Back when I was a younger and what I thought was a happier human living in denial of my mental health issues and pushing all those bad feelings deep deep down, autumn was my favorite season. Change wasn’t so bad, plus look at all the pretty colors! But a lot has changed in the past few years.
Fall is a tough time for a lot of my homies with mental health problems. It is filled with change making it hard as hell for those of us who have a difficult time regulating that type of stuff. Here are just a few of those changes you may identify with.
The weather turns colder and wetter and forces us to spend more time inside. For me that means I do more binge watching while curled under a blanket and get less exercise and vitamin D. It is tough to get off that couch once I am there so I also spend less time with friends and make up a lot more excuses because it is just easier to stay at home. This is super problematic for me because exercise and outside time are a huge recharger for me. Also, despite being painfully introverted I do get a lot of positive energy from time with friends in small doses. When I start to retreat to the couch it takes a toll on my mental health and happiness.
A change that I deal with as a mother is the kids going back to school. I sometimes feel I am in the minority because I love when the kiddos are on summer break. They are more relaxed, less stressed, happier, and just more themselves. Come September when classes start up again the stress level in our house increases monumentally. And I totally get why. These young people are dealing with having all of their time suddenly structured. They have less free time to do what makes them happy, they have homework and after school activities and the stress of having to be “perfect” and do enough so they can someday get into a good college and not ruin their future. Add on to this the social pressure of trying to balance being cool while still making smart choices. Top this all off with raging hormonal changes and I have no fucking clue how they make it through each day. The stress level for teenagers is ridiculous. And I have three in my house. So their stress and moodiness and total departure from their “normal”, mostly happy selves, creates a lot of change in our family dynamic.
The days become shorter. The sun rises later and sets earlier. We see a hell of a lot less of that big happy yellow ball in the sky. This is another thing that contributes to the extra couch time. Who wants to go out when it’s dark? In Minnesota where I live soon it will be dark when we head to work in the morning and dark again when we head home. Less sun equals less Vitamin D and less happiness.
Sickness. Ugh. Autumn is rife with illness in my household. The change in weather upsets our immune systems making us more susceptible to all the new school germs that the kiddos are bringing home. I’m just getting over a respiratory cold from Hell that left me in bed for three days wishing I would just fucking die already.
I’m sure I could go on and on but you get the picture. I’m sure you all have your own changes that you deal with as well.
So how do we get through these seasons of change without doing too much mental damage?
One of the things I try to do (which I am failing at pretty miserably this year) is finding the beauty in the change. It is easiest to do this with the changes in nature. Get out for a hike. Notice the colors and the smells. Take a camera with and snap a few pictures. You’ll get some exercise, some vitamin D and a little mental boost.
Watch that diet. I know when I get depressed I go straight to the junk which only feeds into the yucky feelings and does no favors for your immune system. Make healthy soups and stews. Easy things you can throw in the crockpot that warm you up inside and out. Include lots of veggies. But don’t forget to indulge a little in all of the seasonal apple-y and pumpkin-y sweets.
Make time to spend with friends and family. We all get so busy with all the changes in schedule but it is super important to make time for those we love to recharge our batteries and remember why it is we keep going in this world. It can be tough to find the time but just remember it doesn’t have to be tons of time. Make sure you have dinner with your family a few times a week. Even if it at 4:00 or 9:00. Just commit to the time together. Get a quick coffee or beer with a friend. Even if it is just for 15 minutes in between things for a quick catch up session. The important thing is to not isolate yourself. Because isolation never ends well.
Make self care a priority. Whatever that looks like for you. I like to go to more gentle yoga classes starting in the fall. Gentle stretching in a nice warm room is good for my soul. Find little things that make you happy. Get yourself a fall flavored coffee or tea. Bake a yummy apple dessert and invite some friends over to share it. Or go get lost in the woods for an hour (not literally though). Whatever helps feed your soul.
Refill those fucking meds. Do not under any circumstances forget to take those meds. When I first started taking anti-depressants it was during the fall season and it has helped me immensely to regulate during these times of change. If you have questions about meds talk to your doctor or I’d be happy to sit down and share my personal experience.
I think the most important thing of all is to check on your friends. Especially those you know have a tough time with these transitional seasons. Remind them that you are here. That you care. That they can always count on you. That they are valuable. That you love them. That we need them here.
Because fall is a tough time and I want us all to get out of it alive.
Remember that the bad is temporary. Recognize that there are reasons you are feeling down and you are not alone. It gets better. Always. Just hold on.
I hope you find some beauty and if you are having a tough time and need some help please reach out. To me or someone else.
Love to you all. The unconditional kind.