I find autumn a strange time. There’s so many things I love about it. The colours. The nip in the air on my walk to work that heralds the turn of the season. The cosiness of wrapping my hands around a hot chocolate while snuggling under a blanket. Allowing myself to hibernate a little as the dark nights draw in.
I find October in particular a challenge too, though. This year we’ve had an ‘Indian Summer’ again in the UK, which has been fantastic given how long it took summer to arrive this year! As you might have felt, autumn seemed to arrive in a fanfare. All of a sudden it seemed so much darker. There is a reason for this; you’re not just imagining it!
The autumn equinox this year was on 22 September. This is when we have the fastest sunsets. I think when we’re enjoying the sunny days that September often provides we don’t notice it as much. But a series of dull, grey days come October and it suddenly becomes very apparent! And of course, the clocks went back at the end of October, which is when a lot of people with SAD or Winter Blues start to struggle.
For the last three years I’ve had some weird kind of symptoms that pop up (now reliably), each October. I get heart palpitations. Sometimes my heart races as if I’ve just sprinted. Other times it thuds hard and dully as if it’s working overtime just to allow me to sit there peacefully. My doctor made the sensible conclusion that it was anxiety last year. I’ve never suffered with anxiety before, but I am close to several people who have and do.
However, I’m not convinced that’s what’s going on. For me it’s been a physical symptom only; it’s usually at odds with what I’m actually doing or feeling. The only anxiety I feel is ‘why am I getting these odd symptoms’! I notice it most when I’m sitting reading, my mind engaged in a pleasant story, or often as soon as I wake up. I am not in any way stressed or putting any physical exertion on my body at the time. Last year, I was job-hunting, so it was understandable I might have been stressed when I went to a job interview. But that’s the strange thing – it didn’t seem to happen or worsen then!
This year I thought I’d got away with it and put it down to a couple of odd years. But no, I hadn’t – it started up again a few weeks ago! This year, although it’s maddeningly distracting, I’m doing my best not to allow it to bother me. I figure it must be some strange SAD symptom that’s sprouted in me; my brain chemicals adapting to the rapid change in light levels.
I’m working on being more compassionate to myself and not getting annoyed with my symptoms – rather, just accepting them for what they are and getting on the best I can regardless. I’m sure I’ve mentioned Paul Gilbert’s work on compassion before, but it’s worth sharing again because I feel it’s been something that’s made a big difference to my day to day life.
I thought I’d share this with you so that if it’s a symptom you experience you can hopefully take some comfort in not being alone with it. I’d be interested in knowing if anyone else experiences this? The SADA committee of which I’m part doesn’t, though they too find October a struggle.
Now that we’re past bonfire night and into the Christmas build-up, remember to take care of yourself and allow yourself plenty of time to rest.
– Neens –