By Jan Bruce
It's easy to wax nostalgic at the close of summer: A brisk chill in the air, a longer shadow, a surfboard relegated to the garage once again. Kids swinging book bags instead of beach bags, and the distant hint of a long, cold season beginning its inevitable approach. This is a rough transition, for children and adults alike (though no small amount of relief for parents whose kids are back in the swing of school again).
It can be jarring, though -- particularly as the return to hectic schedules raises expectations -- and stress levels. Though as I've said before, and will say again, a little stress isn't a bad thing. I believe that reframing this shift is key -- because along with that stress, and on the heels of vacation, you will can also enjoy a burst of energy and adrenaline, both of which help you cope and adapt with the rising demands.
I can hear your objections now: But, beaches! Barbecues! Not having to make sure the kids wear clean matching socks! I know. Letting go of a sweet season is tough. To help you, here's a rock-solid strategy for turning end-of-summer stress into launch-of-fall drive.
Here's how I recommend facing the shift in season and priorities while staying energized, whole, and intact:
1. Mourn it. Sure, allow yourself some time to mourn the end of summer -- lazy days, fire-lit nights, afternoon swims, long walks to nowhere in particular. Listen to some James Taylor or whatever plays your heartstrings, and allow yourself to moon about for a little. But not too long. The end of summer is not a surprise or a tragedy. You knew it was coming, and you know it will be back. Notice what feelings arise: sadness, loathing, even worry and dread. Where do you feel them in your body? A clench in the stomach, an ache in your shoulders? Let yourself tune in to each one.
2. Get behind the sadness. Next, explore the thoughts that are triggering the feelings: Are you sad to leave friends, or dread the people you return to? Do you feel a loss of freedom? Where does the loathing come from? Is it fear of something ahead?
Identify the thoughts that run through your mind. "I shouldn't have to work so hard. Why can't I be more relaxed like I am in the summer?" "Why do I always have to be the one to schlep the kids around after school? I'm tired too!" Or maybe you feel especially anxious, and discover a thought such as, "I'm in for a mess of pressure at work and I can't handle it." "I'm going to be a wreck by Columbus Day."
3. Then, question those thoughts. Yes, it's true that the pace of your life is about to change again, and that saying goodbye to a person or a fun time is a serious downer. But does that mean your life won't be as good? Or that you won't feel as much love? Or that you're bound to be a wreck or exhausted or both?
Call those fears out for what they are, and ask, are those assumptions even true? Do they have to be? For instance, is it true that you can't incorporate relaxation into your fall days? Is it true that you can't handle increased responsibilities? If the answer is an honest yes, then you now have clarity to seek the support you need. If the answer is no, then you have some mental and emotional wiggle room to see the energy and power of the transition to fall.
4. Reframe the end as a beginning. Dig back into the falls of yesteryear, and recall what was fun about it. Maybe it was the thrill of seeing all your friends back at school after vacation. The crisp creak of a new textbook being cracked open, the new hardcovers on display at the library. The smell of burning leaves in the air, heat kicking up through the radiator. Playing soccer or going for a run through the foliage. Remember the anticipation, the excitement -- all that fresh fall energy can still be yours for the taking.
Wherever you live, in whatever climate, fall brings with it a shift in mood, purpose, and drive. Now is the time you do dive into work projects, school projects, getting-ready-for-winter projects. This is part of the cycle of life and seasons that makes your own life so memorable, rich, and rewarding. This is what you're here for, and chances are, after the slower, easier pace of summer, you've got some fuel in your tank to take it all on.
Jan Bruce is CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, the new digital coaching system for stress, which helps both individuals and corporations achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness.
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