In my head, I absolutely love October. The chaos of school starting has settled into a comfortable routine, football is in full swing (#watchallthesports), fall decor is out, pumpkin spice candles are burning, there are no stress-inducing dates that involve buying presents or calculating taxes, it’s sweats and sweater weather- what’s not to love?
But it seems like every year, the struggle bus picks me up around the start of October and refuses to drop me off until Halloweenish. Maybe it’s the shortening of the days, maybe the let down from the fervor of September leaves me hollow, maybe it’s the fact that 17 years ago, October was the month my Neeno (grandmother) was sick and getting ready to go home to Jesus. For whatever reason, the October Blues seem to be a thing for me every year.
I get anxious, lethargic, tired, stressed out, I find it hard to sleep, little things seem larger than life, and I happiness and contentment are nowhere to be found. And it seems to happen every October.
This year, however. I’m saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH- or at least, I’m hoping I can. This year, I tell you, I’m going to try my darndest to head it off at the pass, tackle it head on, and see if I can’t use some intentional self-care skills to keep my head above water as October attempts to roll over me on its way through to November.
What follows is my pep talk and to-do list for myself. The things on this list may seem obvious, but I’m surprised at how quickly they fall by the wayside and how often I need to be reminded. I’m sharing them here for accountability and also because, just maybe, someone else needs to be reminded of them as well.
Dear Me and Also You,
- LOOK IT IN THE FACE. Don’t let it creep up on you. Know it’s coming and recognize it when it shows up. Don’t let yourself get a week into feeling like someone you love died or like the walls are closing in before you realize something is up. If you have a time of year that gets to you, know when it’s coming and get ready to meet it head on like the BOSS that you are.
- TAKE YOUR MEDS. I don’t care what they are: anti-depressants, seizure meds, diabetes meds, pain meds, supplements or naturopathic remedies- if someone has told you take something to make your body work better and you’ve agreed to do this, then you TAKE! YOUR! FREAKING! MEDS! We need our bodies working at their full strength and capacity, this is not the time to mess around. I will toast you with my morning thyroid med and at night with the vitamins I too often neglect.
- SLEEP AND EAT. Fatigue and low blood sugar amplify negative feels like a Yamaha subwoofer to a hip-hop beat. Then, a vicious cycle kicks up in which depression and anxiety keep us up at night and squash our appetite, then everything seems worse because we haven’t slept or eaten. Plan your meals, plan your snacks, guard your bedtimes, and take a Unisom if you need it and if your doctor has prescribed you something for sleep, see item 2 above.
- MOVE YOUR BODY, even if you don’t feel like it. When Mister Bummerman comes to visit, it zaps our energy and motivation and often the last thing we feel like doing is getting up and moving our bodies. But it is ACTUAL SCIENCE that exercise releases endorphins that help us feel better, and there’s also the added feeling of accomplishment one gets from having exercised, ESPECIALLY if we didn’t want to. If you can’t hit the gym, take the stairs or go for a walk or do some jumping jacks or a crazy funny 80’s aerobics video on YouTube. But whatever it looks like you, get up, get up, get busy, do it like you’re Technotronic.
- CLING TO YOUR SPIRITUAL PRACTICES. If I’m not anchored, I’m adrift. I need Jesus at the center even to get through the good days. And yet, when I’m struggling, I do not feel like waking up early and lifting my eyes to the hills where my help comes from. I also do not feel like lifting my heart and voice in praise or even talking to God during the day, I’m usually rather sullen and cranky and would rather sulk in the shadows. Can you relate? Don’t let whatever spiritual practices have served you well fall by the wayside. If you don’t have a battery of spiritual practices to draw from, this is a great time to start. Head over to my friend Julianne’s website and sign up for her newsletter and she will send you three of her favorites. Doing the things that lift us up, even when it’s hard, makes the rest that much easier.
- KNOW WHEN TO HOLLER FOR HELP. Self-care is all well and good, we should all practice it. But there comes a time when our needs go beyond what some good cardio and a good night’s sleep are going to fix. Maybe you feel so overwhelmed by the bad things that tackling any item on this list seems insurmountable. Maybe you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, thinking everyone would be better off without you. Maybe you’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Telling someone- ANYONE- and letting them push you in the right direction is a WARRIOR MOVE. For some of us, we may just need a partner, friend, or family member to step in and alleviate some of our workload to give us space to breathe. For others of us, a professional thoughts-and-feelings-sorter like a counselor or therapist can help start moving toward solutions. Still others may find our bodies need the provision of medication to regain their balance. In any event, if you have a hunch this is bigger than just the seasonal blues, say something to someone and pat yourself on the back for doing it.
So, are you with me or what? Will you hold me accountable? Will you check in with me to see if I’m doing the things I told myself to do with this list? Will you do those things as well? Whether October is your “season,” or another season is your “October,” promise me you will do all of these things, take care of yourself, holler at me if you need an accountability buddy- and real loud if you need help. We rise by lifting others, we are in this together.