Dancing with depresison

Learning to transition from summer to autumn isn’t always easy. In this blog I explore why autumn is the perfect time to stop fighting your sadness, and instead, learn to dance with it.

Autumn is here, and along with the beautiful colours and cooler days, we also begin to experience the darkening of skies. This is a time of year symbolic with taking our attention inward and shedding what is no longer serving us, just like the trees shedding their leaves, thus returning nutrients to the earth, which will fuel their growth again come spring.

In order for us to figure out exactly which metaphoric leaves we need to shed we usually need to find some solitude and stillness, and for most of us this is a laughable idea, if not impossible. Demanding jobs, children with a busier social diary than Paris Hilton, and the desire to carve out time to do the fun stuff all lead us attempting to take our summer energy into the autumn season.

Summer days are drifting away

Summer is a time for socialising, for long evenings outdoors with friends and loved ones and a natural inclination to eat lighter, healthier food and to exercise a little more. Jumping out of bed to do yoga or go for that early morning run or walk is harder when outside of bed is cold and dark. Salads get pushed aside for potatoes and cakes, and when you’ve finished work and it’s already dark outside, the idea of getting anywhere apart from in your pyjamas and on the sofa seems insurmountable.

When we stop punishing ourselves for the natural desire to do less, we find we can relax a little more into the season. It’s like shifting gears - rather than zooming along the motorway with the rooftop down and tunes blaring at 80mph, we prefer to stick to the speed limit, take more stop breaks, listen to some mellow music. We don’t have to completely come to a stop, but we can pause and rest a little more.

In pausing, we realise that it’s OK to be slower, it’s OK to be sadder. We can accept that our lower energy and moods are not to be fixed or pushed through, but experiences which we can learn to appreciate and work with. We recognise that when we experience any type of grief, in the form of sadness, weeping, or low mood, we are experiencing a natural and healthy process of letting go. Without this ability to actually experience and become aware of our emotions, we become tense, resisting our so-called ‘negative’ self and only wanting the hedonistic energy of summer.

The irony is that by ignoring parts of ourselves only make those parts shout louder. Depression is a complex subject, but there does not need seem to be a definite way of treating, or even defining the condition. However we can consider the idea that if we let ourselves feel a little vulnerable from time to time, we might actually become stronger.

Strength comes from accepting ourselves fully and wholly, and that includes the part of you that takes the biggest slice of cake and the part of you that can’t always get out of bed on time. By accepting the inevitable decline into darkness in our outer world, we can start to accept the inner sensations of sadness and sorrow. And we can learn to ask for help.

I get by with a little help from my friends…

My mental health has been up and down this year, and my body always responds with the same symptoms: fatigue, muscle aches and exhaustion. I generally am able to ‘self-medicate’ through my tried and test yoga sequences designed for depression and anxiety; including breath work and deep relaxation. As we come into autumn I am pacing myself, taking things day by day, as much as I can.

I observe when my mind takes a seemingly irrational nose dive towards negativity, and when my body becomes too heavy. By heavy I don’t refer to my weight, more the feeling of my body, when my muscles feel dense and sore, and my energy lags.

I am responding to the shift in season with more warming food - porridge, soup, and yep, warmed banana bread. I ensure I get up early, and practice yoga, even if I don’t have to get up early that day. I make an effort to get out in the fresh air more often, and I read fiction which warms my heart.

And I ask for help.

Asking for help doesn’t have to mean calling a mental health helpline or visiting the GP, although for some that may be a good option. Asking for help can be more subtle - meeting a friend for lunch and admitting my vulnerability when she thinks everything is going really well. Asking for help may come in the form of treating yourself to something that makes you feel really truly nourished, like a yoga workshop, a brand new book or spa treatment. It can come in the form of asking whoever you live with to help you keep on top of the chores or the kids if you’ve got a busy week of work ahead of you.

The more we learn to ask for help, the more we become comfortable with our ‘low days’. We may realise we have more resources than we thought, and we may feel more able to accept our sadness without feeling like we’ve failed.

As well as learning to ask for help, we may also consider how to improve our listening skills as well. Watch out for those who automatically say ‘I’m fine’, especially if you know their life might actually be quite tough. Don’t get lured into believing people’s reality are as they appear on Instagram. And remember, remember, you are not never alone in this. If you are feeling sad, you are not the only person in the world feeling sad. We all need each other to be better at showing vulnerability and sadness, and in this way we can become better at experiencing our emotions, and even dancing with them, not pushing them away all the time.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” 
― Benjamin Franklin

How can you prepare yourself as we head into autumn and winter? What self-care tips to you have for yourself? Have you given any thought to how best protect yourself and those around you as we prepare for our downward slant towards the darkest day? I’d love to hear your thoughts.