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Every change in season carries with it the potential for personal change.
The fallen leaves of Autumn have always been a powerful symbol in my life signifying a transition and a letting go.
The beautiful thing about a leaf is that there is no forcing it to detach from the tree, it is carried along safely by the wind to the ground where it lands and rests as we gaze upon it with awe, and then merges back into the earth feeding the next cycle of movement and growth.
If only it were as easy for us humans to experience change as it is for nature! It takes a sense of trust in the process to calmly appreciate the shift, the ending, and to navigate it with ease.
For many of us, anxiety can spike during the transition from summer to fall. Autumn Anxiety is real. The sunshine and heat of summer brings with it a sense of expansion and endless possibilities while the pressures of life seem to fade into the background. Then the weather starts to cool and the days become shorter, signaling a time of reflection and going inward—which can be anxiety-provoking!
All of a sudden we’re thinking we didn’t make the most of summer, we forgot about our New Year’s resolutions, we can feel lonely, and anxious about an increase in work or upcoming time with family. The change of season brings a different reality—and one that can sometimes feel confronting.
The good news is there are supportive tools to help us through Autumn Anxiety and land safely into the new season. Here are some of my favorites.
Five ways to calm anxiety during seasonal change
1. Breathe. Breathing techniques are some of the most effective ways to calm our nervous system and shift from the anxiety/stress response in the body to the calm/rest response. In honor of the Equinox, try a few cycles of this mindful breathing practice that helps us to intentionally slow down:
Try steps 1 and 2 for a few rounds, and then try steps 3 and 4 to slow down even more. Feel free to use a count that works for you as long as you are slowing down your exhale.
1. Inhale 1…2…3
2. Exhale 1…2..3…4
3. Inhale 1…2…3
4. Exhale 1…2…3…4…5
2. Get Some Sun. Exposure to sunlight (and vitamin D) has a strong impact on our mood and eases the discomfort of harsh seasonal change. So go ahead and take 15 minutes on your lunch break to sit outside or catch the sunset on your way home today. Let yourself take in the light through your eyes and skin and let it help you settle into the darker evening.
3. Check Your Thoughts. Anxiety often stems from subtle unbalanced thoughts. We might be jumping to conclusions by thinking “There’s no way I’m going to make it through the rest of the year,” or “There’s something wrong with me.” Might we gently challenge these thoughts? We might ask and reflect “Have I ever not made it through a change in season?” Remind yourself of all the changes you have made it through, and that the light of spring will come again—as it does every single year.
4. Gratitude. Gratitude practice is one of the fastest ways to interrupt suffering and positively shift our mood. Make a list of 3-5 things you’re grateful for from the summer or simply in this moment. You can be grateful for things big or small, from the sun in the sky, to your paycheck, to the cereal you ate this morning.
5. Stay in the Present. Autumn anxiety almost always occurs when we are worried and fixated on the future. Whether it’s a real or imagined future event, we’re not present. The present moment is where we have access to our power to choose how we actually want to handle something. Have you ever noticed that almost always in the present moment you are okay? Mindfulness is a practice that helps us be more present in our lives. It’s an evidence-based tool that helps us relieve stress and anxiety, sleep better, and even improves our relationship to ourselves and others.
This is why I created a six-week at-home mindfulness series—to support us all in learning more ways to combat Autumn Anxiety and actually enjoy the rest of the year with tools that actually help us feel more at ease.
With much warmth and kindness.