Submitted by Belinda from Talk ED
As autumn is now fully upon us and the days are shorter, some of us may struggle more at this time of year. There are some important steps that we can take to try to bolster our state of mind, body and spirit. Here, we share some ideas for how to best prepare for the cold and dark winter to be able to keep on track with your recovery.
Getting outside each day and being exposed to natural daylight is essential for melatonin and serotonin production, both of which are important mood and sleep regulators. Remember that it’s ok to feel like you need more food at this time of year. We are wired to take in more energy and nutrition in the colder months. Autumn is the time of harvest – nuts, grains and many fruits are in abundance at this time of year and as humans have historically synchronised their behaviour with the rhythms of nature, we are instinctively motivated to eat these nutrition-packed foods when they are fresh and in season.
If you know that autumn and winter time can affect your mood, make a plan to help manage those low times. Think of some activities or practices that make you feel good. Examples could be putting on a song that you like, spraying yourself with your favourite perfume, having a bath, going for a walk, buying yourself a flower to put in a vase at home, speaking to a friend or any other act of care for yourself. Write them down and challenge yourself to engage with at least one of these things every day. Perhaps agree with a friend or acquaintance to “buddy up” to support one another in these actions or reach out to each other if feeling lonely or isolated. We also know that having things to look forward to can play a big part in bolstering our mental health. Try planning things into your diary, however small, that you can look forward to throughout these darker months.
The harvesting of food in many cultures led them to celebrate a new year at the beginning of autumn. Try reflecting on the year gone by and make goals for the new year ahead. Think about what you have achieved since last year and make plans for what you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Think about the next steps you can take towards your goals. Remember that big journeys begin with small steps.
Halloween, Bonfire night and Christmas may or may not bring up feelings of anxiety or discomfort. This year, why not consider preparing emotionally, mentally or spiritually for these occasions. Try dreaming up ideas of how this year you may be able to respond or manage these difficult situations differently. One way to do this is to write down long-standing beliefs that no longer serve you. These beliefs may be about yourself, about others or about life in general. Try writing down some questions to explore those beliefs further and perhaps open the door to changing them, for example:
Belief: “I can’t stand eating in front of others.”
- Has this always been true for me? If not, when did it start?
- Is this true for every meal all throughout the year or only at the Christmas meal?
- Is it true that I can’t stand eating in front of all people, or only specific individuals?
- Who would I feel more comfortable eating in front of?
- How has this way of thinking been useful to me?
- What belief might be more useful to me?
- What could help me cope when this thought comes to mind?
It’s easy to see the negative aspects to the days drawing in, the summer being over, and the approaching darker and colder seasons. It’s important to acknowledge a natural grief that happens during this time. Loss is in the air… the trees lose their leaves, the sunlight decreases, wildlife hibernate or migrate. However, it’s equally important to acknowledge the benefits and beauty of this time too. If you feel low, try noticing the details of the natural world like the colours and crunch of the leaves, the foliage of plants and the wildlife that you see. To foster a greater connection with ourselves and our true essence, we can draw links between ourselves and the natural world. In this way, we can value this time of year to turn inwardly to strengthen our roots and grow quietly.
If you find with autumn and winter months difficult, we are here to listen to any worries that you may have and to provide practical support and guidance.