In the upper Midwest, we enjoy 5 distinct seasons: spring, summer, late summer (aka Indian summer), autumn and winter. These seasons have their own unique characteristics that - when we tune into them - influence our experiences in body, mind and spirit. Some people are going to be affected by this more than others. Personally, I experience seasonal shifts pretty dramatically and need to adjust how I care for myself to find balance in the dynamic shifts of my environment.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda both do a good job of explaining the energetic qualities of these seasons and how they manifest in the body. I'm not an expert in either of these medical systems. Over the 15 years or so that I've worked in holistic health care, I've picked up a thing or two that has influenced how I think about wellness and nutrition. In working with clients, we sometimes can't explain why one day a way of eating works for a person and the next they feeling poorly eating the same exact foods. Ruling out physiological and biochemical imbalances, we're often led to view the imbalance from a more energetic perspective. That's when I draw on these traditions for insight and direction.
For me in my personal life, seasonal eating satisfies my desire to connect with nature. It also aligns with my food values, supporting my commitment to local and sustainable food systems. These topics exceed the attention span of this article, but I promise to circle back in future posts to elaborate.
Autumn in the Spirit
Autumn carries a level of melancholy - not just because after autumn comes winter, a season most Northerns both love and dread. Looking around at the landscape, trees are losing their leaves and plants are dying back for winter survival. This is a time for reflection and inner work. You may be surprised by existential crises that make you question everything in your life. Tears may flow more freely as old hurts resurface from out of nowhere. You may be tasked with letting go of the past - no simple thing.
Spiritual Self-care Suggestions:
Autumn in the Mind
This can also be a really creative time of year, but your creativity may be disorganized and hard to contain. The blustery winds of this season are stirring things up...and not necessarily putting them back down where you expect them to be. Anxiety may be heightened, thoughts may be clouded by emotion. Don't feel surprised if you crave dissociative behaviors like drinking alcohol or doom scrolling. I'm not saying these are activities that are going to help you, but their attraction will be heightened, so have grace with yourself around these cravings.
Mental Self-care Suggestions:
Autumn in the Body
Physically, autumn may present as symptoms in the lungs or colon: respiratory infections, shortness of breath, constipation, gas, bloating...you know, the fun stuff. The dryness may also make you feel more achy and uncomfortable. Supporting your immune system is key (download my Eating for Immunity Guide for some tips on how to do that).
Body Self-care Suggestions:
Finally, autumn is a season of preparation. I think most Northerners experience some level of seasonal depression, which will likely be exacerbated this year due to our limits for socializing during a pandemic. In addition to finishing house projects and getting things in order for a rejuvenating winter, I want you to consider self-care techniques you can employ to nourish your mood through the cold, dark months ahead. Simple things like supplementing with vitamin D, cultivating a gratitude practice and drafting a list of nice things you can do for others (the most effective way to increase happiness) is a good place to start.
I hope these adjustments to how you care for yourself help you navigate Autumn this year with more ease, balance and pleasure.
I love food.
I love thinking about it, talking about it, writing about it. I love growing food, cooking and eating food. I use this space to try to convey that. Follow me on social media for more day-to-day inspiration on these topics.