Ah, Fall. Hailing the season of crispy leaves, back-to-school Pinterest outfits, sharp pencils, and pumpkin-spice-latte-lusciousness, September has always signaled the official end of Summer.
Do you ever feel that this is also that time of year when you’re inundated with “helpful” to-do lists that read like a shameful proclamation of how much you don’t have your life together? I’ve taken to titling these unwelcome entities “should-do” lists, largely because of the sticky shame that often comes with them. Oh, you haven’t Marie Kondo’d your entire apartment? You haven’t nailed that ultimate morning routine with 100 sit-ups and a kale smoothie? What do you mean you haven’t totally changed your career, launched a new business AND become fully literate in the stock market? What kind of human are you?
It’s enough to send anyone scuttling for a large glass of Shiraz, so I’m proposing an anti-to-do list – seven soft suggestions to keep you in tune with yourself whilst making the best of the season, as the leaves begin to fall outside.
1. Take the time to do a little self-reflection
With Summer’s go-go-go energy, it’s easy to feel depleted after numerous social engagements, BBQs, weddings, dinner parties and holiday weekends. We live in a culture that prizes that bright ‘always-on’ energy, so it’s easy to feel good about staying out late, getting up early, and burning the candle at both ends.
But in the long run, how much would that approach really serve you over time? Rather than mourn the end of Summer and that fun that it brought you, why not try a little self-reflection? I promise you it’s easier than you think.
Grab a pen and paper, and list all the great (and not so great) things that happened. Did you blow out your budget on that cute bikini you had to have? How did that feel? What was the happiest moment you experienced? Was it dancing into the wee hours, or watching the sunset with a loved one? How could you bring more of that feeling into Fall?
Noting down and being honest about what you really enjoyed this Summer will help you make next year’s sunny months even better, whilst keeping you in touch with how you’re feeling inside, and keeping a healthy perspective about the cooler months to come.
2. Let that reflection inform your planning
Writing and reflecting on your Summer makes for a perfect springboard to help you plan some positive activities for Autumn. Taking the time to remind yourself of what brought you the most joy in Summer will give you an indication of the ingredients needed to sustain that joy into the colder months.
For budget-friendly Autumnal activities, it helps to remember that there’s no such thing as bad weather – just poor clothing choices. Try brewing up some hazelnut coffee or spicy chai in a Thermos at home, then round up your buddies, and spend a day walking through your local park or forest. Bonus points for bringing a dog or small child to make leaf piles with.
And if the weather is genuinely terrible, then organize something fun inside. It might be the obligatory Meg Ryan movie marathon or a cookie exchange over endless cups of tea. Those chilly evenings offer endless opportunities for cosy conversations with your family and friends – so get everyone round for a potluck and board games for a fun night that doesn’t break the bank.
Feeling introverted? No problem. Visit your local library and gather books for a day’s reading. Turn off your phone, light some candles, and enjoy your own dang company for once.
3. Prioritize just one thing that summer put off
How often do we start a New Year with the positive intention to Get Things Done, and then let them slide when Summer rolls around? Now, I’m all for impromptu picnics and linen dresses when the weather warms up, but life marches onwards even through the hot sunny days, and sometimes it helps to remember that.
Have you avoided looking at your bank account after splurging on sales, or setting up a direct debit for your ISA? What about applying for that volunteering role you’ve always wanted, or finally filing your tax return? I did promise you that this wasn’t a ‘should-do’ list, and the point stands – but consider getting your bujo or diary out and make a promise to yourself to do just one thing.
Make it a priority by highlighting the task in your diary, breaking it down into constituent parts, and use some of that enervating Fall energy to get it done. Go slowly, take breaks, and remember to give yourself credit for taking steps towards sustainable success.
4. Pursue one pleasurable project
Autumn, with its shorter days and longer nights, is a great time to pick up a new project. By project, I don’t mean a fully-fledged side hustle or increased career responsibilities (but if that makes you happy, power to you!) – I mean something that you do for pure pleasure. “Vitamin P” is considered essential to people’s health and happiness — and it’s often passed over in favor of feeling virtuous by working harder and going further. How often do you promise yourself that you’ll do something pleasurable only after you’ve completed your task list?
We delay and deny ourselves the contentment and joy that pleasurable activities bring us. It’s been repeatedly shown that pushing yourself to do more when you’re tired and depleted is a surefire way to burn out, leaving you sick and frazzled. Ironically, pursuing pleasure helps your brain to digest information through creative play, lets it rest and relax; boosting happy hormones and your overall sense of well-being.
Make pleasure your project, and consider trying something creative – painting, knitting, writing, gardening (if you have the space) or making a new recipe once a week. Write down a plan for your project and commit to the contentment it’ll bring you.
5. Clear out your closet and donate what you can
Ready to spark joy? It may fly in the face of Ms. Kondo’s advice not to pack away your seasonal wardrobe items, but there’s often something to be said for the satisfaction of changing over your closet. Look at your summer clothes and get really honest about whether you’d like to wear them next year – and look at your cold-weather wardrobe and see if anything needs to be washed, ironed, and reorganized.
Then, take anything you’re donating to a women’s shelter or your favorite charity — while you may not want that burgundy sweater, it could go a long way to keeping someone else warm — whilst giving you the warm and fuzzies of doing a good deed. The same goes for new or barely-used toiletries or makeup. Check the requirements for each charity, and then send your products to Beauty Bus, Project Beauty Share, or Share Your Beauty — three US-based initiatives doing some serious glow-up good.
6. Establish a better bedtime routine
Guys, don’t sleep on sleep. There is a wealth of evidence out there that says that though it isn’t the sexiest thing in the world, sleep can literally add or take away years of your life, to say nothing of its impact on your ability to be your best self, day in, day out. If you’re so inclined, do a little bit of research to find out your optimal sleep cycle (including the time you should be in bed, and the ideal time to wake up) — and establish a bedtime routine that sets you up for snoozing success.
Common guidance includes turning off WiFi when you sleep, ditching screens an hour to an hour and a half before your head hits the pillow, keeping your room nice and cool, and having a hot shower or bath before bed to help regulate body temperature so you fall asleep faster. And if you need some tips to shake up your wake-up, check out TFD’s Instagram for four suggestions to help you maximize your morning.
7. Go gently and give thanks
At the end of the day, the shift in seasons is just that — a shift. It’s not permanent, and it’s not forever. If you’re a die-hard Summer junkie, you might consider the dark months a burden to be borne until you can skip back out into the sunshine. If the colder days really do give you the fear, try to remember that it’s not endless (though I’m certain it can seem that way) — and make it your mission to look for the little blessings in every day.
That might be a compliment from a stranger, the health you’re enjoying, or the fact that you have a roof over your head. It might be making payments towards your student debt (and the fact that you have an income that enables you to do so), or a really great conversation with an old friend.
Try to note down five things each day that you’re grateful for — and enjoy the new perspective it gives you. I know it sounds like I’m encouraging you to prepare you Miss Congeniality speech, but experts have long considered giving thanks a practice that improves your mental wellbeing and resilience.
We’d love to know how your Fall forays are going. What are your favorite things to do when the cooler weather arrives? Let us know in the comments below.
A linguist, writer, and coffee-compulsive, Eloise is navigating Canada living as a nearly thirty Scottish native. Interested in living happier, copy that sounds like a human wrote it, and the perfect Margarita, Eloise founded Olim, a communications business that’s rooted in academic practice and a healthy sense of humor. Based in Toronto, she’s not yet made friends with a moose, but that’s not stopped her trying.
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