Turning Over a New Leaf

October is here and with it comes a change of season. I’m the first to admit that autumn has never been my favourite time of year, with its darker mornings, shorter days and the knowledge that the cold of winter is only a few weeks away.

This is in contrast to the more upbeat, positive mood I tend to experience just a month earlier as the summer draws to an end and we move into September. Some cultures even have a word for this time of year, making of it an annual ritual; the French, for example, refer to it as la rentrée, giving young people and adults alike a few weeks to prepare themselves for the coming academic or work year.

For many of us, September calls to mind the ‘back to school’ days of our childhood; feelings of excitement about new beginnings mixed with trepidation at what’s to come. As children and teenagers, the long summer holidays are over and the demands of school and university with their routines and expectations start again. As we get older, our school days may be nothing more than a memory, yet as adults September often means a post-holiday return to work or study.

To me, September offers a new start and an opportunity to reboot life. It can be an opportunity to put aside bad habits, set intentions for the months ahead and regain a sense of direction or even move in a completely new one. Not for nothing, perhaps, do some people regard it as the ‘new January’.

Personally speaking, then, it’s a time of hope, although this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone; some people experience stress and anxiety at the idea of returning to school or work after the summer and, for some, September means taking a step in a completely new direction or lifestyle. The impact of changes such as these can last well beyond the month of September itself and the effects may be wide-ranging and long-lasting.

Transition, even on a relatively small scale, can be challenging and, as we enter October, the novelty might be starting to wear off and our good intentions beginning to falter. Fatigue may be setting in and, if we’re not careful to pace ourselves, we can start to run low on our post-summer energy reserves.

It’s important at such moments, wherever they occur in the year for us, to press pause on life and find time and space for self-care and reflection. When life is busy, it can be difficult to prioritise our own wellbeing but even five minutes a day of quiet contemplation or mindful breathing can make a significant difference to our mental and emotional state. Getting outside too, even on the gloomiest of days, can help lift our mood as we reconnect with nature or take some gentle exercise, perhaps in the form of a gentle twenty-minute walk. Although I'll still be looking forward to the longer, lighter days of spring, autumn can in fact be the ideal time to establish some new positive habits which could pay dividends in the future.

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