3 powerful holistic mental health strategies to reduce stress & anxiety in autumn.
Living in harmony with the seasons is a totally overlooked and 100% essential practice for holistic mental health and wellness.
Ancient healers from around the world have known this for thousands of years, but it’s not something we’re taught in today’s society.
When you intentionally adjust your diet and lifestyle to complement the season you’re in, it’s like you’re giving yourself super powers.
According to traditions like Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda, nature’s energy is circulating in specific directions at different times of year.
And when you know how to follow the current and go with the flow of it, you feel good, you feel strong, you feel supported.
Everything in life feels a bit lighter, and you have an easier time carrying on when things get heavy.
But when you go against the flow it’s like you’re trying to paddle upstream.
You might manage for a little while, but it’s a struggle.
Eventually you end up feeling stressed, agitated, anxious, and more easily overwhelmed.
It’s like everything is pushing against you, because when you don’t know how to flow with the season’s energy, it literally is.
With nature’s energy shifting into the more heavy Yin phase of the year, autumn can be an especially difficult time if you don’t know how to tune yourself to the season.
You can make it easier by learning some simple shifts to help you stay balanced, and this starts by understanding what autumn is all about.
One of the easiest ways to understand holistic wellness is to think about what happens with deciduous trees throughout the year.
When autumn comes around and yin takes over, energy starts moving in and down.
Deciduous trees drop their leaves and focus on consolidating energy below the surface, drawing more nourishment in from the roots and less from the sun above.
By shifting their energy with the season, they’re able to thrive all year long.
And the same goes for you.
You already do a lot of this intuitively.
Pumpkin spices are actually the exact same warming spices that holistic practitioners prescribe to help nourish your core (which could be seen as the “root” of the human body).
Cozy sweaters and lazy afternoons are exactly what the holistic doctor orders this time of year.
Soups and stews are more grounding, nourishing, and easy to digest than the cold raw ingredients you might’ve favored in the summer.
But there are some aspects of autumn mental health and wellness that aren’t quite as obvious.
And once you understand energy of autumn, you’re empowered to make the changes that will help you feel your best.
The themes that dominate autumn are grief and loss, boundaries, structure, reflection, and value. And to support your mental health this autumn, it’s helpful to create routines around all of these.
Here are 3 holistic strategies to support your mental health this autumn:
1. Eat warming, grounding foods
The food you eat doesn’t just feed your body, it supports your overall sense of well-being.
As temperatures drop, autumn is dominated by wind, which creates a lot of movement and can make you feel unstable and restless as a result.
To counteract the cold and erratic qualities of autumn, it’s a good idea to eat more warming and grounding foods.
We already talked about pumpkin spice, but don’t just use these spices in your lattes!
Adding cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, black pepper, nutmeg, cumin, and coriander to your fall meals helps to boost digestion and warm your core.
Nourishing soups and stews that highlight naturally sweet root veggies like carrots, beets, celeriac, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and turnips are also going to boost your gut health and help you feel calm and grounded as you shift into the colder months.
As the trees let go of their leaves, autumn is also a great time for you to turn inward as well and reflect on your life.
Here are some questions you might want to spend some time with:
• What truly nourishes me, mind, body, and spirit?
• What do I value?
• What aspects of my life (activities, “shoulds”, desires, thoughts, beliefs, belongings, interactions, etc.) am I ready to let go of?
• Where would I like to set clearer boundaries? (If you feel uncomfortable setting boundaries, click here to download a free PDF with scripts on how to set boundaries firmly and compassionately with loved ones.)
Autumn is the season of grief, now is also a good time to let yourself reflect on what has changed.
Even if transitions were welcome, every new phase in life involves the loss of something else.
So spend some time writing about the experiences and people that you’ve loved and lost in your life.
Let yourself feel grief if it comes up.
Witness your emotions and let them move through you.
And be gentle with yourself.
Because it’s not the experiences in life that cause suffering, it’s when we push against them that they hurt.
3. Incorporate More Ritual into Your Everyday Life
Autumn is associated with the Lung Organ-Network in Chinese medicine, and the Lungs are the rhythm keepers of the body.
So now, more than at any other point in the year, routines are essential to your sense of wellbeing.
This happens naturally in Autumn for those of us who have children in school.
But with erratic fall winds starting to blow, now is the time when all of us most benefit from a bit more structure.
So if you don’t already have them, think about creating a morning and evening routine to frame your day.
Wake up and practice pranayama, set intentions, massage your joints with warming sesame oil and stretch your body.
Go outside for 10 minutes in the morning to expose yourself to natural blue-light and breathe some fresh air.
Wind down quietly in the evening by dimming the lights, meditating, or just drinking a cup of tea mindfully.
Spend some time looking at the moon every night.
You might also want to design rituals around meal times, bathing, and grooming that help you stay grounded in the present moment.
And finally, go to bed as consistently as you can, within 4 hours of sunset, and try to wake up with the sun.
All of these will help you tune into the season and feel more balanced, grounded, and supported as you move though autumn.