The Emotional Calendar

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

Making this Season Right for You

It's what you make it after all

 

From: The Emotional Calendar

 

I'm tired of believing that "it is what it is." I don't actually exactly even know what this means. 

 

Let's consider the realm of our experience and let's consider the season. In this season - what I'd term the waning fall or early winter - we are, as is the case in all seasons, being affected by multiple determining forces. As I explain in detail in The Emotional Calendar, we simply must start by understanding what is influencing our moods in order to right away empower ourselves to find ways to make changes in our planning -- external maneuvers or problem-based coping - as well as in our attitude and expectations -- internal maneuvers or emotion-based coping. 

 

So it pays to ask first: how has this season typically been in the past? And then: how is it going so far? Try to figure out whether physical factors like light or temperature are having a big effect. Next, consider man-made cultural expectations of the season. Are these significant and in what way? Try to be as sensitive and specific as possible. Finally, how about some significant event in the past that happened to occur in this season? To what extent are there sensory triggers sounds, smells, tastes that are reminding you of how you felt at this time of year sometime ago?  These three dimensions - the physical, man-made cultural, and past personal experiential - will allow you to locate "where you are" with your own emotional calendar.

 

When all is taken into account, it's pretty clear that our personal calendar is likely to be both similar to, and quite possibly almost completely different from, the emotional calendar of others. While it is completely understandable how someone might feel given the relevant forces that contribute to their waning fall/ early winter, this may be distinct from how you or another person is lined up to feel.

 

Anyway, with a broader awareness comes the power to effect changes that can make a very big difference going forward. You can change how you are affected by changing what you are exposed to. Don't like late December and early January? You can make this season much more amicable by introducing new routines and elements that will make you have a different experience. Then, as long as you remember to change your expectations going forward, you will be able to look ahead to a better looking --  improved -- emotional calendar in order to feel happier, more fulfilled and in control of your life.

 

Yes, this is easier said than done. But making a series of small changes in the right direction will combine to make a big difference. I have found this to be true through years of clinical practice helping patients. I promise this will all help. That's why I don't buy the "it is what it is" thing. I say, "It is what you make it."

 

So, happy Decembering, and happy Winter Solstice this week. As a patient of mine who "hates" winter because of her extreme sensitivity to the relative lack of sunlight once told me: "You know, nonetheless December 22nd is my favorite day of the year." "Why?" I asked her. "Because its one minute longer that that day before, and finally I can look forward to the longer days again!"

 

Figure out what's working on you, and what actually will work for you. Maybe find a "winter mentor" - someone who seems to be able to bear up to and enjoy the season in a way that you'd like to be able to as well. Be a winter mentor to someone else. Try to embrace what's good or what could be good about the season. It is what you make it, after all.

 

 

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

more...

Subscribe to The Emotional Calendar

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.