Let’s face it—the end of summer kind of sucks. We’ve all felt the anxiety and existential dread associated with returning to school or leaving behind Summer Fridays and the impending absence of warm weather. Much like the Sunday Scaries, the Fall Scaries are real. But there’s good news: They can be beat.
We turned to the experts to tell us how to get rid of all the excess despair we know you're feeling. Scroll down to see what to do to keep your spirits up as the days get shorter.
Make a summer gratitude listFirst and foremost, why ruin all the fun you had this summer by stressing about it ending? Rather, appreciate it for all that it’s worth.
Katie Krimer, mindfulness practitioner and therapist at Union Square Practice, suggests creating a gratitude journal or list, making note of the best things that happened in the last three months. “Express what happened in the summer that you’re thankful for—was it all the trips to the beach? Was it that you had your friends by your side? Shifting your focus of reliving some fabulous summer memories from sadness to gratitude can really help out your mood when it comes to the ending of that summer sunshine,” she says.
Focus on fall's positivesYou can live for summer, but fall ain’t so bad. Focusing on all of its positives (and there are many!), can make parting with summer easier. Sure, we may not be spending as much time at the beach and might get chilly in a tank top, but we can’t forget that fall is full of magic, too.
Krimer suggests making a list of all the positive things fall brings, like all the activities that only happen this season. Remind yourself that enjoyment is a practice, and you can practice it at any time you want, she says.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, licensed clinical psychologist, urges us to appreciate all the things fall has to offer and to plan accordingly. “Appreciating fall and planning weekend getaways to go apple and pumpkin picking, hiking, and taking advantage of cooler, less humid temperatures can have a very positive effect,” she says. Who doesn’t love pumpkin picking?
Stacy Kaiser, licensed psychotherapist and editor at large of Live Happy, knows the deal. “Focus on the positives, such as that cold weather promotes cuddling and that the holidays are around the corner,” she says.
Also, let’s not forget, fall is a super-productive time of the year. “Yes, office culture becomes more restrictive during the fall and winter compared to summer, and assignments become more frequent, but the upshot is your productivity increases, as well,” says Kelsey Torgerson, anxiety and anger management specialist at Compassionate Counseling St. Louis. “You may even find yourself adding on extra tasks because its easier to schedule these projects in, due to your increased productivity.”
And, hello: fall fashion. Need we say more?
Get organizedKicking off the season in an organized manner is a great way to combat stress and anxiety.
The first step? Get a calendar or planner, and make note of all the important stuff. “Grab your calendar, it can even be a giant sized one for your home, and mark off school and work holidays, important deadlines, and whatever else you need to make note of,” says Kaiser.
Torgerson suggests making note of exciting, non-school or work related things in your calendars and planners. “Mark down exciting things coming up, such as birthdays, holidays, the start of new TV shows, even something as simple as scheduling in a new event every few weeks. The planning and anticipation are great ways to counteract the stress of everything else,” says Torgerson.
Next, figure out what you’ll need for the upcoming season. If it’s back to school, Hafeez suggests first making a list of all that you’ll need (books, supplies, any dorm room furnishings you may need). “Pack smart and be realistic about what to bring and what to buy once you’re moved into school,” she says. For work, it may be as simple as ordering a few desk items to make your workspace neater and more organized (and ultimately, make you feel less stressed).
Make a goal listStart off the season with a fresh attitude, and a fresh set of attainable goals you’d like to accomplish. It will give you focus and keep your spirits up.
Kaiser explains that while many of us plan to set goals at the start of the New Year, making a new list every season is the way to go. “I suggest creating both personal and work goals that you can work toward accomplishing throughout the coming months, so you have those ahead of you. In general, creating seasonal goals is more productive, effective, and a great positive activity.”
In terms of work, this is a great time to set end-of-the-year goals. “Because of the school calendar, we look at September as the start of a new year. It’s really the last work quarter of the year, making it a great time to look at how you want to end the year,” says Hafeez.
Plan things you'll look forward toIt’s not rocket science: If you have something to be excited about and look forward to, the back to school or back to work dread will ease up.
Hafeez recommends taking advantage of what fall has to offer, like those aforementioned weekend getaways pumpkin picking and hiking, to give you something to look forward to (including pumpkin pie). Count us in.
It also could be as simple as trying something new to keep your days and weeks more exciting. “With the shift to fall and winter, you actually may have more time to add something different to your schedule—such as joining a gym, signing up for yoga, or taking an art class. Use this extra time for something beneficial,” says Torgerson.
Spend time outdoorsFor many of us, summertime means spending a ton of time outdoors. Whether it’s at the beach or in a park, sunny summer days have us itching to be anywhere but inside. Come fall? That attitude tends to change.
As soon as the temperatures begin to drop and days begin to shorten, we tend to swap outdoor time for time holed up in our homes watching TV. While there’s nothing wrong with a bit of cozying up to the couch, it’s important to still make time for the outdoors. You’d be surprised what a bit of fresh air could do for you.
“Most people naturally end up outside more during the summer, so make sure that you continue to get some fresh air throughout your day,” says Torgerson. “You can even set a reminder on your phone. I recommend people shoot for at least a 30-minute walk outside a day.”
On second thought, getting outside and gazing at the leaves whilst wearing a light jacket and not sweating like crazy sounds like a dream right now.
It's all about your mindsetWhen it comes down to it, it’s really all about your mindset and attitude. Krimer explains the power of shifting our mindset toward a more positive way of thinking. “It’s so important to practice shifting our attention from negative thinking to more neutral or positive thinking,” she says. “As soon as we alert our brain to a different perspective or way of viewing a situation—even though it may resist slightly at first—this practice can really change our brain patterns over time. It can change our reflexes to thinking more positively and optimistically, and the negative voice in our mind can get quieter and quieter."
Hafeez agrees: “Mindset is everything! Change is inevitable. We can embrace the new season, or dread it. It’s really our choice, and the more we appreciate and approach our lives with curiosity, the better we become at wiring our brains for happiness.”