While it can be sad to leave summer behind, autumn brings with it gifts of its’ own; it’s vibrant tapestry of color, comforting foods, soups, chili and pumpkin pie, and the smell of fireplaces burning on a crisp evening. Autumn, however, can be challenging on a health and energy level for many people. As the days grow shorter, and there is less daylight, many people start to feel “down”, depressed or depleted of energy. The transition into the colder months can be especially hard for people with mood problems, addictions, chronic pain and other persistent medical and mental health conditions. I hear this each year from clients and callers in my counseling practice in Chester County and Philadelphia, PA.
While season change can be tough, one doesn’t have to suffer. There are skills that we can use to reduce the likelihood of negative emotions and mood states – To prevent emotions from controlling our thoughts and actions.
Our ability to self-manage plays a key role in our physical and mental well-being; hence self-management skills are very important to our functioning. While some of these skills may seem like common sense or perhaps you are already doing them, you more than likely will find that you need to tend to a couple of them.
I use the Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Emotion Regulation skill for Reducing Emotional Vulnerability in my work with people with depression, anxiety, and other difficulties.
Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. pioneer of DBT uses the acronym of “PLEASE MASTER” as a way of remembering these skills.
treat PhysicaL illness
avoid mood-Altering drugs
build M A S T E R y
If we are feeling unwell, hungry and undernourished, fatigued, drinking too much alcohol, don’t move around or get much exercise or aren’t doing something in our day that gives us a sense of mastery or accomplishment, we are more likely to be vulnerable to negative emotions including low energy. We are also more apt to experience or see the negative rather than the positive in situations, less able to cope and manage interactions in a skillful manner.
- If you are prescribed medication, take it as directed. Many people don’t. Symptoms tend to resurface under stress including season change. Issues that are persistent require ongoing treatment.
- Stay away from sugar, caffeine, excess carbs and processed foods. Try to eat organic and whole foods. It takes the body a lot of energies to metabolize unnatural foods and to work through the overstimulation and insulin spike ignited by sugars, caffeine and carbs.
- Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant. It also affects sleep.
- Build in an extra half hour of sleep at night – Get to bed earlier.
- Get outside and take a walk each day in the sunshine; even if its’ during lunchtime during the workday. Movement boosts endorphins and vitamin D (from sunlight) is related to mood, outlook and energy.
- Make sure you do something each day that makes you feel competent and in control of your life – Something that feeds your future. Taking care of the business of your life supports self-esteem and confidence.
Everything we do for ourselves counts – A lot. Through taking care of ourselves, we inoculate ourselves from negativity, ill health as well as being non-productive.
“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.” – Mandy Hale