Harrowed by the Changing of the Seasons

“God said, ‘While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.’”

Genesis 8:22
Traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Photo by Katie Rea

Today is the first day of Fall. Friends have already decorated their mantel pieces with pumpkins, scarecrows and cornucopias. Others already have sweaters and pretty scarves they are ready to wear. My husband loves this time of year; he enjoys the cooler weather and the changing of the leaves…and has a “healthy” addiction to squash soup from Panera. Many visit the mountains east of us and enjoy pumpkin flavored foods or apple cider. There are actually friends who argue about whether pumpkin spice lattes or apple cider is better. (The lattes are an any day of Autumn for me, and I save apple cider for special occasions like bonfires, parties, and Thanksgiving, but to be diplomatic, I am for both.)

Yet, I have a sense of dread when Autumn approaches.

I currently feel the knot in my chest. I struggle with anxiety this time of the year more than any other. My seasonal allergies are worse and my chance for bronchitis is exacerbated. The daylight decreases and the cold increases. I miss the warmth of Summer. Though, this year has seen record-setting heat in

I also know winter is close at hand, and I do not like the coldness of the season. I feel the cold seep into my bones. I put on layers of clothes, and I either still feel too cold or too hot. I cannot seem to find a happy medium. I hate fighting the ice on my cars or frighteningly on the roads. I dislike most winter activities such as skiing, and I’m not coordinated enough for ice-skating. One exception is ice hockey. My dad has convinced me to join him at a Predators game a time or two. Watching winter sports on TV is terrific, so long as I am warm and by a roaring fire in my fireplace.

To be fair, there are aspects which I do love, as I love taking pictures on a snowy day, and the cooler weather can be a relief especially if a summer is particularly brutal. I’m a big fan of the upcoming holidays such as Halloween, All Saints Day (November 1 st ), Thanksgiving and Christmas. But January and February often seem never-ending.

Seasonal depression is a real phenomenon. It is also called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. There are people who experience sadness at the changing of the seasons. They may feel a lack of interest in activities or less energy in pursuing those desires. I know I have a tendency to oversleep in the fall and

I have struggled with some of these feelings and remembered this was a yearly occurrence for me. I opened up to others about the struggles I had, and I found out I wasn’t alone. Others struggled during the changing of the seasons, too. Some people struggled like I did during Autumn and Winter, but others struggled more in the Spring or Summer. Some people struggled more in Winter and Summer due to the extreme temperatures. It was too hot (or too cold) to do anything.

First, know yourself. Be aware of any patterns of sadness you experience and when. If you don’t tune in to when these times occur, you won’t be able to identify what’s going on or why.

“To thine own self be true.”

Shakespeare, Hamlet

Second, don’t simply self-diagnose and go it alone. Seek professional help either from a doctor or mental health professional, especially if the depression gets to be overwhelming.* Talking to someone helps you to not feel alone with the burden. Medicine may help or perhaps allowing some simple life-style changes would be beneficial.

Third, feel free to engage with activities you still can enjoy in the Fall. Exercise is especially helpful for me. My husband and I love to hike, and I found out I can enjoy this in the Fall. We find beautiful vistas to hike where I can take pictures of the changing leaves. I also lose my sense of listlessness in his enthusiasm for Fall walks. I also will find festivals or activities to do with the kids. I try to be proactive.

I have found I love watching holiday movies. I’ll watch Practical Magic or Hocus Pocus in October. Charlie Brown for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I also like Hallmark Christmas movies. Also, movies such as Home Alone, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Holiday and Scrooged are some of my personal Christmas
favorites. (See below for a list by Entertainment Weekly.)

Fourth, I found that social connections help me. I signed up for a Super Club at a local church partly because I knew I would probably start having the blues soon. Being active and engaging with people helps me fight the melancholy.

Also, many people find a pet to be a great source of comfort. Cuddling with my cats can certainly calm me.

Fifth, practicing self-care. I feel as if I say this too much, but it is important to practice self-compassion. There are times when all I want is a hot cup of cider, blankets, a good book and to sit close to the fireplace. I know to plan this for myself occasionally, especially in January. It is perfectly okay to take care of yourself. It is good to have a balance, though. Too much isolation can further feed one’s depression.

Sixth, some people suggested to me to try fragrances. I love the smell of an apple candle or other seasonal smells. I will also use scented oils in a diffuser. A pleasant smell can cheer people up.

Seventh, get enough Vitamin D. Allow more sunlight to enter your home or walk outdoors in the daylight hours. Some friends say they have a lamp they use during the winter months. They will sit under it for about 30 minutes a day to help while the nights get longer. I haven’t tried this, but I plan to talk to my doctor about it. Also, follow the advice of your doctor before adding Vitamin D pills. My bloodwork indicated that I was deficient in my levels of Vitamin D, which certainly didn’t help my seasonal depression. Now, due to my doctor’s diagnosis, I take Vitamin D pills regularly. I have noticed a considerable difference*.

Lastly, practice gratitude. Whenever I feel myself complaining or worrying, I try to catch myself and start listing what I am thankful for in my life. I felt overwhelmed cleaning my house this morning. I realized I was grumbling and started being thankful instead. I was thankful we had a loving home. I was grateful I had food to eat, etc… I have found this keeps me from complaining and allows me to pray for my blessings. My mood changed for the better.

My spiritual director taught me a meditation in which you visualize a long table and invite your feelings to take a seat around the table with you. No matter what feelings come to the table, we treat it with respect and welcome it to the table. I have had a difficult time doing this meditation. I didn’t like inviting anger, anxiety or depression to the table. But I found when I allowed those feelings to come to the table and sit with me, I often found that they were not dragons I had to slay, but real feelings which I needed to acknowledge. Once I befriended the depression or anxiety, it was easier to exercise the self-care I truly needed at the time. (See my previous post: The Benefits of a Nightmare.)

It can be scary to acknowledge any negative feelings. And we don’t have to navigate them alone. But knowing ourselves and getting the help we may need can make all the difference.

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”


“Days decrease, / And autumn grows, autumn in everything.”

 Robert Browning, Andrea Del Sarto

SAMHSA’s National Helpline

Best Christmas movie list by EW

A 10-Minute Meditation to Work with Difficult Emotions

*This is an opinion piece based on personal experiences. Seek a mental health professional or a physician for medical advice.

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