Saturday, August 13, 2022

Changing Seasons and Shifting Gears

by Kathleen Krol, LCSW, RPT-S

It is nearly Labor Day already! How did another summer go by so fast, when just yesterday seemed like Memorial Day? 

We may look forward to the cooler, less humid days, changing colors of Autumn and the children heading back to school. Even so, it can still be hard to shift gears from the more laid back, relaxed pace of summer to the more structured and busy days of fall with its fuller work schedule, children’s after-school activities, sports, and homework, and the soon-to-be holiday season. We may appreciate the cooler weather and yet still dread the thought of longer nights and more time indoors, especially post-pandemic. 

Humans are wired for familiarity and comfort, so change is challenging for all of us. This article focuses on three parts as we shift gears and transition to the fall: (1) Preparation (2) Mindset, and (3) Coping and support strategies for ease with the process.  

Preparation: Our bodies need to acclimate to an earlier bedtime and rising. This can take time. Start planning a week or more prior to any changes in schedule. If you know you have to wake up an hour or more earlier starting the Tuesday after Labor Day, you may want to progressively go to sleep earlier in increments of 15 to 30 minutes per day; likewise, you’ll want to gradually shift your morning wake-up time.  Remember to get your body ready for a shift to “sleep mode” an hour before bed, by turning off electronics including TV, dimming lights, and winding down with a calming, sedentary activity. If you are having a tough time getting yourself or your children to turn off electronics earlier, start reducing the amount of time gradually during weekdays and add on extra time on Friday or a weekend day. 

We all need motivators when facing a transition, whether returning to work after vacation time off or to school after summer break. As encouragement or incentive, maybe add a little something to your children’s lunch bag or backpack to start and end the week for the first few weeks. It might be a favorite snack, stickers, an emoji, a note saying “Great Job! You finished your first week!” Adults need support with transitions too - and subtle reminders that fun doesn’t have to end with the fall equinox. Why not plan a hike in the mountains or an evening out with friends for early October? Families may find it fun to celebrate the end of the first month of school and/or the return to work from vacation by scheduling a family fun or party theme night. It can be something to look forward to and have everyone involved in the planning - from making decorations, deciding on food, and choosing the games to play and movie to watch.  

Mindset:  The law of attraction suggests that our positive or negative thoughts have an impact on how we actually experience the moments of our lives. When we look for negative, we often find it. Conversely, when we look through eyes of optimism, we may find the silver lining in even the bleakest times. While we cannot control or stop all negative circumstances from happening and will undoubtedly be upset about disruptions, detours, and painful events, we do have some control over how quickly we are able to embrace the natural feelings that arise and move past them. We can also reframe a situation by expanding our lens to see the potential positive in addition to the downside. As we enter the fall, what mindset do you have about this transition? Do you dread longer nights and time indoors or do you see opportunities to catch up on movies and reading, call friends or family, enjoy hot chocolate and apple cider, walk through the leaves, or snuggle up in a cozy blanket or near a fireplace? 

Have you thought about how you want the fall and remaining months of 2022 to go? Maybe summer went by too fast and you don’t even know where it went? Often life is like this. Wasn’t just yesterday the beginning of the new year? Why is it we only talk about resolutions when we trade in one year’s calendar for a new one? What if you allowed yourself some time for brief reflection with each season throughout the year, accepting the seasonal changes as a reminder to set purposeful intentions for the months ahead?

Here are some questions you may choose to ask yourself: What do I hope for this fall for myself and/or my family? What is most important for me to happen so I will feel more contentment when this year ends? What has worked in the past that I want to continue? What did not work last year that I need to do differently? What is one step I can take to start within the next couple of weeks?  

You may want to empower your children and teens with related questions: How do they want the school year to begin and the year to finish? How can they make it happen? What ways can you support them? What worked well last year that might be duplicated and what would they like different for the coming school year?

Coping: Positive affirmations or mantras can be a wonderful way to start the day, as can keeping a daily journal and having a regular meditation practice. You may want to pick something that can be your anchor throughout the day and every day. Like an anchor assists a ship in remaining stable through a storm, your anchor is what you go back to when you start to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or distracted. Your anchor could include any of the following suggestions or be something unique to you. It may be breath, feeling your heart center, movement, a scent, or a visual cue. Like meditation, when you start to feel the sensation of being ungrounded, bring your attention back to your chosen anchor and the current moment.  

A similar concept to an anchor is having a relaxation cue. Usually this is a visual cue that you might see throughout the day. Each time you see the object, it cues you to take a one-minute body scan for any tension followed by use of breath and release of the tension or progressive muscle relaxation for the tense part. Your visual relaxation cue might be the time display on your laptop, a watch or a ring, a picture, or object. Periodically doing one minute body scans and taking a conscious breath to release tension can support you in reducing any emotional stress you are holding in your body and increasing self-awareness about times when you feel relaxed - and moments when tension begins to build.
Finally, remember to have compassion and kindness for your partner, your children, and, most importantly, for yourself. Transitions and change in life can be challenging. If nothing else, give yourself credit for making it through each day: You are managing the best you can and even better than you think you are!

Kathleen Krol is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified EMDR Therapist and a Registered Play Therapist/Supervisor with 20 years of experience in the counseling field.  She collaborates with clients across the lifespan including adults, children, teens, and families using a family focused and integrative approach to treatment. Areas of expertise include trauma, anxiety, phobias, depression, grief/loss and adoption and attachment issues. She specializes in EMDR for all ages, Family Therapy, Play Therapy, Sand Tray and Sand Focusing Therapy and Parent Coaching. To learn more, go to or contact her at or 215-289-3101#1 for a phone consultation.