Life's Big Questions: How Can I Get Over My End-of-Summer Funk?
It's officially three days into autumn. Time for all those fall things I love: cozy sweaters, apple pies, and leaf-peeping.
So why can't I stop thinking about the beach?
If you, like me, are having trouble letting go of sweet summertime and hunkering down for fall (and, alas, winter), you may need a hand getting over the hump. I asked two area psychologists, David Sternberg and Marsha Lucas, for advice on managing my fall funk.
That funk "is something a lot of people experience but don't readily identify or acknowledge," says Sternberg, who says he hears about it from both male and female clients and sees a bit more of it among the younger set. "They're still young enough that they're still in that post-college mode and having a hard time adjusting in general to the working mode. The older crowd seems to have settled" into the seasonal pattern a bit better, he says.
To combat the autumn blues, Sternberg and Lucas recommend that you:
- "Compartmentalize" Your Feelings: "Remind yourself that your vacation had a beginning and an end, and now it's time to get back to work," Sternberg suggests. Looking at life that way may help you remember that you'll get another vacation one of these days. "Developing that mindset is important."
- Get Outside: "Make sure you get plenty of daylight to keep your biological clock regulated," Lucas cautions. Exercise is key here, too, she says; both are increasingly important as the days grow shorter.
- Mark the Calendar: Plan a trip, even just a weekend getaway, to break up the months ahead and give you something to look forward to. It doesn't have to involve a lot of money, travel or distance," he adds. "Just get something on the calendar."
- Meditate: No, you don't have to sit in full lotus and say Om. But Lucas points to a new body of research showing that "mindfulness meditation" can rewire your brain and make you more emotionally resilient. Learn more by reading books by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Tara Brach, Lucas suggests.
- Talk it Out: You may feel silly or even guilty for indulging in the blues if, on balance, your life is pretty darned good. But holding your feelings in will only make you feel worse -- and may lead you to self-destructive "acting out" behaviors such as overeating or substance abuse. "If you don't acknowledge it and voice your concern, it could come out in some other way," Sternberg says. And it doesn't have to be a mental-health professional that you talk with, he adds: "It could be a partner or a friend," he says. "Tell them 'This is how I've been feeling, and I don't want to just sit on it,'" he suggests.
The end-of-summer blues may be a sign of a more debilitating condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression thought to be caused by winter's diminished sunshine and the effect that loss of light has on our hormones and other bodily systems. We'll revisit SAD, as it's known, in a future blog.
For now, though, do you have time-tested strategies or bright new ideas for weathering the transition from summer to fall? Do tell!
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