Fall is in the air.
As much as I love the warmth of summer, there’s something about stepping outside for the first time with a hoodie on, a warm cup of coffee in hand and colorful leaves all around. With days getting cooler comes the anticipation of longer nights and the holiday season, but also comes some anxiety about seasonal affective disorder and “the winter blues.”
Fortunately, there are ways to help set yourself up to prevent or better cope with heightened depressive symptoms that can occur during the fall and winter seasons.
Below are some fall ideas for coping skills and mindfulness. Coping skills are things to be implemented to help us prevent heightened levels of stress or to help us cope with current levels of heightened stress. Mindfulness activities are coping skills, too, but meant to specifically help us be present in the here and now, versus stuck in ruminating on the past or anxious about the future.
Here are some ideas for fall coping skills:
- Soups and chili: I have to pace myself before I start incorporating these staples into our weekly meals because I want to have them the first day there’s a chill in the air. I have to remind myself we have a long few months of cooler weather and I don’t want to burn myself out of these tasty meals by having them too early in the season. But, there’s something about filling up on a warm meal that prompts a sense of contentment.
- Bonfires: We have a running joke in my house because my husband loves bonfires, too. But he loves to just sit and play with the fire, whereas I like to try and have conversations while sitting around the fire. Nonetheless, whether you choose to sit or sit and talk, throwing in some s’mores is bound to make this a relaxing and fun time.
- Reading: I love reading any season, but there’s something extra calming about snuggling up with a good book on chilly days.
- Watching Football: College, NFL, high school. It doesn’t matter. I love watching football. Kansas teams are who you’ll find me rooting for. But I enjoy watching almost any game (unless it’s watching Mizzou or the Raiders win).
- Leaf picking: I’ve enjoyed looking at the fall leaves in the past, but I’m really leaning into this one as my son is more alert this fall season and enjoys pointing at all the different colors of leaves. We like picking up leaves that are all sorts of colors, sizes and shapes and comparing all of them.
- Hiking: Pack up those layers and head out for a nice hike. The cooler weather and the colorful leaves can replenish the soul in a way no other season can.
- Pumpkin Patch: I’ve loved the pumpkin patch at every age. I love the joy and excitement, being out in the dirt and vines in the patch, running through the corn mazes, playing with the farm animals and venturing through the pumpkins to find the perfect one.
Here are some mindfulness activities:
- Sensory walk: Head outside with the only intention of engaging with your five senses. Don’t worry about how fast you walk, how far you walk, and maybe even head out without a destination in mind. Look up while you soak in the captivating colors of the fall season. Slow down your pace, close your eyes and listen to the crunching of the leaves beneath your feet. Tune into the different scents around you. Is someone having a bonfire? Do you smell the fallen leaves all around you? Maybe you have on a warm jacket. How does that feel against your skin? How do your shoes and socks feel as you are walking?
- Fall-scented candles: Nothing solidifies having a clean house like lighting a candle. In the fall, you bet I have the fall-scented candles going. Don’t fret if you don’t have a clean house. That is just a quirk of mine. You can light your candle no matter the state of your house. As you light the candle, take time to sit for a few minutes and breathe in the fall aroma. What comes to mind as you breathe the candle’s scent?
- Cozy blankets: Sunshine does wonders for my soul, but a day is truly a fall day to me if it involves some overcast. When the gray skies settle in, I love to sit by a big window, wrap up in a cozy blanket and whip out a good book.
- Leaf watching: Head to a park or your own yard, find a spot underneath some trees and lay down. Watch the leaves as they fall from trees and rustle in the wind. Close your eyes and listen to the sound of the wind winding through the leaves and branches. Take off your shoes and feel the wind flow through your socks and hit your feet. Watch the squirrels running around.
- Bake apple or pumpkin scented food: Find a yummy fall recipe and soak up the scents as they fill your house. ‘
There’s beauty in every season. If you find you are already missing the warmth of summer, nervous about the cold of winter or fall is your favorite season, take some time to be present in the here and now. What are your favorite fall coping skills?
Kylie Larson, MA, LPC