Welcome, autumn! Loss and re-birth as a new season emerges

As we welcomed the arrival of autumn on September 22nd, we opened a new chapter of crisp fall air, changing colors, brisk mornings, and harvest dinners.  This is what fall is all about and for many, it brings an inner comfort and a desire to snuggle under the blankets with a big cup of hot tea.  What else does autumn represent?  As each season passes, I am always mindful of the gifts from the outgoing season and the promises of the one yet to come.  As nature cycles through her natural patterns, humans and all animals alike take notice of this change.

Change is embraced by some and feared by others.  When one is in recovery from an eating disorder such as bulimia, binge eating, anorexia, or any other type of disordered eating, change can bring overwhelming anxiety as it suggests a shift in an all-too-familiar routine.  I often sit with clients and hold space for them to share these anxieties, excitements, worries, and anticipations of upcoming changes in their lives.  I like to remember that with every change comes a loss as well as a new birth.  Moving into a new home is a significant change in someone’s life, bringing new things to adjust to, new neighbors, new routines.  Going back to school similarly offers some “unknowns”, some uncertainties of what is yet to come which might feel unsettling for some.  A birth of a new child is a huge shift in a family, as the child is welcomed into the fold and the parents adjust to new responsibilities, expectations, and roles.

If you feel stuck in a destructive cycle of bingeing and purging, negative self talk that devastates your self-esteem, or any other type of harmful behavior, you might be ready to make a change in your life.  Clients bring with them this hope for change, for a life without self-destructive behaviors or thoughts, and with a hope for accepting and loving themselves.  They can also admit to some fears about what they might have to “give up” or “confront” when making this change.  This is completely normal!  Just as fall eventually turns into winter, a time of hibernation and reflection, change is inevitable — and it can feel simple to slip into a mindset of “dreading” or “avoiding” change.

I try to remind my clients (and myself, if I find myself getting stuck), that winter has its own gifts to offer and that spring will come again.  While some may see winter as a time of cold and darkness, you also might approach winter as a time of rejuvenation, slowing down, resting, and preparing for the birth of spring.  A new routine, a different way of approaching and caring for yourself, trying to accept your feelings instead of push them away — these all represent change in our lives.  And instead of focusing on what is wrong about them, perhaps we could ask ourselves to notice the benefits of this change and remind ourselves that a re-birth is yet to come, whatever that looks like for each of us.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself about your relationship to change in your life:

— What am I losing in this change, and how can I offer myself kindness and compassion around this?

—  What am I gaining with this change in terms of growth, healing, and self-care?

—  How can I be mindful about this change, and check in with myself daily around my feelings about it and try to remind myself of the gifts of the present moment?

Don’t forget to turn your attention inward and notice your emotions around this transition.  New beginnings, like autumn or any new beginning in your life, might bring up unresolved feelings or issues from previous life cycles.  Perhaps autumn reminds you of a friendship that was lost last autumn which you haven’t allowed yourself to feel in some time.  Maybe autumn brings the birthday of a child and each year you are reminded of the pure joy you felt the day he or she was born.

allow yourself to feel.  Journal about what you feel, draw what you feel, sing what you feel, dance what you feel.  There are no “good” or “bad” feelings, and like a wave in the ocean, each feeling will eventually ride out.

Nature allows us endless opportunities for healing, re-birth, renewal, and getting back in touch with ourselves.  How are you going to embrace this new season in your life?