Posted on July 26, 2014 by Dr. Deah
The August Effect : A Gentle Reminder
For a month that starts off with National Clown Week, followed by National Smile Week and culminating with American Dance Week (I am not making this up!) one may think the August Effect would be one of laughter, grins, and celebration. And for many it is. But August is also a month of transition.
Depending on chronological age and developmental stage, some of us are finally feeling that summer has taken root and are allowing ourselves to relax and embrace the different pace that summer brings. For others, the clock indicating summer's end is ticking louder and louder.
In the past, Labor Day marked the end of summer and the return to school predictably occurred after that final holiday weekend. But now many schools re-open the second or third week of August. Depending on the individual, this may elicit a range of reactions including: excitement, anxiety, relief and or loss. One thing is true for most everyone...at some point in August, for you or someone you know, change is in the air!
And change, is not easy for everyone. Whether it entails moving off to college for the first time, starting a new grade, or re-negotiating your daily schedule back to non-summer mode, it can create challenges for those with body image issues and/or eating disorders. Insecurities about fitting in to a new environment may trigger feelings of being out of control. And it is not uncommon that some people feel anxious when confronted with transitions. One way some of us attempt to manage this disequilibrium is to focus more on body dissatisfaction and/or use food as a way to self-soothe and gain a sense of control. What can we do?
A TIP FROM TURTLES AND SNAILS
Turtles and snails are just two creatures that carry their homes with them where ever they go. They don’t change who they are, based on where they are or what others expect of them. They are symbols of moving slowly and methodically. One helpful strategy to successfully negotiate the August Effect is predicting the feelings associated with the upcoming changes by asking the following questions: What stays the same no matter where you go? What can remind you what your strengths are? What proactive steps will help you manage your anxiety?
Why not take some advice from the turtles and the snails? We are NEVER too old for a transitional object.
In my book, Dr. Deah's Calmanac, I offer a step by step description for creating your own “grown-up” transitional object for times when we feel we are losing our center or our “home” due to changes in our environment or routine. But you may already have something that you just haven’t identified. Is there a word or a phrase that keeps you centered when you feel you are losing your sense of self? Is there a photo, figurine, or piece of jewelry that reminds you to breathe, focus on the positive, and stay present when you are in stressful or unfamiliar situations? Of course human support systems are invaluable and having someone you can call or write to is a great way to manage overwhelming feelings; but having something that is not impacted by cell phone reception or internet connection is much more reliable and helps to build self-sufficiency.
The upcoming changes that late summer and early fall often bring does not have to mean an inevitable relapse, resorting to old habits, or re-introducing negative thought processes especially if you have a strategy to address the situation. One plan that can be helpful is when you are making your check list for school supplies, or returning to work task list etc., is to take a moment and add these two items:
Predict potential challenges that may be triggered by upcoming transitions.
Identify your personal transitional object and channel your inner turtle snail...Not to avoid the situations by retreating into your shell, but by knowing you are home where ever you are.