I put my chunky-knit-burnt-orange cardi on today, a cardigan I probably haven’t worn since March. I love it, it’s like a socially-acceptable dressing gown I can leave the house in without any fear of judgement… Cosy, without being my pjs. But it’s reintroduction into my wardrobe can only mean one thing: Autumn is here!
The sun is setting earlier every day, flip flops are being replaced with boots and yes, supermarkets are trying to sneak in Christmas bits already. I’m sorry, but Summer is over!
So, cards on the table, I’m not struggling with ‘end-of-summer slump’ because actually, I love autumn. I love the dark nights, the warm clothes, and the decline in social plans (Sorry friends…) And whilst I’m not particularly a pumpkin-spice latte fan-girl, I am partial to an autumnal walk around the park with a hot beverage, black coffee usually.
In saying that, I get it. I seem to surround myself with summer lovers and sun-worshippers so I empathise with those who are not quite feeling themselves at the moment. I had a conversation with a friend over the weekend and he still feels the ‘back-to-school blues’… He left school nearly ten years ago, but he gets a pang of sadness when summer starts to slip away. Unexplained anxiety and low mood, paired with a nose-dive in motivation to leave the house and yet also has fears of that self-induced isolation. Sounds confusing, right?
Fortunately, there are a couple of simple ways to feel more motivated this season, rather than moping and playing Green Day’s Wake Me Up When September Ends on repeat (come on, we’ve all been playing it.)
Prioritise your mental health.
When you’re physically fine, it’s easy to overlook your mental health. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so whilst there are professionals who can help and a number of blogs like these, it is ultimately your responsibility to understand what works for you. Be honest with yourself, have you ever paused to think about what you, your body and mind really needs?
It might be as simple as fresh air, and taking a walk each day to clear your mind and get a dose of nature. If you’re a social soul, it might be calling a friend or making plans for the weekend, something to look forward to. And then there’s those who need more of a professional check-in, with a service or therapist who can help you find your path, set some goals and stay accountable.
For me it’s all of the above, and more – and that’s okay. Prioritising your mental health might feel like a nonsense, or awkward and embarrassing, but remind yourself that we all go through things. It’s easy to assume that your family and friends are holding it together, but you’ll never really know the full picture because for some reason we don’t really talk about these things (except for when social media offers us an awareness day or special hashtag.)
Make yourself a prioritise this autumn, you are worth it. Your aunty might be doing yoga every morning to balance her intrusive thoughts, and your friend might be running in search of a sense of calmness away from a chaotic homelife. Self-care isn’t silly or shameful, it’s important.
Figure out your goals.
It’s good to have a focus, and sometimes that means starting from scratch. I’m an academic diary kinda girl, so I get a new journal every September. It’s my mid-year re-evaluation, where I think about my goals and any new habits I want to adopt on the run up to Christmas. Before I start rambling about my love for stationary, what I’m trying to say is, you don’t have to wait until January to refresh your goals. September is as good a month as any to figure out what habits are bringing you down, and a new routine which will revitalise you as 2022 comes to a close.
Having something to look forward to always makes thing feel a little brighter, especially if we’re dwelling on summer and any missed occasions and opportunities. This weekend I booked a night at a drive-in cinema for December, just because. And I have some annual leave booked later in the year for a trip to Iceland with my partner. The year isn’t over, just because Summer is!
So, plan something, book a trip, order gig tickets, pencil in a social with friends. Think of an event or outing which brings you joy, something that makes you smile just thinking about and get it in the diary.
A poor night’s sleep can cause mood swings, symptoms of anxiety and those dark circles around your eyes which your gran always seems to notice, at least mine does. Is it just me, or does it feel like we can cope with later nights and more activities in summer? Probably why I take this as my cue to catch up on my Zzzs.
Shake it off.
As I said before, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to our wellbeing. But if there was, it’d be movement. There are endless amounts of research and discussions around the benefits of exercise, from how it impacts our mood, productivity, even our sex lives.
It’s true that movement feels more difficult in autumn. The weather is on the turn, there’s less daylight hours, and *insert your usual go-to excuse here*, but it’s imperative we keep moving. It doesn’t have to be a marathon; it might just be a walk or a dance around your kitchen.
This year I joined my local gym, and whilst all my peers assumed this was for weight management purposes (because why else would you voluntarily exercise?!) it was actually to help manage my anxiety and low mood. For context, I’m fat, unfit and pretty clumsy so naturally I feel out-of-place in the gym. And I’m not going to sit here and right some speech about how incredible gym folks are, because it isn’t always the case. I have had some stigmatising moment, and an instance where a couple of teenage girls have said some not-so-pleasant things thinking they were out of ear-shot. However, it is nowhere near as bad as my intrusive thoughts were telling me.
It was nice to see people of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities come and go from the gym, some even throwing me a brief supportive gaze. My body hasn’t changed all that much and my fitness feels no better, but it gets me out of bed in the morning even on days when my mood is at its lowest. It also gets me out of my bubble in the evening when I finish work but struggle to get away from my screens. It’s there when I need it.
I appreciate the gym isn’t for everyone, but choosing not to go because of what other people might think isn’t a good enough excuse not to try something new. If walking is more your things, check out Georgie’s blog ‘How Nature Helps My Mental Health‘.
[If you are worried about your relationship with exercise or are in recovery looking to re-introduce exercise as a part of your routine, speak to professional or someone from our team]
Use your annual leave.
Not using your annual leave because you haven’t got a holiday booked is a nonsense… But we all do it. I have just come back from two weeks off, and it was very much needed. I didn’t leave the country or have plans for every day, I just knew I needed some down-time and a break from my laptop.
You might not need two weeks, a day or a long weekend can help you press reset, figure out a new routine and reintroduce new balance for autumn. No holidays left to take? Use your weekends or days off wisely. Dedicate days off to activities that fill your cup.
[Learn more about Burnout on our blog Is This What Burnout Feels Like?]
Spring… Autumn clean
It’s time to embrace autumn, much like you would with Spring. For me it involves a bit of a tidy and declutter. I like to pack away my summer clothes and bring out my knitwear. It’s like a ritual really, the first wear of my burnt orange tatty cardi brings me comfort that we are coming into the next chapter of 2022, progress.
For my in-laws it’s digging out the thicker duvet as the weather changes. For my neighbour, it’s the first ‘maple hazel latte’ after dropping the kids off at school. For my friends, its planning some typical autumnal events (pumpkin picking/carving, spook-fests, bonfires, fireworks etc.)
It’s okay if you don’t have a ‘thing’ right now. Have a think about something that brings you comfort at this time of year… It might be small, it might be silly, or it might even be something that everybody does that you’ve not really tried before.