I haven’t been a student for over a decade; I am not a teacher; my daughter is not even school aged; and yet, every September I feel that something is beginning. With this comes a sense of anticipation and trepidation, not to mention those horrible dreams: the exam you didn’t study for, showing up to school naked… I digress.
Change, good and bad, is stressful. The well-known Holmes and Rahe Life Events Scale lists a number of factors to assess one’s stress level. It’s not just the devastating changes, like illness and death, which affect us; even positive events – promotions and vacations – can add pressure, worry and tension to our lives. The beginning or ending of education is included among the Holmes and Rahe stress factors. I think this is why I am eternally wired to feel stressed at this time of year. Here are a few questions to ponder as you embark on September…
What will you mourn?
As a parent, the fall is a marker, an annual reminder that our kids are growing up. It can be bittersweet to watch them become more independent. We note the changes they are making, celebrating their progress, and yet reflecting on what has been left behind. It is important to recognize and honor these moments as significant in both their lives and ours.
What are you looking forward to?
Maybe it is routine – the end of hectic summer days spent figuring out day camps, vacation time, and how to entertain a house full of kids during eight hours of rain. Or maybe you are looking forward to wearing your fall wardrobe. I always love pulling out a cozy sweater and a beloved pair of boots. Fall also brings new seasonal fruits and vegetables. Enjoy apple picking; make squash soup; or toast pumpkin seeds.
What changes to your daily activities do you need to adjust?
Oh, the end of daylight savings. I love the extra hour of sleep on the first day but you lose those gloriously bright summer evenings. Just make sure to keep your mood from darkening with the evening. Maybe try a change to your exercise routine. Don’t give up just because you can’t do your morning swim in the lake; move to the indoor pool. Hang up your kayak for a pair of hiking boots. There’s lots to do as the temperature dips; finding new challenges can help you get excited for the change.
And lastly… What REBELlious summer freedom can you extend to fall?
A good friend in Canada rejects the cold temperatures and wears her flip-flops until the snow makes her call it quits. Another friend had a pre and post summer ritual of throwing out socks and buying fun new ones. Keep the BBQ going, bundle up for a campfire, and catch an amusement park on a school day. Who says popsicles are only for the summer? Keep the fun of the season brimming all year long!
Kelly Flannigan, MSW, is an individual, marriage and family therapist. Now a mom of an industrious toddler and living with her husband in the Caribbean she has returned to work, of the paid variety, with a private practice. Additionally she continues to flex her self help muscle for women at all stages of self-discovery through writing. Without this outlet her life would resemble “Parenthood” meets “Groundhog Day”.