By Charity Haigans MA LPC
As we eagerly await the coveted season of fall, many of us are experiencing the phenomenon known as the September Blues. It looks something like this, “I can’t think of any reason to be down, but I feel…blah.” More common than you might imagine, the September Blues can effect even the most positive of personalities.
I can’t say that I have discovered any ground breaking research to explain why so many of us experience depressive symptoms during the month of September. I can, however, share with you what my experience has been as a therapist and what I feel are a few of the contributing factors.
During childhood, we live for summer. We await it impatiently as the months of school drag on. Sure, there is that nice winter break where we get to enjoy a few weeks off and celebrate the holidays, but there is nothing like that final day of school. It’s a habit we acquire early and continue with for at least 13 years. For those who continued on to higher education, we keep the tradition of anticipating the summer months. Thus, summer is often many people’s favorite time of year.
On the flip side, a return to the classroom grows to be not so bad. There are many benefits to going back to class. School supply shopping, the smell of new text books, and the promise of a fresh start. All the anticipation of a new school year stands before us. A new beginning. A new year. This too becomes an emotional habit. Anticipation for the start of something big.
As adults our school days are behind us, yet our habit continues on. We look forward to summer and yet feel anticipation in September. We have a sense that something new is starting, something big is happening. But, nothing big really does happen.
The kids go back to school and parents rejoice at a return to routine, but…it’s pretty anti-climatic. The newness is quick to fade, and parents are left feeling…blah. Same goes for those without children. The anticipation is there, but the fresh start never really starts. It’s New Year’s Eve without the ball drop.
Seasonal changes also begin to take their toll because well, there isn’t much change. Slowly the sun sets earlier, the temperature drops all of five degrees, but that big change is yet to come. True fall hasn’t begun yet. Grocery stores begin to haul in pumpkins, and Halloween decorations go on sale. Still, the leaves firmly remain on their branches, and we continue sweating (at least here in the south) through the end of summer.
The habitual feeling of sadness that summer is over has little combatants without the new, fresh start of our school days or even so much as seasonal change. There in lies the September Blues.
How can these feelings of sadness be remedied? How can we harness the old sense of newness? Here are a few quick tips to make a turn around during the month of September.
- Gain Focus
Choose an area of your life that has been sitting on the “I’ll get around to it” list. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to try yoga, or have a closet that is packed full of who-knows-what, or maybe you’ve had an idea at work that you’ve been considering. Whatever the area, make that item your mission. This allows you that same sense of accomplishment and change.
- Challenge Yourself
Much like gaining a focus, challenging yourself can give you strength and purpose. Set a personal goal, and take steps to achieve it. It may be difficult to find the motivation for such challenges. Bodies at rest stay at rest, bodies in motion stay in motion…the same is true for the mind. Give yourself a kick start, and rise to meet the challenge. Try 24 hours of not complaining, 7 days of home cooked meals, or 30 days of 1 chapter a day reading. Whatever your goal, you will gain an increase in motivation from taking steps to get your body and/or mind in motion, getting you through these difficult days of September.
- Random acts of “Self” kindness
Practice random acts of “self” kindness. It is easy to get down on one’s self when symptoms of depression loom. One of the greatest weapons we have against the blues is self love and compassion. Be good to yourself this month. Get a massage, keep a “what I love about me” journal, buy yourself a nice meal, anything you would do to show kindness to another, do for yourself.
These are just a few ideas on ways to fight off the September Blues. Also the knowledge that these feelings of sadness are most likely part of the the shared human condition, can be helpful. Seek out ways to be joyous this month, even if at first it feels disingenuous. Smiling is contagious and we can each support one another as we all struggle to find the balance.
If your feelings persist past the leaves changing, you may seek more intensive support with a counselor. Noyau therapists are experts in depression. When those blues turn into more, counselors are a wonderful and knowledgeable resource for instituting change.
Remember the glorious season of fall is just around the corner. Give summer the proper send off with joy, self compassion, and renewed motivation this September!