I love autumn; the crisp leaves, rich colours and, of course, the fashion. But sadly, autumn doesn’t always love me.
As regular readers are aware, I’m a spoonie – or for those not aware of the spoon theory, I live with chronic illness. Now my illness is neurological and so the seasons should have absolutely no affect on my health whatsoever. Yet for some inexplicable reason, as the nights start to draw in, my pain gets worse.
I thought for a long time that this was simply psychological, that I anticipated the aches and therefore they appeared. After all, the doctors tell me there is no real medical reason for the change in pain levels but I have started to gather my own theories and, alongside these, my own ways of treating myself.
Now full disclosure, I am in no way a medical professional. These are not a replacement for medical care and if you are seriously suffering or developing new symptoms then I strongly encourage you to seek medical advice.
Also, what works for me, will not work for all. So please, do not take these tips as gospel – they are simply small coping mechanism that I had developed in order to give myself some self care.
1. Get Outside More
As the nights draw in and the days get colder, it is tempting to retreat indoors under a pile of blankets and cup of steaming tea. I will never criticise this decision as being curled up and comfy on the sofa with a great book is something that I really love.
Yet, all lives need balance and vitamin D is essential for feeling well in yourself. I think its no coincidence that my limbs ache less during the summer months when they are exposed to a greater level of sunlight and I generally spend every spare minute outdoors.
Autumnal walks are beautiful and, despite our typically wet weather, if you can find a bright crisp day to go out and explore the great outdoors then you’ll be surprised how fresh and invigorated you will feel later.
I’m always surprised at how much comes alive at a time of year that is usually associated with the end of wildlife for the year. Late blooming roses come alive during September and hedgerows are vibrant with berries. I’m lucky enough to live in a village filled with apple orchards and the colours at the moment are delicious – it also means I haven’t need to buy apples for the past few weeks as I can pick them fresh from the trees whilst walking the dogs.
2. Spend time doing the things you love
We all hibernate through autumn and winter. I feel its built into our natural cycles.
I like to spend the extra time spent indoors to concentrate on enjoyment and self-fulfilment. I write a lot more during the autumn and get more crafty; picking up my art materials always relaxes me allows me to tap into that creative side of myself that I have so often lost since leaving university and joining the world of 9-5 office work.
Creativity has always been therapeutic for me; a way to switch my hectic mind off and concentrate on a natural flow of inspiration. Something about the creative process means that I can almost slip into another world, away from the pain of my condition.
I’ve often taken the darker nights as an opportunity to join an art or crafting course at my local art centre. It gives me the chance to do something entirely, selfishly for me. It also gets me out the house and socialising with people outside of work which can, again, help to distract from the difficulties of life.
3. Eat Well
I always feel like my body needs extra nutrients during autumn and winter. Thankfully, nature is on hand with the most amazing seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Yet, when tempting to hibernate, it is so easy to reach for the take out menu or just throw a ready meal in the oven and I’m definitely guilty of this ALOT of the time. Especially when getting back late from work and feeling exhausted from the pressures of the boardroom or the stress of London commuter trains. Turning on the hob and chopping vegetables just seems so tiring when its already dark outside and my day has felt hellishly long.
Eating convenience food does take its toll. I definitely notice it when my skin starts to break our and my tummy get bloated and sore. To avoid the need for ready meals and take out, I’ve started batch cooking on rainy weekends.
Making soups out of sweet potato, carrot, and butternut squash becomes my Saturday activity of choice on those days that are quite frankly glum. I also batch cook hearty stews and freeze them in individual portions. They become my very own ready meal that can be whipped out of the freezer and thrown straight into the microwave. They’re minimum effort and maximum nutrition. They also provide hours of cooking enjoyment whilst making.
4. Wrap Up and Stay Warm
I am definitely guilty of not transitioning to warmer clothes soon enough.
I desperately hang onto the flimsy dresses of summer which I’m sure doesn’t help my immune system or my aching limbs. It has taken me years to learn the art of layering (and I probably still have much to learn).
One of my easiest tricks is to throw a polo neck on underneath summer dresses and layer up with a biker jacket and a scarf. Tights get pulled out of the lingerie wardrobe and flip-flops get replaced with boots.
Another neat trick is wearing a base layer – I find these slips from Marks and Spencer particularly cosy and they work to insulate my body which seems to help the aching limbs and joints.
What tips and tricks do you have for staying healthy over autumn? I’d love to hear how you keep going through the darker months.