My Game Plan for Surviving the Autumn Blues

It happened all at once, didn’t it? Suddenly it’s that time of year when the days are shorter and the nights are dark and quiet. Even living in the heart of Madison the mood is starting to shift – kids wrapped up in sweatshirts instead of cruising in tank tops, coming in early and staying in often. I love the bittersweet feel of fall and it’s relief from the exhausting summer heat, but I also get the fear around this time of year, too. I’m dreading those long winter nights and my skin is already craving Vitamin D.

In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m the kind of person who likes to have a plan, especially when it comes to self care. So, I’ve decided to strategize my fight against the autumn blues and share some ways I’ll be embracing the season and focusing on the positive this fall.

Lean Into the Season

There are actually so many fun fall things to do, but I think I get so hung up on the fact that it isn’t summer anymore that I automatically rule them out. This year I want to get my head out of my ass and go out and do things! Here’s an abridged list of fall activities previously neglected over the years, but will hopefully be making a comeback:

  • Apple picking – Classic!
  • Pumpkin carving – We actually hosted a pumpkin carving competition at my house in high school once and it was hilarious – but alas haven’t touched a pumpkin since.
  • Making mulled wine – I got into this last year in Ireland because it was always so dreary and it’s so delicious and easy. Perfect for Thanksgiving or any other weekend when you’re laying around drinking all day.
  • Haunted house/hayride/literally anything Halloween related – Confession: I hate Halloween. I don’t know what it is about the holiday, but I’ve avoided it for years. I think I’ve dressed up like twice since I was 18? I’m not committing to dressing up for the actual day, but I will go out of my comfort zone and do something spooky.
  • Tailgating – Anyone who knows me well is probably laughing at this one because I don’t sports. I like hockey and that’s about it. Football has always mystified me. But what’s not to like about day drinking with your friends, right? It’s not like I can avoid it living in Madison, anyhow. You know what they say: if you can beat them, drink with them.
  • Baking – What’s cozier than a hot oven and a tray full of fresh chocolate chip cookies or a crispy pumpkin pie? Probably only the womb.


Get Outside (Even When It’s Cold)

Working a 9-5 job during the winter means you don’t get a lot of exposure to the sun, especially when you’re in a windowless office like I am. So, this year I’ve set a goal of getting myself outside and into some sunshine at least once a day, even if it’s for 5 minutes. I’d really like to get in the habit of taking a walk at lunch time every day – it’s just so nice to get my eyes off a computer screen for a few minutes – and I think getting outdoors will help keep me sane.

On the weekends, too, I’d like to do a better job at not only hibernating in my apartment with Netflix and red wine. Although this is totally necessary sometimes, I’d like to go for walks along the lake, keep up my running a bit, and maybe even go for a hike in one of the nearby state parks if I’m feeling ambitious. If I can get myself outdoors more often in the fall, hopefully I can fend off cabin fever longer in the winter. Stay tuned.

Take Up Old Hobbies

Nothing feels better than doing something you’re good at. As part of my journey back into my creative life, I signed up for an Improvisational Dance class through the Continued Studies program here at UW – Madison. This may seem random, but I actually did a lot of movement and dance improvisation and composition in college. My theater major was very physical theater focused and I had the equivalent of a dance minor by the time I graduated so this is very much my element.

I haven’t been in a studio in years, though, so I decided to jump back in and take this class. Although I’m still warming up to the new surroundings and dance partners, it feels great to be back in my body again. I forget how freeing it feels and how easy it is for me to get in the improvisational zone. I think reawakening old skills will be a refreshing addition to my fall workout schedule and remind me that new beginnings can happen at any time of year.

Hygge the Shit Out of My Apartment

You’ve probably seen the hygge sensation sweep the hipster internet over the last couple of years – the Danish obsession with getting cozy. The whole premise is that winter doesn’t seem so bad when you find a way to revel in the comforts of the indoors. And that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m talking candles, tea, fuzzy socks, furry blankets, and old jazz music- it’s gonna be hyyge nation, bitches! To be fair, Denmark is probably hygge nation but I’ll take a close second.

I loved adding little touches to apartment for summer – light summer linens, fresh farmer’s market flowers, a continuous supply of vodka lemonade – so I think doing the same for winter will be sweet. It’s amazing what a Target run for candles and a fresh pair of flannel sheets can do for a girl. I’d also like to grab a few extra cozy sweaters and a new pair of shearling slippers for those frosty mornings.¬†Feeling warm and fuzzy inside already.

The biggest part of hyggeing (?) for me, though, is definitely food. I love baking during the winter. There’s nothing better than a big glass of red wine, an old movie on TV, and a batch of cookies in the oven. It’s so heartwarming and lovely. I’ve also gotten into soup and stew making over the last two years. I made this stew, which is still one of my favorites, on a whim in Dublin and it quickly became my favorite meal to make. It felt great to have a hot, thick stew at the end of cold, wet day. I don’t have a crockpot yet, but this may be the year I take the plunge. Recipe suggestion welcome.

Make Plans And Keep Them

We’ve all been there: it’s 7pm on a winter night. You’ve made plans to meet up with a friend, but you just warmed up in your apartment after a long day so you cancel. Whenever I see a meme about the revelry of cancelled plans it’s like looking in a mirror. Although I know this will be inevitable sometimes, I want to push myself to go out more, even when it’s obnoxiously cold. Or better yet, invite friends to come to me – I’ve been threatening to start a book club for the better part of a year now so maybe the time is now.

It’s easy to feel isolated in the winter time. Madison is amazing in the summer because you can leave the house and there’s a million things going on, but in the winter it’s a ghost town. Everyone goes into hibernation and it’s tough to feel social. This will most likely be the hardest part of my plan, but I’d like to do better at initiating plans and following through with them, even if I’m not in the mood at first. More often than not I end up having a great time and I’m glad that I got out of the house, which in the winter is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Are you looking forward to winter? Or are we in the same boat dreading fall? If you have any favorite fall activities, especially in the Madison area, definitely let me know! Give me fewer and fewer excuses to stay in and be a total bum this fall, please.

Also, if you’re feeling hopeless or lonely with fall starting always feel free to reach out to those around you – send me a message, make plans with friend or family member, or call an organization that can help you through a tough time. It’s so important to take care of yourself in the winter months.

Sending love, friends!

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