Like many of you, I am sure, I adore the fall. The changing colors, promise of pumpkin-everything, perfect weather for wearing ‘cardis’, scarves AND flipflops. As an ISFJ I also enjoy the return to more predictable routine and getting everyone and everything organized for a new school year.
At the same time, anxiety and overwhelm can easily creep in during this season of transition as I shoulder responsibility for my family’s physical and emotional well-being. Self care can go out the window. I have one child in elementary (homeschooling), one in high-school, and one returning to college this fall – many different stages of life to wrap my head and heart around. Of course, I also want time and energy to both enjoy and support my husband and to invest in my own health and projects. But whether you are a mama of littles, an empty-nester, or a twenty-something returning to university yourself, I imagine you can relate to the mixture of excitement and anxiety that can accompany this time of the year.
One of the kindest things we can do for ourselves is to make a plan for self care that allows us to transition joyfully and purposefully into fall (always better than kicking and screaming, no?!). I am not advocating living selfishly, but living in such a way that we maintain the physical and emotional energy and strength (not to mention passion) to do all the work we want to do in the world. Burning out is neither honorable nor helpful. As a Holistic Nutrition Educator I believe that quality food, water, and sleep, along with regular joyful movement are foundational. But here are a few additional ways in which I manage stress and overwhelm in my own life during this time of transition:
Self care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.Parker Palmer
I Take Advantage of Sunlight & Fresh Air. Winter is just around the corner for many of us. Our days are shortening and the weather already whispers thinly-veiled threats of mind-numbing cold and snow (I am NOT a lover of arctic weather in case you haven’t picked that up.)
I try and suck up the last bits of warmer weather by regularly walking out of doors (saving my treadmill for winter), enjoying nature walks with my younger daughter- a herb lover, heading out to the lake with my local homeschool group, or reading outside under the falling leaves with a hot cup of coffee or tea in hand. I leave my windows wide open as long as possible, even if it requires that I put on a sweater and (shudder) socks.
My moods are very affected by light and I can shift to melancholy quickly in fall. As twilight comes earlier, I light a beeswax candle, salt lamp, and/or an essential oil lamp to help create a calming ambience as we hang out in the evenings.
I Aim to do Something Nurturing for Myself Each Day. I know this sounds hard. I have single-parent sisters and girlfriends who may even want to hurt me right about now. But I have walked through hard seasons of life and have put this into practice; without it, I don’t know if I would have emerged whole.
This involves consciously setting aside a chunk of time each day (20 minutes? An hour?) to do something out of the ordinary to remind yourself that you matter. Examples from my own life include getting a massage, taking an epsom-salt/essential oil bath, enjoying a glass of wine with my husband (update: I no longer drink wine), or an evening tea date or walk with a girlfriend.
Putting my feet up to read for pleasure, a pause for a cup of tea and meditation when the sunlight is all wavy and perfect late afternoon, or setting aside a chunk of uninterrupted time to do some dreaming/visioning. Even if I only hit my target 3-4 times per week I am far better off for having made the effort.
I Focus on the Beauty of Now. This is a hard one for me; my mind is a constant whirlwind of planning and thinking ahead of all that needs doing. But today is an amazing gift and so I work at slowing myself with deep, calming breaths especially whenever I notice anxiety or agitation building.
I have been known to pack around a bottle of calming/grounding essential oil to sniff (I keep a bottle in my car and in my bag.) I choose to look around and really notice the gifts of NOW. To pause and hug my kids- even if I have to sneak up on the big ones, and when I feel grumbly about something (ex. cleaning up, driving someone, whatever) I acknowledge these feelings and then choose to shift, instead, to gratitude.
For each of the amazing people in my life. For a body that can do housework or hug a child. For the clean air and environment we live in. We don’t have a promise of tomorrow here, on earth, but we have been handed an incredible gift of beauty today.
May your year be full of unexpected beauty and growth (and compassionate self care),