The tourists have left, children are back at school, farmers have almost completed their harvests and, to be found in fields around most villages, plump pumpkins add a warm orange glow to the landscape. Here, in the beautiful English county of Suffolk, people are soaking up the occasional warm days left over from summer, stocking up on their supplies of heating oil, wood and coal and pulling out their jumpers, cardigans, coats, boots, hats, scarves and gloves as they prepare for Autumn to become Winter. In my village, tractors are out first thing in the morning, all day and return home in the late evening, heavily laden with truckfuls of their harvested bounty.
Autumn is the perfect time to review how your year is progressing. Have you achieved, or made good progress towards, your goals? How are you feeling, emotionally? How are you feeling, physically? There are still a few months left of the year and this offers an opportunity to make the last efforts to accomplish the tasks you set for yourself at the start of the year.
This can feel challenging, for as the environment slows down and prepares to ‘sleep’, our bodies also start to become affected by the shorter daylight hours and the gradually increasing chill in the air. For some people, this can trigger a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). For others, this can simply be a time when our sense of motivation begins to wain and we may also let go of healthy practices; such as healthy eating and exercise.
As a psychotherapist, I see a number of people each Autumn who, in experiencing SAD, seek support for feelings that are akin to the onset of depression. In some cases, this can be a worrying and even desperate time as a person who experiences SAD can begin to dread the onset of Winter. Autumn can actually become the trigger for more troubling emotions.
A simple way to begin to start to prepare to counter the difficult emotions that SAD can cause, or that simply feeling more tired and flat at this time of year can cause, is to plan things to look forward to in your diary. For example, October’s Samhain/Hallowe’en festival can be a time to organise a party or gathering of friends.
Some people go to the extent of organising fancy dress parties while others simply enjoy a gathering for pumpkin carving. Here is a photo of some pumpkins we carved during a gathering of friends at our cottage in a recent year:
In November, there is Bonfire/Guy Fawkes Night; offering another opportunity to plan to hold, or attend, an event. This is a good way to join in and connect with your village, or local community, as increasingly this night is celebrated as a communal activity. This can be particularly helpful if you feel isolated and would like to have an opportunity to get to know neighbours and to make new aquaintancs and friends. Here are a few photos taken at my cottage, with friends and family enjoying an excuse for a get together:
I also recommend that anyone affected by SAD, considers purchasing a ‘SAD Lamp’; Light Therapy offering the bright light that we begin to lack during the darker months. It is the lack of bright light that can affect the production of hormones and chemicals in the brain that are essential to our ‘feel good factor’ and our energy levels. Our immune systems can also perform less well, as a result of the reduction in bright light; hence our propensity towards picking up more cold and flu bugs during these darker months.
Think also about bringing colour into your home. Colour Therapy has many benefits to our wellbeing. From colourful furniture to freshly cut flowers, ornaments and pictures. Bringing the colours of summer into your home can be an uplifting addition to the home, as the darker months ensue.
For further information and support, here in the UK and Ireland, you can contact the UK National Sad Organisation at: www.sad.org.uk
If you have been affected by any of the issues described in this Blog post, please leave a comment and share your story.
Meanwhile, do spare a thought for any elderly, disabled or isolated person in your community who may be feeling alone, the symptoms of SAD, and who may value someone checking in on them to see that they are okay. Kindness is free and easy to offer; perhaps making the world of difference to someone.
(C) Dean G. Parsons. 2016.