Well, 2020 has been quite the year, but one thing that we haven’t had to complain about this year is the weather. We probably tried – we’re British after all – but it would have been unfounded because the sun has shone and shone and shone and shone.
But the forecast this week says that the golden, late-summer warmth is set to be replaced with a distinctly chillier temperature. And the pandemic forecast is similarly gloomy, with case numbers rising and restrictions tightening.
So, how can we prepare for Autumn and make sure that we look after ourselves as we head into what looks like a second wave?
It’s a Mindset Thing
As the mornings and evenings get darker, and light levels start to drop, many of us can start to feel that drop in serotonin. For some this can be linked to SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – which is a serious mental health condition – Monty Don is a sufferer.
But even if you don’t have SAD, the lack of light definitely affects mood. So it’s best to prepare for this.
With the government encouraging working from home again where possible, it’s easy to get stuck inside all day. Schedule some ‘outside time’ every day, and you’ll notice an immediate improvement in your mental state. Even better, you could time your walk with the sunrise and enjoy the beautiful skies (when it’s not raining…).
Making your home ready for Autumn
If we get our surroundings ready for Autumn it will make us feel ready to enjoy the ‘hygge’ aspects of the season.
I’m not sure how old-fashioned it is now to have a winter wardrobe and a summer wardrobe, but it might be time to get your winter woollies down from the loft now before it gets cold. Check them for moth activity and bung them in the freezer for two weeks if you see any sign of them. Wash your winter coat if you didn’t before you put it away last year (totally didn’t wash my own coat).
You could get out some blankets and drape them artfully over the arm of the sofa for snuggling up in front of the TV of an evening. And it’s time to find those scented candles and collect them together – placed on a mirror can really add to the effect – and light them as you eat your supper or have a bath.
You could also collect up some natural souvenirs from your walk outside, such as perfectly smooth conkers, russet leaves, spikey sweet chestnuts, and arrange them artfully. It won’t last long, but it will bring the outside in – plus it’s fun to do.
Get into Pranayama
The practice of pranayama develops a steady mind, strong willpower and sound judgement.
So says B K S Iyengar in his book Light on Pranayama. Many of you have found that lockdown has meant even more yoga than before – which is great! You might have taken advantage of all the great online classes, or just set a practice routine that you’ve been able to stick to with less rushing around.
But as we move into Autumn, the body has less energy reserves. And one practice that can preserve and even increase our good energy levels is pranayama. It can also reduce anxiety and stress levels. And as Iyengar says, we will need a steady mind and sound judgement to get through the maelstrom of news stories that can swamp our minds with anxiety if we don’t have something to counter it.
Try swapping one or two of your asana practices for a pranayama practice every week. And you can use those blankets that you got out to keep you warm as you do it – just try not to sleep through the whole thing.
Support your System with Diet
The Ayurvedic system of medicine is all about increasing health and preventing disease by living the most balanced life for you. This individual approach makes more and more sense as we develop our body sensitivity through a yoga practice.
It also comes with getting older. Things you could eat/drink without any repercussions when you were younger…well, let’s just say you get to know what food doesn’t agree with you.
Autumn is one of those transitional seasons that the body can have trouble adjusting to – due to the increased vata (quality of air or wind). Foodwise, try avoiding raw and frozen food and eat warm, freshly prepared food, such as porridge for breakfast, soup for lunch and lots of roasted root vegetables for supper. (Read here for more ideas of what foods to choose for Autumn).
Look after Yourself
Do you work hard? Do you often put others first? Do you forget to put your own needs on your To Do list? If your answer to all these is ‘yes’, then you need to make a self-care To Do list right now.
Book yourself a massage and schedule them in once a month, or once every other month. Run yourself a bubble bath or a magnesium salts bath if you have aching muscles from all the extra yoga. Make yourself a cake (cake always helps), have that square/bar of chocolate, or a hot chocolate. Yes, we need to eat healthily, but eating healthily also means having the odd treat and not feeling guilty about it.
Book a lie in with your other half if you have kids. Make yourself a cup of tea and get back into bed. Grab a hot water bottle and binge-watch an uplifting boxset. Sometimes having some time off can give you the energy to get through the week. And this Autumn, I think we’re going to need it.