Balance: October 2017

Another month, another belated update. But I’m going to keep this one short and sweet, because frankly October’s been too good to ruin by trying to put into words.

My plan for the month was to finally reconnect with the real world, after nine months preoccupied by my own little bubble of stuff. In reality though, October passed by in a fairytale of DIY, gym classes, and cosy evenings in. Okay, perhaps not your classic fairytale – but it really has felt like a whole new world.

October was a month of family and friends; fresh air and green spaces; spa days and DIY days; making the most of our new local leisure centre; and enjoying the peace and quiet of our new life. Outside of all that, the real world has felt too grim, too overwhelming, and too traumatic to engage with – and so I haven’t, really.

Shutting out everything from Weinstein to Westminster, I’ve quite happily sunk into the warmth and comfort of suburban grown-up life: cooking and yoga classes with my 17-year-old sister, tea and cake with our lovely new neighbours, and a long weekend at Center Parcs Woburn Forest with the family.

I’ve crunched my way happily and aimlessly through the autumn leaves, I’ve loved finally having a workspace all of my own, and I’ve relished watching my cats eagerly explore the freedom beyond our back door.

After months of attempting (and miserably failing) to run before I could walk, my body is finally strong enough to get back into the exercise regime that I’ve so badly needed. There’s been swimming, badminton, yoga, Pilates, Body Balance, aqua yoga, spinning, so much walking, and it’s made the most enormous difference to both my mental and physical health.

I’m more energised, more motivated, and everything just feels easier. Who knew that a life of herbal tea, gentle strolls, and lunchtime Pilates classes would suit me so much better than the gin, takeaways and self-pity that dominated the first half of this year? Sure, reality probably beckons again in November, but October was absolute perfection.


How to stave off the autumn blues

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Autumn colors It hardly seems like five minutes since those first days of summer sunshine but now, as the days slowly begin to get shorter and colder, it’s time for many to think about returning to reality – whether that’s work, school or university. Autumn can be a difficult period of transition between summer and winter, but it needn’t get you down. We asked RSCPP therapists for their advice on how best to mentally prepare yourself for September.

Embrace change

“As August moves towards September, many of us feel reluctant – psychologically unprepared for summer’s departure, with its inevitable passage towards autumn,” says Accredited Counsellor and Psychotherapist Jaimie Cahlil.

“While some delight in autumn, and feel able to welcome September as autumn’s gentle gateway, others do not. Perhaps there are past associations, such as the freedom of school summer holidays ending as September arrives.”

If you experience reluctance, he adds, “you may find it helpful to acknowledge how our seasons create flow and fluctuation, variety and difference in our lives.”

Accredited and Registered Counsellor Mo Cahill adds: “Despite the anticipation of post-summer blues for many people, September can instead be anticipated as a time of new beginnings: new school term, new year at uni or perhaps a new job.”

In many ways, she suggests, autumn can be treated like the start of a new year – a time for fresh starts: “It’s a good time to make new plans for any changes that might be beneficial: exercise, new hobbies, new routines for autumn and winter.”

Equip yourself against the winter blues

Of course, that can be easier said than done, and accepting the coming of autumn may still prove difficult. “The end of summer can be a little sad for all of us; gone are the long evenings and the warmth of the sunny days,” says Chartered Counselling Psychologist Marina Claessens.

“However, it can be a particularly tricky time for those who suffer with recurrent depression as the longer hours of darkness can trigger low mood.”

If that is a problem for you, she says, “it may be worth investing in a medically certified sun or SAD lamp. This can help with limiting the detrimental effect of the dramatic difference in daylight that we in the UK experience between summer and winter.”

Mo adds: “Rather than catastrophising about the lack of light, it’s important to remind yourself that there is a natural rhythm to the seasons and it’s always cyclical, so it’s not permanent!” Talking through coping strategies with a therapist may also be helpful ahead of the darker days, to equip you against low mood and negative thoughts.

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