Summer is wrapping up—and maybe it’s just me—but Autumn’s impending arrival every year seems to bring with it a heaviness. Don't get me wrong, there’s so much I enjoy about this season: I have the same pumpkin spice obsession and love of the crisp air the rest of America…but there’s just something about this certain time of year has always been sort of a downer. Its as if the feelings of past sadnesses return each season with the hint of a cool breeze and the sound of crunchy leaves underfoot. There is probably some scientific psychology explanation of how certain events happening in my personal history at the same time of year have conditioned my heart, mind and body to just feel the weather shift and begin to prepare for the worst as some sort of defense mechanism. I’m sure any quick Google search would deliver at least 27 articles spanning the theory. But this fall I want to change that and even possibly recondition myself to see more good, give myself permission to enjoy a season full of joy and hope, love and laughter—even in the midst of what might feel so uncertain, lonely, chaotic, scary and hard…
So I thought about some things I could do to help keep me more balanced this year, and I thought I would share them here just incase any one else might find these thoughts useful.
1. Be honest to yourself and others about how you’re feeling. If you’re like me and you’re having a bad day, it’s so much easier to just say “I’m fine” and not risk being a burden to anyone else. But I’ve learned that people genuinely do care how things are going, and it’s ok to be vulnerable and share your heart with the people you love the most.
Being honest with yourself also means giving yourself permission to feel it all. We've all heard how keeping your feelings locked up inside can be so harmful to our mental health. Something I've always done to help me process my emotions and feelings is to set a time limit (for example, 20 minutes or so) to cry or scream or whatever else is inside that needs to come out. Setting a guideline on the time to sit with these emotions is a great way to encourage myself to move forward and not get stuck in a rut of self-pity.
2. Make plans and go out with friends even when you don't feel like it—ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it. Most times when hard things happen in my own life, I tend to become more of a recluse and isolate. I always think it will be helpful but in the end it only fuels the fire of loneliness and sadness. Getting out and talking to people, being a listening ear for a friend, holding the door for a stranger…these are things that help me combat negativity.
3. Let yourself enjoy life even in hard seasons. If we really celebrate those days that are good (and know that even in hard seasons there will be SO. MANY. GOOD. DAYS.) we can let those good moments strengthen us for when the hard season feels impossibly harder.
4. Self care. Self care. Self care. This is especially vital if you’re the type of person who takes care of everyone else and then there’s not really much left at the end of the day for yourself. It’s ok to put yourself first every now and then, and to let dishes pile up in the sink, or let the laundry go unfolded, or to even say no to something else that might be happening for a night so you can take a beat for yourself with a good book or binge watch a good Netflix show (or do anything else you want to do!)
5. Give yourself permission to keep dreaming. Like, really dream. Make a list of your ideas. And talk about those dreams with people you trust and know will support you. It’s healthy to have dreams and future goals, and you may be surprised at how many people encourage you to start tackling those dreams once you start sharing them!
6. Write. This is something I have discovered about myself: If I’m feeling crummy, just taking even 10 minutes to write it all out and get it off my mind and onto paper can be so helpful in making me feel as though I have an outlet for releasing what troubles me. It’s on the page (or my phone’s Notes app) and out of my head. I can leave it there and somehow the act of writing brings a peace of mind and helps bring everything into perspective.
7. Try not to take yourself so seriously. Do a silly dance, paint a picture, take a walk, find a hobby. Enjoy the little things as they come, and laugh as often as possible.