Seasonal Change and Mood

Fall is just around the corner in the Northern Hemisphere, and the impending seasonal change means impending mood changes, too.

For every person who goes into September with a New Year’s feeling: new school year, new challenges, new friends; there is another who starts the autumn with anxiety, melancholy, or even dread of the dark days to come.

Our agrarian ancestors lived by the seasons and the weather, and they had extensive rituals for marking changes throughout the year.  For us, it’s a matter of getting pumpkin spice flavor in the coffee now, and peppermint flavor in a few more months.

But perhaps giving more attention to the emotions that ebb and flow with the seasons will be helpful in managing mood and energy levels as we embark on another seasonal change.

First: acknowledge your feelings.  Whether negative or positive, emotions only gain more power by being suppressed.  Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling and treat yourself with the same compassion you’d give a friend who’s feeling down.  Just because there’s someone, somewhere who is having a worse time than you are is not a reason to tell yourself you don’t deserve to feel bad.  If going into autumn brings up unwelcome or difficult feelings, so be it.  Let them come and name them for what they are: troublesome but transient.

Second: be aware of their messages.  Feelings are not rational, or good guides to the value or importance of what you are experiencing, but feelings are also data.  Anxiety, sadness, doubt, even nostalgia, can give us information about needs that are not being met, or situations that need better management.  Suppressing the feeling also hides from us the needs that it is pushing us to deal with.  Whenever I start to dream about having to pack up my whole house for a big move, I know that I’m worrying about some unmet need I should be looking into.  Instead of brushing off my anxiety, if I look for the real-life stressor, I can deal with it and let my inner life calm down again.

Third: Stay in the present moment.  Even though they may carry messages sometimes, feelings can overwhelm with their storms, their frivolity, or their deep waters.  Whenever they get to be too much, remember to stop and cultivate awareness of the place you’re in, the food you’re eating, the music that’s playing, or the sun in the sky.  Being anchored in reality puts the emotional storm back in its place: part of my reality, but not the most important force shaping me.

Fall comes every year, and the seasons change every three months or so.  Seasonal change can bring some drama and awareness of reality into our lives.  It introduces a rhythm of leaving behind and moving forward into the year and keeps us on our toes as the months flow by.  Each season has its own gains and losses, and meeting them as they come is an important part of cultivating a deeper awareness of life and its progress.