The Emotional Calendar

How emotional life is profoundly shaped by the seasons–and how to recognize your personal seasonal patterns.

Psychology Today: Autumn Now

The rhythm of fall -- energy and excitement

From: The Emotional Calendar

Now that we're past the autumnal equinox, we find ourselves screaming towards Halloween. We might be enjoying Indian summer, the brief return of warmth that follows the first frost, or we might be dealing with the inexorable deepening of the fall season. The pumpkins and mums are out now and most of us are starting to accept that it's better to delve in to the pleasures, or at least the realities, of the season rather than to try to ignore them. I say, "Come on now: it's not that bad!"


Fall is a great time to practice being in the here-and-now. If you spend too much time pointed backwards, you'll find yourself reminiscing about the season past and wondering why your feet feel cold - until you look down and see you' re still wearing flip-flops. Or if you spend too much time with your glance cast forward, you'll start shivering before you need to. Winter is not here yet! I say, "Be here, now." Don't think of this time as a segue from one well-defined period to another. Think of it as a whole, lovely season that fits nicely between summer and winter.


Fall is a very emotional time of year, filled with loads of memories, many of them associated with back-to-school. Getting ready, getting ready, getting ready! Fall sometimes feels a bit like a Sunday evening, a time that is so focused on tomorrow. But then, as you get into the rhythm of fall, there's a linear energy and excitement that carries us forward and sustains us. All along the way there are sights and smells and sounds that remind us of what we might have experienced in falls past - reminders of event anniversaries and moods. Remember the time when...?

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September, October, and November are not always easy months, but they are emotionally rich for most of us. I love them and hopefully you can too. Here are three secrets to making the most of them in your own unique way:


1. Don't give up on fall! Sometimes we give up before we even try to appreciate the season. Some people who say they "hate" the fall, don't really give it a fair shake. Why? They may be fast-forwarding to what they consider the "worst" part of the season. They don't even try to be "in" the fall, or find its good parts, because they are so focused elsewhere. Be there. Don't worry about December. Forget about the Fourth of July. Now is now.


2. Consider the fall as its own unique world. Take a good look around. Forget judgment and prejudice for a moment. Let yourself be fascinated by the customs of fall. See the season as a whole and coherent experience, colored in with light and tone and temperature and smell and texture and taste. Remark to yourself on how this all actually works and works well. Fall is a time that makes a lot of sense. It is right, you must tell yourself. The world of fall deserves to be explored and experienced for its natural beauty. And you deserve to give yourself an honest chance to know it and enjoy the season.


3. Identify the very best thing possible about fall for you. Find the best, most realistic way of thinking about yourself in the context of this very fall, the best mentality you can conceive of that fits, and then conceptualize something that you can go and do with that - perhaps an activity or special sojourn that would be memorable and authentic. Then go to it. The fall is usually a great time for a little road trip - someplace close though, nothing too difficult. Sometimes it's nice to get away and do something, and sometimes its nice to get away and then do as little as possible.


The other day, I was talking with a taxi driver who had a very nice idea for himself. He was looking forward to a quick get away at the end of October. "I do it every year," he said, "before it really gets - you know - crazy." He likes to go to Las Vegas, exercise in the hotel gym, go out to eat, and watch sports. "I'm not a gambler," he explained. "I'd rather have a great meal for a hundred bucks than lose it on the slots." Whatever you might like, I love and support the idea of a mid-fall break. And it doesn't even have to involve travel. Make a date to do something nice for a few days - or for just a few hours.


One good trick is mid-fall treat.

 

John Sharp, M.D., is a psychiatrist and neuropsychiatrist specializing in the treatment of attention deficit, mood, and anxiety disorders in adolescents and adults.

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