Every season has two opposing sides for me, feelings-wise.
In the wintertime I waver between self-acceptance and depression. Spring is an insufferable combination of optimism and restlessness. Summer is liberation and crippling FOMO. And fall…well fall is the season of wistful introspection and harsh self-criticism.
Questions I’m plagued with between September and November:
- Am I living up to my potential?
- Is this where I wanted to be by [insert whatever young age I am that I’m convinced is ANCIENT]?
- Should I go back to school?
- If I’m in a relationship, is it the right one?
- If I’m not in a relationship, what am I doing wrong?
- Are the dysfunctional dynamics of my family ever going to change or improve?
- Will mom make me gluten-free stuffing at Thanksgiving this year?
In an effort to help those of you who may be struggling with these and other soul-crushing questions, I thought I would share a few of the strategies I’ve developed to help survive my pumpkin-spiced feelings:
- LEAN IN.
One of my favorite ways to manage fall feelings is to completely indulge them. Get wistful af. Watch reflective seasonal movies like Hannah and her Sisters, Harold and Maude, Home for the Holidays, Stepmom (whatever I love that movie). Call an old flame. Facebook stalk your college self. It might prompt you to remember things like: being a student kind of sucked, your old friends were alcoholics, being young is fun but being old and smart is SO MUCH better, and so on. Sometimes a trip down memory lane is exactly what you need to feel confident and comfortable with where you’re at right now.
I rarely recommend travel as an emotional solution because – like drinking, binge-watching Nashville or obsessing over a new crush – your problems will still be there when you come back to reality. But sometimes hopping a plane, train or automobile is just what you need to gain perspective and self-respect during times when you are being harshly critical of yourself and your life decisions. Traveling alone often helps me remember how free and self-determining I truly am.
- PUT ON YOUR THINKING CAP.
Often fall feelings are prompted by the fact that everyone around you seems to be bettering themselves by going back to school. Whether it’s fresh-faced college kids or that girl at your work who just picked up and went to med school (!), it’s hard not to feel left behind by it all. One thing that can often make me feel better during these periods is to make a concerted effort to reengage my brain. Join a book club, listen to a science podcast, add the new yorker to your morning blog rotation. Something that leaves you feel engaged, energized and less like a strung-out netflix drone.
- TRY A NEW HOBBY.
I probably suggest this too much but trying something new is also a great way to shake off the autumn blahs. Cooking. Crafting. Painting. Climbing. Yoga-ing. Rowing. Running. Activities in general are, in my opinion, the healthiest form of emotional diversion.
- UPDATE YOUR VERBAL RESUME.
This is key, particularly as you move from autumn into the holiday season. When people ask what you are up to these days it can often trigger negative, self-deprecating responses unless you have something tangible like a new job, partner or house to talk about. So I encourage you to write down a list of all the things you do that actually make you happy right now and when people ask you what you’ve been up to, be honest. Some examples I’ve used in the past: “I started painting,” “I’ve been hanging out with my awesome niece and she’s the best,” “I’ve been really good at balancing work and friendships lately,” “I just wrote a really elaborate grant proposal,” etc. I know it’s dorky, but when you take the time to tell your story in an authentic way, you take control over a conversation that might have otherwise left you feeling bad about yourself.