This Damn Time of Year

Over the past few years, I have been conducting case studies.

Well, they’re not really case studies. Not in the literal sense; they have almost zero scientific value and aren’t about to be published in any high-impact journals. But still. They’re worth something, in my mind.

I’ve been observing people around me at different times of the year. I’ve watched how people get that gleeful buzz around Christmas (or don’t, at which point they’re swiftly removed from my contact list), become lighter and more carefree as spring comes along, and grind to a blissful halt when the rare heatwaves of summer come knocking.

But then there’s October. Is it me, or does it seem like suddenly, as the clock strikes midnight on the first of the month, the sun just decides it can’t be arsed anymore? And I don’t mean the temperatures – don’t even get me started on those – I mean that one day you’re sipping your morning coffee with the sun streaming through the blinds, and the next, you’re fumbling about at 7 a.m. trying to locate the light switch and wondering if the world has ended.

It’s around this time, too, that the Autumn fanatics come out of hiding and start stomping around with their knee-high boots and camel-coloured scarves, sweating through a bobble hat it is far too early to be wearing. But I don’t like pumpkin spice, it never stops raining, and fallen leaves aren’t crunchy and picturesque in England, they’re slippy and usually concealing a three-day-old dog turd.

My mood subtly drops as we creep towards the end of daylight saving time. I used to attribute it to hormones, or a bad day, until I realised it happens at exactly the same time every single year. So I started to wonder: am I alone in this? Is it only me who suffers the sudden darkness with misery and zero motivation?

Of course not. Most of us have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), where depression comes seasonally, most commonly in the winter. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t feel depressed, just… meh. And besides, by the time winter gets into full swing, I’m usually back to my normal self (which is moody enough as it is).

I started watching the people around me and asking questions. I noticed that the chirpy ‘good morning’s of summers in the office had given way to sighed ‘hiya’s. I picked up on eye-rubbing and negativity, and less enthusiasm towards life happenings in conversations with my friends.

It seems that for some of us, there’s no escape from a drop in our get-up-and-go as this time of year descends. It’s something to be endured, in the knowledge that (hopefully) we’ll get used to it soon, forget that sunlight ever existed, and just get on with revving up to Bonfire Night and Christmas.

But surely there are ways to make it a little less soul-destroying. My friend Amie says, ‘I find if I carry on going to the gym in the morning it’s like a defence against it. Because by the time I’m getting ready for work I’ve woken up properly and it’s bright out.’ She continues, ‘Maybe bright is an overstatement.’

For me, exercise definitely does the job, but motivating myself to actually go to the gym is another thing entirely. I generally take a less dynamic approach to life, and naturally focus on self-care, giving myself an extra ten-minutes with my morning brew, or washing my hair and making an effort with my clothes to make myself feel like I’m actually a real human. Basically, I treat myself at any given opportunity all year round, and October just exacerbates the tendency.

My slightly more dramatic friend, Lauren, says, ‘It feels like days have no start or finish, it all rolls into one big, dark, depressing blob. If I could just sit in bed with a cup of tea all day I would.’

It’s knackering, trying to heave yourself out of bed when the world outside your window is telling you to go back to sleep, but some people suffer through the October blues without intervention. My boyfriend, for example, sticks to his usual routine, and just gets a little more grumpy. It lifts, eventually, and we carry on, forgetting it ever happened until next time rolls around.

Unfortunately, short of moving to Thailand, there is no escape from the darkened slump of early Autumn. My only consolation is the knowledge that, like everything, this will pass, and I’ll soon be slipping along the pavement towards a cosy, candle-lit pub, ready to discuss festive plans with my friends as we swerve the expensive Christmas Markets and sip mulled wine by a steamed-up window.

Until January comes along, that is. And that doesn’t even bear thinking about.

Published by Mary Hargreaves


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