As autumn approaches we start to feel the first trace of autumn in the air. The nights draw in and the days slowly get cooler. Trees turn from bright summer greens into reds and yellows until the sides of the roads are lined with dried brown fallen leaves.
At the same time the natural world is drawing in on itself and growth is slowing there is a sudden burst of energy in other spheres of life. School is about to begin, new uniforms and stationary need to be bought and even those of us out of academic life feel the impulse to start something new or reinvigorate our working life, hearing the echo from childhood of our own first days at school. At the same time we begin to anticipate Christmas, complaining about the first adverts on television, wondering if we have to invite the whole family around for lunch on December the 25th and if our pockets are deep enough for everything on our loved one’s wish lists.
I sometimes feel there is a tension between these two impulses: on the one hand the quietening down and withdrawing of the natural world, which often seems to trigger some deep hibernation instinct in people, and on the other hand the excitement and pressure of new beginnings and the build-up to the holiday season.
Even in springtime when the days are lengthening and the whole world seems invigorated with life new starts can be difficult. They can bring us closer to our learning edges: intellectually as we learn new skills and emotionally as we are taken to (and sometimes beyond) the edge of our comfort zones.
How can we take care of ourselves in these situations? How can we make sure that we do not become overstretched and burnt-out, for ourselves and for others sake?
We need to pay attention to ourselves and to others. We need to look out for the clues that we are becoming too tired, or too challenged.
This kind of noticing is difficult in the midst of the business of new projects and of the frenzied world. The more we are caught up reacting moment to moment the harder it is to see ourselves and the situation we are in clearly. We thrash around like someone thrown into a pool of water stirring up silt, muddying what was clear and forgetting that we can stay afloat more easily by lying back and relaxing, than by splashing around making great waves.
It is important to make some space in our lives to be still, to allow ourselves to relax, to begin to soften the tension in our mind and bodies.
When we have found a moment of stillness or relative quiet we can then ask ourselves, “How am I doing? What’s happening in my life right now? Can I make any changes to make life easier, or better, or do I just need to sit and enjoy this moment of peace?”
Making these quite spaces is especially important as we go into busy times. It may feel selfish to take time for ourselves when the world is asking for so much of us, but these moments in which we can begin to relax and to pay close attention to ourselves and our lives will put us in a much better to position to take care of others, as much as they help us feel better in ourselves.
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A version of this article appeared in All About Malvern Hills