As the leaves start to fall, Claire de Boursac, founder of Nature as Nurture and humanistic psychotherapist, shows us how we can look to nature for some seasonal self-care.
Autumn has arrived. Conkers are falling to the ground, there is a distinct chill in the evening air and the sun now goes to bed much earlier than most of us. It’s hard to miss the changes happening in the landscapes around us, but what about the shifts in your internal landscape? Perhaps you’ve noticed changes in your energy levels, emotions, desires? If so, please know that this is normal, be kind to yourself and ask what your seasonal self needs in order to thrive this time of year.
Seasonal shifts are generally seen as something that happens ‘out there’. However, we are deeply connected to and aligned with the changes happening in the natural world around us. For over 99% of the time humans have walked this earth we have lived intimately with nature and depended on her for our food, shelter and survival. We evolved to be with nature, to live with her cycles. While the last few hundred years have seen huge transformations in the way we live, and much of this has disconnected us from nature, evolution is a slow process and our biology has changed very little in this time.
I have rarely heard people discuss the changes they experience as the seasons change. Except, that is, in conversations within the privacy of the therapy room. In my role as a psychotherapist and more recently also as a nature-wellbeing practitioner I hear of the challenges and struggles people face as the seasons change. Typically, they don’t make the link, don’t recognise how natural it is to feel more tired, to want to retreat inwards and to replace the cold salads of summer with the warmth and comfort of soups and stews. What I hear in my clients is a self-criticism and a sense of somehow being ‘wrong’ because they can’t maintain this myth of consistency that we’re fed and which modern life might ask of us. They ‘push through,’ ashamed or embarrassed to name what they see as a weakness or failing of some kind. For many, understanding that these changes are normal and natural is a relief.
If you recognise yourself in the above description it’s time to replace that mean critical voice with a kind, open-hearted curiosity (a good intention whenever your inner critic comes calling) and rather than berate yourself, ask ‘how am I experiencing myself right now?’, ‘what is shifting in me and what is this telling me that I need?’ It may be unfamiliar to turn inward for answers, but we all have a wise inner-knowing and if you listen carefully you will get an answer. Once you know what you need you can then make the necessary adjustments so that you can thrive through this season. Of course, there may be practical limitations to this but having the awareness can help us make decisions in line with better self-care. In fact, the mere fact of witnessing and naming our needs can be affirming and nourishing. It feels good to be seen and heard, including by ourselves.
Over time you will start to know your ‘seasonal self’ and which adjustments you need to make to your lifestyle as summer becomes autumn. While you’re finding your ‘autumn self’ you may want to look to nature for some hints. She is a wise teacher with a lot of experience in this area!
When you think of autumn, it’s likely some of the first images that come to mind are of reds and browns, falling leaves and conkers. So, let’s start there. What is nature showing us with these acts of release? A mature tree will have several hundred thousand leaves in the summer. These capture the energy of the sun which is vital for the tree’s processes. With decreasing sunlight in autumn, the leaves are no longer providing enough energy to justify the effort of pumping the water to them all the way from the roots. It’s not a good use of the tree’s resources. The chlorophyll-rich green pigments fade, revealing reds and yellows and when the time is right, the tree releases the leaves. The tree models how release can be gentle, graceful and beautiful.
Although we are delightfully unique and everyone experiences the seasonal change differently, it’s likely that just like the tree you’ll have less energy in this darker half of the year. So, use it wisely. Consider whether there are any activities that are at odds with your current energy levels. Is there something you no longer want to give your time and energy to? You may want to swap your energetic gym routine for a yin yoga class. Tune in and see what your body tells you.
Autumn is a beautiful moment of letting go of that which is not of service and of planting dreams and visions. The forest floor is currently littered with conkers and acorns. The future generation. The darker months are perfect for dreaming, meditating and visioning. Allow these to germinate in you without a pressure of action. The acorn has all it needs to survive the winter and will start to grow with the warmth of the spring.
At this time of year there tends to be a bout of sniffles and sneezes. Bring in your best immune boosting practices to give your body some extra support. Remember that stress is one of key challenges to immunity, so take it easy when you can.
In allotments and fields, cooling, watery lettuces are replaced by earthy root vegetables which lend themselves so well to being slowly roasted or made into hearty, warming soups and stews. If you can, shop at a farmer’s market or store where the produce is seasonal and notice what you are drawn to. It’s a time for nourishing ourselves ahead of the winter.
Why not take a walk in nature this weekend and open your heart to her wise examples. See what she stirs in you as you ponder how to know and care for you autumn self.
If you’d like to explore the current season, what it means for you and how to best care for yourself, Claire’s Seasonal Self: Autumn workshop will be taking place on Wednesday October 16th in Highgate. Details on how to attend here or contact Clairedirectly.