Autumn is the season we associate with harvest and abundance. It is also a time we connect with nature’s waning energy as it prunes and cultivates.
This year, autumn began in the Northern Hemisphere on September 22. Where my family and I live in the Berkshire Mountains, mornings open with a chill in the air and the crackle of dry leaves scattered on the ground. Afternoons are warm early in the season—they can still feel like summer sometimes. Depending on where you live, you can see some people walking around shorts and t-shirts and others wearing sweaters and heftier coats, until the latter becomes the norm. Autumn nights get colder and deepen into a dark, clear, star-studded sky. The chill in contrast to the heat we felt all summer brings with it the smell of cider, wood smoke and bonfires, and many other seasonal scents. Days begin their descent into darkness much earlier and the nights and mornings get progressively colder.
Amidst all of autumn’s loveliness, we have to remember to cultivate and conserve our own energy.
As nature’s energy cycle dips and your world of relationships, work, sport, family, friends and more … does not lessen its demands an iota, perhaps increases the pressure—and add to that the upcoming holidays and all of their special demands—it’s easy to over-do things and/or miss something important.
One way to avoid the yearly imbalances that are often predictable during this season is to be mindful of how they manifest. The following is a list of five important areas to pay attention to
1. Feelings of low or no inspiration.
When you are low in energy you can feel low in inspiration. If that happens, especially in situations in which you need a more adaptable, inspired mindset, you may experience gridlock and the difficulties that it generates in relationships, the ability to move forward with a good idea or rid yourself of a bad one, as well as feelings of detachment and even depression.
Take action: First thing, get your energy flowing. Try adding exercise or a new exercise program. How about: Tai Chi, Yoga, or Chi Kung. These are all good as are jogging, swimming, hiking (absorbing the brisk seasonal scents and colors), and many more. One friend of mine tells me she simply cranks up her stereo and dances.
Take action: Be social and accept congeniality and hospitality form other.
Take action: Watch your nutrition and especially check your cravings that come around the holidays. Over-eating this time of year is a common problem. Try drinking lemon and water, particularly warm, to help curb your appetite.
Take action: Autumn is perfect for introspection and self-awareness. Try this to get you fueled: As yourself—what if tomorrow you could do whatever you want with your life? What if financial concerns were of no matter? What would you do differently to be the person you want to be? I know this may sound impossible for most of us, but roll with the possibility for just a few minutes. What would you do to grow yourself if money were suddenly of no concern? After all it’s just a thought. The reason I am asking you to do this is that this playful thought can give you direction and inspiration to see and begin pursuing what is meaningful for you. Then start scaffolding your way.
2. Feelings of worry.
It is common during this season when energy is in decline to experience worry. Some individuals express this in the inability to let go of certain facets of their life—including ones that are damaging. Other individuals may become driven to the accomplishment of certain goals to the detriment of others that may be of greater importance. Worry will disturb your sense of flow and positivity and will leave you drained if you don’t keep it in check. Be aware of the tendency toward feel-good compulsions, especially as to the holidays approach. A gentle self-reminder can prevent you from chasing after some risky rewards and better soothe anxieties.
Take Action: Step back. Ask yourself what’s going on? Ask: Are my feelings evolving from internal or external aspects of my life? What are these? Ask: Are they reasonable? Ask: How are they affecting other aspects of my life? Ask: How have similar worries affected me in the past? Do I need to change that? What part? Ask: What life-style changes do I need to make to stave off my ruminations? Start making these changes and reward yourself in an appropriate way for making them. Adding exercise to your daily regiment will help build positive energy and keep it flowing. If you already exercise, add something new: a new routine, a new piece of equipment, etc.
3. Narrow Focus.
Attention can generally be an issue during times of low energy. During autumn it is easy to get focused too tightly on one thing or another you are pushing yourself to accomplish before the year’s end. This can dry up your energy reserves fast and negatively influence your thoughts, feelings, and responsibilities.
Take action: Do pay attention to your goal but not to the point of fatigue. Step back every now and then and widen your lens. Be sure you are not missing other important information regarding your goal as well as other responsibilities and concerns. Also, remember by sticking only to your comfort zones, you may be missing out on something new and potentially very good.
4. Feelings of Sadness.
Sadness and grieving frequently manifest in autumn. These can begin a downward cycle that gets bigger and harder to control. The easiest thing for us to do is deny we are experiencing sadness and grief. But then that abdicates stewardship of your own mind to someone (or something) else.
Take action: Use distraction. Perhaps it is through high torque sport or through socialization or music or film or theater. Sometimes just a walk in the chilly air or a swim in colder water is sufficient to reset your compass long enough to help you step back. Then ask: What is the source of my feeling? Ask: What personal lenses (values, opinions, beliefs etc.) am I putting on the situation? Ask: Which of these are driven by my sadness? Ask: What other filters (culture, associates, etc) are telling me I should feel sad? Why? Ask: Is this true? Is this responsible? Is this particular to my case? Am I being swayed? How is their situation like my own? Unlike? What are the immediate and long-term benefits or liabilities of such thinking? To me? To others? Take action: Make yourself aware of how this sadness affects your daily goals. Take action: Challenge the filters you were using to justify your initial sadness.
5. Burnout. When the year is coming to a close, energies are declining, days are shortening and the holidays are around the corner, it is easy to want to get certain jobs out of the way. Burnout this time of year is not only predictable but can come on like clockwork. Take action: Make yourself aware. But don’t do less with your time. Instead do more – more satisfying things. So you may need to focus on time-management and be sure to make space for plenty more activities that will make your spirit soar.
To optimize your activities, seek tranquility this season and preserve your energy. Spend time centering and exploring more about who you are, what you have and what you need—and especially how this can all fit together. Spend more time outdoors to experience the seasonal patterns of slowing down: from cool and less light, to warm and more light, to cooler and earlier dark. Let these patterns sink into your own mind. Use them to help you energize and organize your own activities and stay in balance.
By Joseph Cardillo, Ph.D.