November can be a difficult month for many. In my part of the world, it means the end of Daylight Savings Time and a steady plummeting of temperatures. I have a friend who, for years, has been expressing her dislike of November on social media. She rails against the wet, dreary month and flings insults at it like it cares. I used to lovingly point out that it’s a month like any other and subject to what we make of it. I would add that both my younger daughter and I celebrate birthdays in November so it can’t be all bad. As much as I would defend November, I find that my resolve to see the bright side of this month has been slipping over the last few years.
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the change of the seasons we Canadians enjoy. I love the variety and how pronounced the physical differences are between each season. If you live in Canada, I bet you can close your eyes and imagine the details, textures and smells of each season with zero trouble. However, with those pronounced seasonal differences come serious transition periods and those can be hard on the system.
Fall officially starts on September 22 and ends December 21. When we think of fall though, we think fondly of the sweater-weather temperatures that break summer’s intense humid heat. We think of colourful leaves - the bright yellows and oranges and the deep reds. Truthfully, that idyllic period is the first third of fall and only lasts about four or five weeks. The last three or four weeks of fall, for those who live near me, usually feature a snowfall or two and what feels like freezing cold temperatures as our bodies start to acclimate to the coming winter. That middle part of fall though - that month that transitions from nature’s beautiful, colourful landscape to winter wonderland is November. And man! Can it give you the blahs!
Those colourful leaves fall to the ground and leave the trees bare. Do you know what else falls to the ground? Rain! Lots and lots of rain as Mother Nature cleans up the debris and readies herself to freeze everything in sight. If you’re not fast enough or can’t schedule the time between rainfalls to pick up those leaves, they’ll turn to brown mush on the ground. But fear not! If you can’t rake your leaves, you won’t notice the mess on weekdays ‘cause you’re likely going to work in the dark and coming home after dark too.
There are clear physical and emotional shifts that take place in the fall. We start to add layers of clothing to our bodies. We spend increasingly more time indoors. We may even turn inward emotionally. We tend to socialize less as we settle indoors and no longer make plans after supper.
Fall is also harvest time. We start to gather supplies in anticipation of fewer opportunities for variety in terms of fruit and vegetables over the winter. We may even start to crave hearty stews, steaming bowls of chilli, fuzzy socks and comfort under a blanket.
Some people may welcome fall’s introverted feel. I know plenty of people who love nothing more than spending hours reading a good book under a warm blanket by the fire. Others, however, may begin to feel a bit stifled and mourn the carefree days of summer. They may start to feel isolated, sluggish and sad. In fact, what compounds things is the lack of sunlight during this time of year. For some, those November blahs bring on symptoms so intense that they trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is recognized as a recurring form of depression.
So what’s the solution? Well, if your symptoms are severe, reach out to your doctor for support. For me, I try to plan ahead. I know the lack of sunlight guts me - each.and.every.year. Also, November is the only time where I allow myself to break my number one rule: I refuse to follow my gut. That’s big. If you know me, you know I trust my intuition over anything else - except in November.
In November, I realize that Mother Nature herself is the reason I feel all out of balance. She leaches the colour out of the air, drops the degrees and sucks the sunlight right out of the sky. I’ve learned that if I do what I feel like doing, which is stay in bed, eat chocolate and moan about how awful I feel, I’ll…well…stay in bed, eat chocolate and become an unhappier version of myself.
In Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science), we are taught that like attracts like. So, in this case, to rectify my imbalance, I need to do what feels counterintuitive. That means that I need to move. It means flipping my schedule around and walking the dog in the middle of the day when there’s more light rather than first thing in the morning. It means strictly adhering to a sleep schedule so I don’t mess up my circadian system more than it already is at this time of year. It means that when I feel like binging Netflix in my pyjamas, I need to crank up some tunes and dance around the living room instead.
As November invites me to close myself up, I challenge myself to be vulnerable - to expose my belly to the world and see what happens. This year, I registered for a 30-day yoga challenge. It may sound like an awful lot of yoga - especially when I’m teaching six classes per week this month. But you know what? So far, it’s been rather eye-opening. Attending a class is completely different than teaching it. It allows me to fully relax into a practice rather than having to remember what comes next and which foot I need to stand on this time. Make no mistake though, my muscles are definitely feeling it. I’m reminded to pull back and listen to my body rather than my ego.
Also, adding all these yoga practices to my schedule has also meant taking some things away. We’ve been in the middle of a full kitchen renovation since April so, I’ve become used to living in the middle of somewhat “organized” chaos. Still, I’ve allowed myself to soften my own expectations and I’ve lowered my usual standards. My house isn’t the most organized and there are spots that haven’t been dusted in longer than I care to admit. However, I’m smiling a bit more than I might otherwise be and for now, that’s my priority.
At the end of the day, November may affect me but I know all too well how precious time is so I refuse to wish it away. I’ve come to realize that if it affects me, it’s because there is a lesson there that I have yet to learn. Maybe that lesson has to do with becoming comfortable with following my head rather than my gut in order to bring balance. Maybe it’s about accepting that I am not meant to perform at my best every minute of every day. Maybe I need to be comfortable with making myself more of a priority. Maybe it’s about softening into the experience and letting go of expectations. Whatever it may be, I will breathe through it, be receptive and carry on.