cautious and self-aware of the state of our mental health as we go from one extreme (lockdown) to the other (long-awaited socializing). The effects may be similar to culture shock and with so much still uncertain, there is definitely still a substantial amount of residual anxiety after getting relatively used to the need to stay away from people.
Something that has been critical to maintaining my own mental health is connecting to the nature, especially since we’ve spent so much time indoors in man-made structures. It has become imperative now more than ever to take quality time in nature, especially because it’s one of the few times we can generally be outside without having to wear a mask. However if you live in a big city or don’t have the time or resources to venture outdoors, there are more accessible ways to connect to nature and that is through working with the four elements individually. Through the elements we can connect more easily and conveniently to nature as most of these practices can be done at or near home.
The more we connect with the elements through working with them, the more we connect with ourselves as celestial and divine beings. Through this intentional work we connect to our truest and most natural essence and thus, we align with the divine truth that is the natural world.
The element of fire is the spark of passion, creativity and all beginnings. It is the beginning of all new and grand ideas, and is the ever-burning flame that keeps us going while we see these ventures through. This motivation and passion can helpful energies to work with to combat feelings of depression.
Ways to work with the element of fire include:
- Exercising in order to cultivate inner fire — Whether it be yoga, dance, hitting the gym or whatever method speaks to you, exercise not only cultivates inner fire and heat, but also releases endorphins which are chemicals produced by the body that relieve stress and pain.
- Lighting candles for aromatherapy or meditation — Candles can be used in a multitude of ways. Scented ones are great for aromatherapy, especially calming scents like lavender and eucalyptus (which can also be embodied by wearing the Lavender and Eucalyptus colored Basics). The flame of a candle can also be used as a focal point for open-eyed meditation. If you’re like me and sometimes have a hard time meditating with your eyes closed, working with this technique can help you have something to lightly focus on so as to silence the chatter of the mind.
- Work with the suit of Wands — In the tarot, the suit of Wands corresponds to the element of fire and subsequently represents fires characteristics of leadership, assertiveness and courage. Meditating on these energies can help you connect to them and thus embody them through movement or even wearing it’s color correspondence of red by way of items like the Cayenne basics which further aid in connection to this elemental energy.
- Spend time in the Sun — After spending so much time indoors, feeling the Sun’s rays, especially as we head into summer, can give you the dose of Vitamin D we’ve all been lacking. But remember to wear sunscreen and not overdo it.
The element of water is our connection to our emotions, subconscious and universal and unconditional love. It is receptive, vulnerable and is of the heart and as such, it requires boundaries in order to keep it protected and fulfilled. This honesty and vulnerability aid us in the release of old and new wounds alike.
Ways to work with the element of water include:
- Connecting to friends and/or family — As the element of emotions and love, the element of water asks us to prioritize our emotional fulfillment. Since this past year has been lonely for a lot of us, it’s important to realize that just because we may not be able to physically see our loved ones, we are fortunate enough to live in the age of technology where communication with those we love is generally a click away. It’s easy and sometimes habitual to isolate ourselves during hard times, but our water-ruled hearts encourage us to do otherwise.
- Take a bath or shower — Personally, this is my favorite method of connecting to water. Even if you don’t have a bathtub, a shower with the intention of releasing and cleansing is just as effective. Try using (eco-friendly) bath bombs, soaps and lotions to really take that moment for deep self-love.
- Work with the suit of Cups — In the tarot, the suit of cups corresponds to the element of water and as such, the cups represent the container in which our emotions and dreams reside. This suit encourages us to fill our respective cups with that which emotionally fulfills us. Meditating on the cups corresponding energies of receptivity, compassion and universal love allows us to connect with the ebb and flow of life and can thus cultivate feelings of acceptance where once there was resistance.
- Submerging in a body of water — Whether it’s a lake, river, ocean or mad-made bodies of water like pools and baths, full submersion and just floating can help us feel the encouraging softness and supportiveness of water by way of being literally held by it. A watery hug, if you will.
- Crying — Yep, you read that right. As a year of intense emotions, it is important to give ourselves the space to literally cry. Even if you don’t have anything to be particularly sad about at the moment, releasing tears can be incredibly cathartic and can help you release stagnant energy. If you have a hard time getting the tears going, I recommend throwing on a feel-good show or movie to force it out. My personal go-to is Queer Eye.
The element of air is presence and thought. It stimulates the mind and catalyzes curiosity and the desire to learn and absorb knowledge of any variety. It also connects us to the present moment by way of conscious breathing. The presence and awareness that air brings can be integral to combating feelings of anxiety and anxiety attacks, as it does for me.
Ways to work with the element of air include:
- Reading — As a sign of the mind and subsequently stimulation, reading can serve many purposes. Reading non-fiction and informative books can stimulate the mind and guide it to new ideas and perspectives, which can be incredibly refreshing and opens the mental barriers we may have unintentionally erected to keep ourselves safe and comfortable. Reading fiction can also serve and stimulate our imaginations as we ourselves create our own versions the world(s) we are reading about. Some of these beautiful stories can also be very comforting and offer us some solace from the intensity of the world around us.
- Meditation — I’ve already mentioned meditating on the energies of the tarot, but besides those meditations which have a particular focus, meditation in general is extremely beneficial for slowing down our thoughts, being present with our breath and bodies, and silencing the mind. Sometimes our own minds can be our own worst enemy. Its restlessness, endless chatter and concern for the future can cause deep feelings of anxiety. Meditation can help combat and neutralize this anxiety through the presence and self-awareness that comes with consciously connecting to the breath, taking us out of our minds and into our bodies.
- Work with the suit of Swords — In the tarot, the suit of swords corresponds to the element of air and likewise represents ideas, thought and communication. As a suit and element that is connected to thought and breath, this suit encourages us to blend the two together and express them through voice. As the sword can be used as a defensive weapon, it teaches and inspires us to verbally stand up for ourselves and others, as well as speak our own truths. Meditate on the intellectual, present and commanding energy of the swords to connect to these energies to live and speak truthfully, especially in regards to our inner dialogue.
- Smudging yourself and your living space — Smudging, which is a term used to describe the burning of sacred and healing herbs such as sage, lavender, palo santo and eucalyptus, is a method that dates back thousands of years and is used to clear yourself, objects or spaces of negative energy with the smoke of the herbs. Smudge bundles are traditionally Native American but there are variations including the burning of incense which are traditionally rooted in the cultures of Asia and Europe. Watch the beautiful smoke and get lost in its grace as it moves throughout the space, cleansing you and your surroundings. However, be mindful that a lot of these herbs are over harvested so make sure you buy them from an ethical and sustainable supplier. Additionally, because this practice requires burning, it can likewise be used to connect with the element of fire.
- Breathwork — This is the most direct and literal way to connect with the element of air as we literally need it to breathe. However, how conscious are you of your breath? Full transparency, I used to be so unaware of my breath that I used to be a reverse breather. That’s right, my belly used to contract with my inhales and expand with my exhales and I had no idea until I was in my early twenties! When I finally became aware of this, I made it a point to consistently do yoga because it helped bring awareness to my breath with each movement. I also did and still do practice breathwork methods like Ujjayi breathing which is common in yoga practices and can improve concentration, release tension and regulate the bodies heating and cooling system. Practice it by breathing with your mouth closed and sticking your tongue to the roof of your mouth and inhaling and exhaling slowly. This breath is often referred to as “ocean breath” as the sounds of it in practice can resemble to calming sound of ocean waves crashing and receding.
The element of Earth is the foundation of not only our physical needs but all the rest as well. Through Earth we find stability, growth and abundance and can root down, in order to rise up in strength. This stabilizing energy can provide support in times of distress and feelings of inadequacy.
- Grounding — Grounding is a term that can be used to describe meditating, with the intention of connecting to and feeling supported by the Earth beneath you. It can also describe the practice of being outside in nature and grounding ourselves through the physical contact with the Earth. I live in Joshua Tree and recently paid a visit to the National Park where instead of hiking (which is also a great meditative and grounding method), I chose to find a nice big rock and just sit on it. I also took off my shoes and placed my bare feet on the sun-warmed rock and honestly, I needed that more than I even realized at the time. This direct contact whether on a rock, dirt, sand or any other surface is incredibly stabilizing and is a beautiful and profound reminder of the nurturing support this planet offers us every day.
- Crystals — Created by the natural processes of the Earth, crystals are said to hold varying energies and can be used as conduits for healing. Certain crystals have predetermined meanings and functions like amethyst for example which is said to contain properties of calm, cleansing and can enhance your intuition. However aside from their given properties, since they can hold and retain energy, they can also be infused and programmed with your own energy or intention. For example, I keep a piece of rose quartz in my closet as it is a crystal of self-love and my closet is a temple of sorts to myself. I have therefore infused that crystal with my energies and intentions of accepting myself as I am and appreciating my unique beauty. Since I’ve programmed this crystal with these empowering energies, if I’m having a day where I’m lacking in these feelings, I will bring the crystal with me in my pocket or purse so that it can subsidize the energies I may be lacking in that day.
- Tending to your space/home — As an element, Earth represents the material, and the most literal expression of that is our homes. Our homes serve as a foundation in which to grow and can provide much needed feelings of stability and safety. This last year which was mostly spent at home was a huge reminder of how important it is to invest in our home spaces and make them truly comfortable for ourselves. Our homes are our sanctuaries and as such, decorating and furnishing as you see fit plays a huge role in our subsequent feelings of feeling stable and safe within that space. And beyond that, it is important to clean, tend to and maintain our foundations, both literal and figurative.
- Work with the suit of Pentacles — In the tarot, the suit of pentacles corresponds to the element of Earth which subsequently represents the physical by way of careers, money, material possessions and the home. This suits asks us to establish, maintain and reinforce our values and priorities through the physical. One of the strongest influences to our mental health is our homes and our careers. The pentacles encourage us to meditate on these things and ask ourselves questions like, “do I feel comfortable and safe in my home?” and “do I feel fulfilled by my career?” and then provides the strength, conviction and stability to change our circumstances, should your answers to these questions be of a negative or discouraging nature.
These practices of conscious connection to the elements can lead us to a place of mental balance. But balance looks different for everyone.
One of the most useful tools for aiding us in finding our individual balance is actually your birth chart. For example, I am a quadruple Taurus so my whole chart is dominated by the element of Earth. This means that I have an innate connection to this element as well as its qualities, characteristics and practices. For me to maintain a healthy balance, it is imperative for me to engage with practices that help me connect to the other elements of fire, water and Earth. This approach is worth considering as healing and balance are subjective to the individual. Depending on your natural and celestial disposition, the knowledge of our own cosmic make up can actually help us diagnose ourselves (not medically but energetically — spirituality is helpful but is not a replacement for professional care, should it be needed) and subsequently aid in the strategy we need to reestablish balance based on our elemental make up. So if you haven’t already, I highly encourage everyone to look up their birth chart on free websites like astro.com and use it as a tool for self-healing, self-discovery and of course, self-love. And if you do that and find it beneficial, I then encourage you to have a full birth chart reading by a professional astrologer who can offer further insight.
The implementation of these techniques has been absolutely pivotal in my approach to maintaining my mental health, especially throughout the last year. It is an honor and a privilege to share these deeply personal practices that have helped me motivate and inspire myself (fire), process and release emotions (water), stimulate and challenge me to expose myself to ideas and perspectives outside of my mental comfort zone (air) and grow and steady myself (Earth). And just to reiterate, these practices can be profoundly helpful in a myriad of ways, but they are not alternatives to professional diagnoses and medication if needed. Spirituality in combination with Western medicine is the ideal and most effective balance and there is no shame in being honest about what you really need.
May we all continue to have open and honest discourse about mental health. May we all be supportive of each other in our individual mental health journeys. And may we accept and encourage each other to do what is right for us. So It Is.
The Wolfpack IRL
About the Author
Gabriela is fashion stylist based in Los Angeles, specializing in the use of one’s wardrobe as the ultimate magical tool. Being a Venusian-ruled triple Taurus, Gabriela’s divine purpose is to empower others through the self-loving ritual of adornment. For her, beauty is not an obligation or a convention, but a way of being.