I want the “fall” that is presented to us on social media. On Pinterest fall is a flurry of good looking 20 year olds warming their hands by the rustic, aesthetically pleasing campfire during a pit-stop on their woodland road trip in their upcycled camper van. Instagram presents fall as an endless stretch of cosy night spent in blankets and cosy pyjamas, drinking homemade pumpkin spice lattes in rooms filled with autumnal wreaths and pumpkins (oh and kittens, there are usually kittens). On Facebook I see a million quotes about fall, mainly focusing on “the beauty of losing leaves” etc. while families tag their adorable children in pictures from trips to the pick-your-own-pumpkin patch. Of course this all sounds nice and everything; but the warm, cosy feelings that these images suggest are not just what the colder months means to me.
I am one of those people who feels down during the autumn/winter. The cold does not sit well inside my body. I am prone to chest infections and, like a huge amount of other people in the world; tend to feel suddenly, inexplicably down starting from the first few signs that summer is leaving us.
Of course it’s all what you make of it and perspective is everything and “hey it could be a lot worse” however I can certainly acknowledge that this weather can have a strong impact upon your overall mood and mind-frame and that there are simple things we can put into place to change that.
In the interest of helping myself as much as anyone else, I decided this year to take the time to compile some self-care tips that are practical to help you get to grips with the season change and enjoy yourself to the fullest. You do not need to be unhappy for half the year after all. I actually wrote this in August (that’s how early I was mentally preparing myself for autumn this year) but it felt like now was the best time to finally refine and post it.
Get an Instagram-worthy warm beverage ready; and we will get started
If you celebrate Christmas, I know you don’t want to hear that dreaded “C” word just yet but trust me it will sneak up on you and before you know it: it’s 23rd December and you’re rushing around a packed out town, sweating and panic grabbing a tonne of bath sets as presents just like you promised yourself you weren’t going to. This is not going to help any sort of anxious feelings that you may already be having.
My advice may sound extreme but I recommend you to make your list right now! List everyone you want to buy cards for, list everyone you want to buy presents for, list everything you need on the day, make a note of how many events you are likely to attend and if you want something new to wear to them, draw up a budget, buy them, hell, even gift wrap them and sign them now before November even starts! I promise you the more organised and on top of things you are the less you are going to stress as Christmas draws closer.
(My side note is that I know that some people really do enjoy this time of year so if you want to take your time with it then be my guest. For me personally, I know that Christmas stress can massively contribute to feeling stressed or anxious.)
Usually health kicks are reserved for summer (sometimes for the wrong reasons; #bikinibody I’m looking at you.) however it is so important to look after yourself during the winter months.
People can be more prone to illness around this time so it’s incredibly important that you look after your body. Get enough vitamins and minerals, if you don’t know the first thing about nutrition then maybe this is the time to start to learn. Drink enough water, get enough sleep, do some exercise, get fresh air. These are the things that people have been saying for years and it’s so easy to read this and think “yeah yeah, I’ll get to it.” but like everything: these things only work if you implement them and stick to them often.
Get a Routine
My morning and evening routines become more important during this time. I noticed last year that I really enjoyed waking up early and getting the most out of the day. During a time when motivation (and sunlight) can be in short supply, a steady routine can make a heap of difference. I fell out of my early morning routine and am so determined to get it back this year!
My evening routine changes around this time of year too. Usually I’m a shower in the morning person but during winter I switch it up: run a bubble bath (see I do take inspiration from Pinterest sometimes.), drink an herbal tea and read in bed. It’s such a lovely way to wind down and if the colder, darker months are good for one thing, it’s reading. Another priceless technique I added to my routine was making a list before I went to bed of everything positive that had happened that day. This process made such a difference to my mood. (I just wish I was slightly better at keeping at it.)
Environment is Everything
You’re going to be spending a lot more time in your home most likely, so it’s important that you make your space feel like somewhere you want to be! Make it relaxing and inviting. Have a winter clear out, change things up, move some furniture around; movement is great for shifting energy and will give your place a revive. I know that looks aren’t everything but your brain really does respond to what it can see. Bright colours can have an uplifting effect so even consider a new lick of paint. Don’t feel like you can only use autumn/winter colours: last year I bought a yellow duvet and it genuinely lifted my mood every time I saw it. Things like candles, flowers, art, blankets, rugs, lamps, fairy lights etc. can all be brought pretty cheaply and can make a massive difference to the atmosphere in your space.
“If you can’t beat them, join them” as they say! Make a list of everything you do like about autumn/winter. This time of year is full of great events; pumpkin picking, woodland walks, Halloween parties, haunted tours, foraging, bonfires, firework displays, winter fairs, Christmas Markets, this is the time to get out and explore! A little known fact is that winter is often the best season of the year for theatre’s and art galleries; places tend to get the most audience members at this time of the year and tend to really put thought into programming some great shows and exhibitions during this time, if there was ever a time to go see some art, now would be it! Also as mentioned earlier, reading is another great habit to pick up during this time. You could even make a list of all the books you’d like to get through in the next few months or start asking round for recommendations.
Plant The Seed
With every season, it’s good to look to nature for inspiration or ideas on how best to spend your time. Winter is a time for seeds to grow deep underground. After harvest everything appears to go quiet, but there are many things happening beneath the surface, working away to ensure that they can bloom later in the year. Use this time to plant your own seeds. Make some plans for future projects and reflect on what has been going well this year, and what is still to be done. As a freelancer, winter is usually when I hunker down and really fine tune my plans for future creative projects. Decide what else you would like to do before the year is out and make some resolutions for the New Year.
Spend A Little
Money is not everything and I do hope that I can discourage people from spending mindlessly. I think we all need to be conscious of how much we consume. That said, there are a few things that you can buy that can really make life easier for you this time of year.
Some things worth spending your money on are:
- Dawn simulator
- Air humidifier (can help with coughs/colds/sore throats and also fragrance the air with natural essential oils.)
- Natural candles/essential oils with uplifting scents
- Skincare (cracked dry and bleeding hands are no fun – treat yourself to something that can calm and nourish your skin)
- Yoga/meditation classes & apps. (For me one of the most worthwhile things to spend your money on. I’d go for an actual class over an app but either is a great option.) YouTube is also a great source. I often pop my headphones on and look
- Anything cosy: hot water bottle, hand warmers, hats, scarves, gloves, socks, boots, slippers, pyjamas, coats. Buy what you know you will need or even suggest a clothes swap with some friends if you want to save money.
- Don’t forget to set aside some money for trips away/concerts/cinema etc. I think it’s really important to be social this time of year and it’s always best to have a little saved away in case of any last minute invites.
While it’s so easy to shut away and hibernate and we have all the excuses at our fingertips “I have a cold” “It’s raining” “It’s too cold to go outside” it’s so important to hang out with your friends! Make plans (look back to earlier when you made your list of events you want to go to!) and stick to them. Social interaction is so important this time of year. If it really is too cold then plan lots of cosy nights in: think home cooked pizzas and board games. Don’t forget about your family either. Make a conscious effort to attend things you’re interested in: feeling part of a community with like-minded people can hugely impact your mood.
I have to break something to you; I have worked for three very different charities over the years of who all rely heavily on the support of the public. I can tell you that Christmas was the hardest time for all of them financially. I know the Christmas films would have you believe that everyone is out to help their fellow man this time of year, but this isn’t always the case. (Of course my experience is limited and I’m sure some other charities may receive a surge of income this time of year also.) This doesn’t necessarily mean people are selfish; it’s an expensive time and a lot of people out there are already struggling. But what I am saying is that it’s really important to be kind this time of year. Think of the people who are less fortunate than you in any way and find a way to give back. Helping people gives you a buzz like no other and, you know; helps people in the process. It doesn’t have to be big; make someone laugh; help someone carry their luggage, be patient with the people who work in customer service. Whatever you do, just be kind.
Big or small, we all love a holiday. If you can afford a month in the tropics, then go. If you can afford a weekend to the next city, go. Even if you aren’t travelling to a warmer destination; having a break from your normal routine and exploring a new place can be massively beneficial to your wellbeing.
Although I would say that more and more people these days are considering life in another country. While I haven’t yet decided if this is the life for me, I strongly urge you to look into it if you have the means to. While it might sound slightly extreme, impractical or expensive; for some of you it might be more attainable than you think. I know it sounds extreme but if you are largely affected by your climate then isn’t it worth at least considering it?
Know When to Ask for Help
While these tips can certainly lift a mood, if you are seriously struggling with SAD or anything else, please seek professional help or the support of people you trust. It’s not always a good idea to try and go it alone. If you feel you are struggling during this time then please do not waste a moment in seeking advice.
I’d love to know if any of these tips work for you. If you have any of your own, please let me know!
Lots of love and reluctant festive hugs
*the lovely photograph in this post is by Sinead from Love Style Mindfulness. You can see her blog here: https://www.lovestylemindfulness.co.uk/contact/