Fall Stress and the River of Wellbeing

Fall is a time of year that naturally comes with some change which goes hand in hand with increased stress. There is the change of seasons, change of pace from the lazy days of summer to the full schedule of school, work, and extra-curricular activities. New routines are being established and all this adds up to change. Change equals stress for our bodies because change is different and different is unsettling. It can be easy to get wrapped up in it all without realizing the impact that it is having on your mind, body, and spirit.

One of the best explanations of mental health and balance that I have come across comes from Dan Siegel. He explains it like this: “Imagine a peaceful river running through the countryside. That’s your river of well-being. Whenever you’re in the water, peacefully floating along in your canoe, you feel like you’re generally in a good relationship with the world around you. You have a clear understanding of yourself, other people, and your life. You can be flexible and adjust to when situations change. You’re stable and at peace.
Sometimes, though, as you float along, you veer too close to one of the river’s two banks. This causes different problems, depending on which bank you approach. One bank represents chaos, where you feel out of control. Instead of floating in the peaceful river, you are caught up in the pull of tumultuous rapids, and confusion and turmoil rule the day. You need to move away from the bank of chaos and get back into the gentle flow of the river.
But don’t go too far, because the other bank presents its own dangers. It’s the bank of rigidity, which is the opposite of chaos. As opposed to being out of control, rigidity is when you are completely unwilling to adapt, compromise, or negotiate. Near the bank of rigidity, the water smells stagnant, and reeds and tree branches prevent your canoe from flowing in the river of well-being.”

So how do you keep your canoe floating peacefully down the river?
  • The better you take care of yourself, the wider your stream will be and the less likely it will be that you will veer towards either bank. Take time to sleep, exercise, eat right, be quiet, still, and self reflective, and most important BREATHE.
  • Keep it all in perspective. Make sure that the small choices that you make throughout your day reflect your values. Remembering that others around you may have different values so their choices may not be right for you.
  • Take some time each day to reflect on the things that you’re grateful for. At the dinner table have each person tell 2 things about their day that made them happy.
  • When life gets over whelming try “chunking” your day. Teachers in school will “chunk” work for students when they’re struggling with a topic. This means breaking it down to one task at a time to focus on. Depending on how hectic it gets, you may have to “chunk” your week down to one day at a time, or one hour at a time, or even for the next 15 min. Try to stay in the here and now without having your thoughts wander too far in the future or in the past. Spend your energy in the present.

Following these few easy steps will help keep you floating peacefully down the river of well-being during the hectic fall season.

Chrissy Schlechter is a Registered Psychologist at Rocky Mountain Psychological Services. She enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband as well as playing soccer.