Addressing the September blues
September is often a time of transition for many of us. Your children may be starting school or moving from one stage of their education to another; it's a common time to start a new job, with many companies being ready to take on new employees after the summer break. Change can feel very unsettling to us, often leading to anxiety and/or depression, stress, and panic. More often than not, we think of change as a bad thing, as we can often perceive it as a threat, kickstarting our fight or flight response.
September can be one of the busiest times in terms of receiving therapy enquiries. Here are six suggestions as to why that may be;
1. It can bring up that 'back to school' feeling whether or not you have children of your own. Depending on your experience, this may bring up positive or negative memories of being at school yourself. You may notice that you feel more anxious than normal, but not know why. Your children may also be nervous about starting/returning to school, causing you to feel anxious. There may also be financial worries about the cost of new uniforms, etc.
2. The holidays are over, and it's time for normal service to resume. The more relaxed attire and attitudes of summer are behind us, and you may struggle to adjust to the return to your normal routine; or, it may be the start of a new routine entirely.
3. Life generally feels more serious. This may also put pressure on relationships, as the holidays can allow us to put any underlying issues to one side. When things return to normal, unresolved conflicts may resurface. Alternately, if you have been spending more time with your partner than normal, this may lead to tensions arising.
4. We can feel stressed about getting things done and may feel pressured to start a new project or challenge ourselves in a new area. This may be a throwback to signing up to clubs/groups at school or starting university.
5. The seasons are also changing, with a definite chill in the air and the trees are starting their transition into Autumn. If you notice that your mood feels lower as the nights draw in, especially if you have noticed this happen every year, it is a good idea to visit your GP and get any physical causes ruled out first, such as low Vitamin D levels and perhaps discuss seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
6. Statistically, more people are born in September than any other month! Birthdays can bring up mixed emotions, especially if it is a milestone birthday (21, 30, 40, etc). It can be a time where we reflect on what we have (or haven’t) achieved so far, and start to think about what we want from life.
What can you do to address the September blues?
- Take control of small things. It may seem like everything is happening all at once, and you may feel 'spun out'. Try to focus on what you can control, so prepare things such as packed lunches, clothes, etc. the night before and do a practise run of new journeys. Remember that it may take a while for you to get used to your new routine, so try to be kind to yourself and not feel the urge to be perfect.
- Seek support. Visit your GP if you are experiencing low mood, especially if it is an ongoing issue. Consider meeting with a therapist who will be able to help you with the changes that are happening for you. Also, meet up with friends so that you don’t become isolated.
- Avoid catastrophising. It is easy to make sweeping statements such as 'everything is changing', when actually it may only be one or two things. Focus on the things that are still the same to regain perspective and to help you to feel calmer.
- Focus on positive changes. Change is not always a bad thing! Take time to think about all of the changes that have been positive in your life - starting a new job, getting into a new relationship, or leaving a toxic situation. Remember how it made you feel when you made that change and how it improved your life.
- Plan things to look forward to. With your summer holiday a distant memory, it can feel hard to not have anything to look forward to. Consider planning a day trip or a weekend away in the next few months so that you have something else to focus on.
- Be in the moment. Autumn is a beautiful season, and as the leaves change colour it is a perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy nature. Practise being mindful in the moment, paying close attention to what you can see, hear, smell, and feel.
- Practise self-care. It is important to make time to rest and to look after yourself. Continue enjoying familiar hobbies and connecting with people that are special to you. Consider cooking your favourite meal, or watching a favourite film/box-set as a form of self-soothing.