Allowing Your Stress to Fall Challenge

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~ Albert Camus
We are starting the most colourful season of the year and it comes and goes in a flash. Most of us recognize the changes in our scenery but how many of us truly immerse ourselves in the changes we see in nature at this time of year? So many of us are overwhelmed with our day-to-day responsibilities that we end up defaulting to autopilot just to survive. For those of us with kids, we try to get through the back-to-school transition, get the extra-curricular activities going again, try to keep up with all of the household tasks...and then, oh yes, there's trying to prioritize time to exercise and make healthy meals. When we experience stress from family, friends, work and health, the load we bare can be crippling. The idea of taking a moment in time to enjoy our surroundings just seems like a pipe dream. Or sometimes we simply forget to do this because we're living up in our heads of the endless to-do's.

Fall itself, is a time of transition from the heat of Summer to the cold of Winter.  It's helpful to remind ourselves that this is our opportunity to embrace the natural beauty, awe and wonder that the trees and nature quietly offer us as a gift to enjoy through the season.
As quoted in Psychology Today, Professor Michelle Harris talks about the physiological affect that the Fall season can have on each of us:

The attention-getting power of brightly hued leaves has a practical side. An autumn stroll can be an excellent stress reliever, says Michelle Harris, M.A., LMHC, ATR-BC, who teaches counseling psychology and expressive arts therapy at William James College in Massachusetts.

Harris specializes in trauma-focused expressive arts therapy. She says, “When I work with clients who are very stressed, I try to interrupt their stress reactions with positive sensory and kinesthetic experiences.” She notes that stress shifts the brain and body into survival mode, but a positive experience that intentionally redirects attention and awareness can reverse this process. “When you’re walking and focusing on the changing leaves, you’re no longer cuing your brain to run or fight,” Harris says. “Instead, you’re cuing your brain to pay attention to something beautiful and enjoy it.”

The Challenge

Mindfulness for Health has a challenge for each of you. Take a walk (or if you're in a wheelchair, a roll) outside along your favourite trail. No need to make big plans to make this happen. One foot out the door with either your partner, your kids, your 2 legged or 4 legged friend or just yourself, and focus your attention on the colours surrounding you. Life’s stressors can be put on pause for the stroll as you Mindfully enjoy each and every moment, savouring this special time of the year. Stop and look at the leaves on the trees up close. What is happening to them? Each leaf is a painting done by nature just for you to enjoy for the moment. Grab a souvenir leaf from the ground and feel the sensations in your hand - the texture, the weight and the contact on your skin. When you're paying attention to the sensations in the body, the emotions that are present and the visual details, where is your attention not?  On the worries/anxieties/to-dos of the future or the regrets/anger/sadness from the past! Purposely keep that leaf somewhere that you will see it everyday. When you see that leaf in the coming days and weeks, stop for a moment, close your eyes and remember that walk that you gifted yourself. The gift that keeps on giving.

Enjoy this wonderful time of year everyone.

Angie Kingma