It’s that time: Fall is coming!
In the San Francisco Bay Area there isn’t a whole lot that changes to delineate that fall is on its way. I’m still wearing short-sleeves outside and most of the leaves on the sycamore trees around the office are still green.
Many of us around here don’t notice that fall is coming until Starbucks puts Pumpkin Spice Lattes on the menu and everyone decides it must now be fall.
But there are some key changes. Even in the mild climate of San Jose the sun is rising later and setting earlier. Some days are more overcast and it’s cooler outside in the evenings. September is the time of year when school is starting up and many companies are beginning a new fiscal year. Fall is also leads us into Thanksgiving and Christmas – two of the most family-centered days of the year for many communities.
For some people all these items might feel like good news, but for others it can be one of the most loathed times of the year.
We’re all familiar with “winter blues,” and many of us are aware that some people fall into a depression in the winter known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But fall blues? Is that a thing?
It’s a real thing.
I always know fall is coming because the squirrels dig holes throughout my garden to bury acorns to eat once it’s colder. Just like the squirrels prepare for winter while the weather is still nice in fall, many of us are hunkering down getting ready for the winter blues. I think of fall blues as our body’s way of rallying to get ready for the difficulties of winter; we start feeling down in the fall before winter has even arrived.
Are you prone to winter blues? Maybe you have trouble getting up for work in time because the sun isn’t up just yet. Or once you arrive home from work in the evening you’re too tired to stay engaged or active and you spend the evening on the couch instead of going outside – it’s too cold, dark, or wet to be outdoors.
Maybe just the thought of the upcoming holidays stresses you out as you imagine the mortifying family gatherings to come.
Maybe the new school year has you going through a loop trying to keep track of all the new activities and scheduling you have to keep up with now.
Maybe your workplace is launching new projects that seem like way more than you can handle.
My suggestion: before you find yourself in the dead of winter binge-watching Netflix while eating a family size bag of Cheetos every day, make a plan for how you will care for yourself this winter season while we still have some warmth, light, and energy left from the lingering summer season. Think of fall as the time to prepare for the winter blues.
Take an inventory of past winter seasons. Walk through a what a typical day looked like. What did you do well? What could you have done better? Sometimes a loved one or roommate can gently help us fill in some of those details.
Then make plans to insert more of those healthy behaviors and to address some of your less healthy tendencies in this upcoming season. Take steps now while you still have the energy to get yourself set for winter, just like the squirrels burying their acorns all over my yard.
Do you have trouble getting up before the sun rises or staying awake throughout the day? Consider using a small light designed to mimic sunlight. The rays tell our brains that it’s daytime and help us to wake up. Use it for 15 minutes in the morning while you’re getting ready.
Maybe you have trouble staying awake or motivated during the day. Consider finding creative ways to get yourself outside – maybe invest in a nice jacket and umbrella, and identify a buddy willing to go outside with you during your lunch break. Consider arranging your furniture such that your workspace at home or in your office is facing towards a window. Even if it’s overcast the daylight will help signal to your brain that it’s daytime, which will help you stay more alert.
Maybe you isolate yourself from friends in the winter time. Consider reaching out to some of your loved ones now and make a schedule for how you will stay connected through the winter.
I encourage you to think of other creative ways to prepare for winter. Grab a pumpkin spice latte and make a plan now while it’s still fall. Buy the things you’ll need now while you’re still up for it. Put things on your calendar now while it’s early enough. Now’s the time to plan that trip to Hawaii or someplace warmer mid-winter that you always wanted to visit but never planned early enough before.
I hope you all enjoy the lovely signs of fall as the seasons swap out. Soon enough my office will be covered in fallen leaves and the squirrels will be digging up their acorns to eat.
If you need more help, please consider reaching out to a professional to care for your specific needs.