This time last year, I wrote a piece (this piece) for my school’s Mental Health Blog. It was some thoughts about autumn. About change. Transitions. It is September again, which, as Gretchen Rubin says, is “the other January” and I want to share it with you now, here.
Thank you for reading.
Autumn is a season of transition. Change. Slowly, the trees are shedding emerald garb in favour of majestic reds, browns and orange. Temperatures are declining, and the first sting of frost becomes apparent as the sun drops away behind the mountains each night. Here, at UVic, we too are in a period of transition. Moving from our summer jobs or travelling into the busy and often overwhelming rhythm of classes, library study sessions, and late night plans with friends. Perhaps we are returning to school after a summer away; perhaps this is our first time away from home, our opportunity to assert our independence, to choose what we’ll have for dinner, choose “who we want to be.” Possibly this month marks our first time living off campus: cooking our own meals, managing the commute, navigating roommates and chore schedules. For many of us, we are arriving in a brand new city: unfamiliar surroundings, school, people.
Change is challenge. Even for those who embrace it, who exclaim “I love change!” it takes a certain elasticity of mind and emotion to flow gracefully from one way of being into another. Unconsciously, we all have ways of coping with change, keeping our heads above the water, as the tide tugs us in a new direction. This might involve trying to take as much of our past with us as possible: struggling to maintain the same habits we’re used to. Morning runs. Friday night parties. Honey Nut Cheeri-Os. Finding friends that remind of us people we know. Sometimes, we see ourselves developing new habits: a new gym routine, Netflix binges, late night munchies, a vigorous commitment to our studies.
This isn’t easy. Even if we are not consciously aware of the discomfort, as we are thrown from one reality into another, there is a long period of adaptation. We might notice a shift in the quality of our sleep, find ourselves sporting a shorter fuse, or a lower threshold for stress. Importantly, we aren’t alone. We are human. This is life. Some of the ways I am managing my own transition this month (moving to a new city, starting a graduate program after a year away from school, living without roommates for the first time) is by establishing nurturing routines. Yoga in the mornings. Finding something each day to be grateful for and writing it down. Making plans with acquaintances, testing them out, but practicing being my honest self even if it means we don’t perfectly “click” (because I know that someone will). Cooking food that nourishes me. Scheduling phone dates with family. Exploring the city and in particular, the nature surrounding it. Mount Doug near campus is a beautiful park to explore, or we can venture further, for some puppy therapy at Beacon Hill Park, or to Fisherman’s Wharf to enjoy seals and colourful houseboats.
On my fridge I have posted a weekly calendar, dry-erase. This is my “self-care calendar” and each day I schedule something just for me: a yoga class, a hot bath, a massage, painting my nails, reading a novel. Often, when things get hectic, self-care practices are the first to go, because they seem “less important” than that lab due, that midterm next week, our workout…But this just isn’t true. How far will any car go if we neglect to fuel the tank? By writing out plans for ourselves, it becomes easier to prioritize fitting in 10, 20, even 60 minutes into our day to refuel. On the topic of “refueling,” I’m also committing to getting enough sleep, 7-8 hours every night. This is a major game changer…and coming from a girl who, in the last year of my undergrad, put sleep at the very bottom of my list, after school, gym, friends, bars and Netflix (Suits anyone? Sherlock)?! Right now, I am rising by 6 am each day, which I know means being in bed no later than 11. And time and time again, I am noticing that I am not feeling regretful for leaving the bar a tiny bit early. The more tired I am, the more stressed my body and mind are, leaving less room for patience, for embracing fun and social pursuits and for the things I just love to do.
Acknowledge the changes happening this month in your life. Recognize that it isn’t easy—for any of us. Choose self-love and nourishment. Because you are worth it. Now, grab a glass of fresh water, local “kombucha-on-tap,” ginger tea, or a pint of craft brew …and make a toast: to you. To your best health. To a precious and exciting, life-long relationship with your mind, body and the possibilities of change.