Seasonal transitions have always proven to be tough for me.
I freakin love the sun; I thrive when it’s warmer. When the temps drop, and it’s no longer weather appropriate to be bare-legged in a lounge chair with my computer, notebook, or latest non-fiction obsession, I enter into a period of mourning.
While I don’t anticipate quite the difficulty as I’ve had over the past few years, I’m still a bit weary. I’m not sure what will come about when the skies get grayer, and Vancouver Island starts to live up to its reputation as a rainforest.
I’ve recently upped my belief in the fact that everything is going to be OK, and that I will be OK, no matter what happens in my life. So that’s comforting when I start to feel uncomfortable with all the changes weather wise.
But that doesn’t mean the transition to fall isn’t capable of rocking me to the emotional core.
Something inside has a tendency to fight what is this time of year. It’s prone to clenching and refusing the universal need for the leaves to fall, the temperatures to cool, and the diminishing amounts of sun to be available to baste my body.
Something within doesn’t want to accept the changes.
I experience a lot of uncomfortable physical symptoms in the fall, too. Digestive issues (Will spare the details and you’re welcome for that); dry AF skin; heavy depression; intense anxiety: all of ’em come on strong and are hesitant to let up.
Remembering that everything is temporary when experiencing all the discomfort is, well, comforting. Sitting with how I feel isn’t: Letting things get emotionally messy is messy, and I don’t like messes.
But the alternative, of looking to the not so recent past and feeling bummed out over how fast the summer went, wishing and hoping for more time in the sun, always proves to be a tempting, albeit terrible, idea.
Until I’m ready to see what was with lightness and look at summer with gratitude instead of fear that it’s gone, I need to leave it where it lay. I need to get to acceptance of what is first; Acceptance of right now.
And I always get there, but not until I go through what feels like a spiritually led mourning period.
I believe this: That there is more to the struggle I feel during the seasonal change into Fall than just the passing of summer; That the feelings are too heavy and deep to be from missing my favorite river or lakeside spot alone.
Regardless of the origin of my feelings, my goal this year is to get outside the realm of discomfort over what is with greater speed. I don’t want to set up shop with depression and anxiety.
My plan to make sure that doesn’t happen? Do things differently than I’ve always done them during the seasonal transition.
If you’ve read much of what I write about on the blog, or in the twice-a-month-ish emails I send out, you’ll know that doing things differently is what I’m all about these days.
Because doing things differently is the key to emotional growth.
Which is why recently I’ve been scanning through the last couple years, to the times when seasonal depression and anxiety started taking up square footage in my body like a great dane in a studio apartment. Not with a critical, self-shaming eye but a clinical one. And I’ve asked myself:
What did you do when you struggled with difficult seasonal transitions in years past?
Here’s what I came up with:
I stopped posting and connecting with people on social media. I couldn’t think of anything positive to write about or share, ’cause I felt so down, so I just stopped posting altogether. I was gone long enough that friends started messaging me, asking if I was OK. So I isolated myself from my community and it definitely didn’t help me out.
I ate shitty food. Gluten much? How about Gluten too much. Plus dairy, pork, canola oil, corn, refined sugar, and salt: You name it, I ate it when I was feeling depressed. I’m a huge follower of the medical medium and have seen incredible results from following his suggested eating plans via his books, which you can read about in this post. So I know from repeated food-related emotional and physical upheaval throughout the year that September is not a good month to be trifling (Damn, I love a good trifle) with all the stuff on my “Don’t Eat This Stuff” list.
I was less active. Recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and the depression and trauma that fueled them taught me that when I’m experiencing heavy doses of depression I need to move my body. Which is tough because when I feel depressed I don’t want to be active. Case in point the last few years, when I dialed back my work out routine substantially in the fall, ’cause I had zero motivation. Needless to say, not doing anything made me feel worse.
I ran from my feelings by buying stuff. The last few years I’ve done a fair bit of running. Not around the block – I’m talking running from how I felt via emotional purchases. Tons of cash spent at the vitamin store for supplements in order to fix how I felt; make-up counter visits in hopes a new product would make me feel (and look) better; a surplus of books, some of which haven’t even been cracked yet: none of it helped. It just kept me busy while siphoning my savings account. Yuck.
I didn’t take time to be grateful. I was so consumed with fear over how uncomfortable I felt that I couldn’t see how it could ever get better. I stopped practicing being grateful and it made things way worse.
After all that investigating, it’s become clear that I need a plan this year. Even though I feel like a different person – stronger, more empowered and grateful than in years past – I still need to be ready, in case the same symptoms come about again.
So I made a plan for the transition to Fall and it goes like this:
Remain open to my community. I’m going to remain open to how I feel in the form of sharing what the transition teaches me on social media and on the blog. I’ll be mindful of the delivery, ie, keep my heart open, and ensure I share empowering yet honest content. And I’m going to make plans with friends, for the near and faraway future, instead of hanging solo all the time. Adding fun stuff to the calendar always feels good, no matter how far away it is (TGFJ = Thank God For Jen, who likes to plan ahead like I do.)
Write it out. I’m going to use how I feel as content inspiration for my blog, my book, and my workbook. This is a good chance to get introspective about what I’m feeling.
Not let depression make choices for me. Depression isn’t something I need to be listening to for health advice, so I’m not going to listen when it makes the super shitty suggestion that I numb my brain with entertainment shows, lay in bed all day, shop away my feelings, or eat bags of cheddar popcorn. Nuh-uh. Nuhhhh-uhhhhh.
Up my healthy eating game. The proof is in the dairy-free pudding (I’ve never tried making that but it feels like it’s google worthy): Shitty food equals a shitty frame of mind, body, and soul. I’m going to cut out the crap when I feel like crap and keep my house stocked with healthy foods so it’s easier to dismiss depression’s suggestion that I start eating cake at every meal.
Move my body. This is one of those cases where I have to get tough love-ish with myself: Even if I don’t feel like doing anything when I’m feeling down and out, I need to do it anyway. I’m not saying I need to sign up for CrossFit (though if that’s your thing, go get ’em, babe.) I’m saying move my body a bit, ie, walk around the block, or do one beginner yoga class per week – something that gets the blood flowing. Nothing good comes of stagnation, mentally or physically. I know this VERY well. Lighter equals, well, lighter. And I’m not talking about my waistline. Everything feels a little less heavy when you make time to move your bod.
Sit with my feelings. I’m going to notice when I feel like running by eating or shopping and sit with my how I feel instead. I’m going to go all Buddha on that “Hey – you should do this thing that will make you feel worse!” suggestion that I KNOW will be coming my way on the regular. Will it feel great to sit with how I feel? Not likely. But it’s temporary, and the sooner I am courageous enough to do so, the sooner my discomfort will pass. (I wrote more about this idea, of sitting with your discomfort, in this post.
Meditate more often. One of my Instagram friends, @remindmeditation, recently said: “Meditation isn’t hard. Learning organic chemistry is hard. Winning an Ironman is hard. Giving birth is tough AF. Meditation is easy. You can meditate.”
I don’t think meditating for long periods of time is easy but I DO think we sabotage ourselves by saying it’s too hard to attempt. I do it to myself too, particularly when I’m feeling depressed, and that’s an everyday meditator admitting that. A way around the “I don’t wanna even though I know deep down it’ll help me” is by lowering the bar. Making 1-5 minutes of meditation the goal is much less daunting than trying to force 20 minutes when you’re just not that into it. Plus, it makes it more likely that you’ll actually do it. So, Less self-sabotage + more doing what feels doable = self-care, self-love, self-empowerment. The math checks out.
Seasonal transitions can be tough. What makes them even tougher? When you don’t have a plan to deal with the issues that might come with the changing of seasons.
Experience has taught me that waiting until things get hard is not a good plan – having a plan is a good plan. You might need to look at what didn’t work for you in the past, like I did, to sort out what helps provide relief, empowerment, and motivation when times get difficult.
One thing you can do right now? Share something you plan to do this year, to help you mentally transition into fall in the comments below.
You never know who you could be helping by doing so, so please take a moment to share your thoughts.
Now – I’m going to give September a warm welcome (even though it’s not exactly warm) and offer a reminder to you:
Be kind to yourself as the season’s change. It’s OK to not be super excited about summer’s exit. No self-shaming required.