Back to School Blues

Photo by flequi -

Even for those without children, there is something in the air, along with the changing season and the holiday photos shut away in the album.

It’s that time of year again, at least in my part of the world: a chill in the air, shorter evenings, new shoes, books and bags for the kids, a sudden reining in of the beautifully shapeless summer days. The alarm clock starts going off again.

Even for those without children, there is something in the air, along with the changing season and the holiday photos shut away in the album. “La rentrĂ©e” as it’s called in France. Return. I always feel a bit of that sinking feeling, the end of an illusion of endless summer days. But there is something exciting about those new books and bags as well, about freshly sharpened pencils and unused pens, clean sheets of paper. I surprised myself this morning by sorting out some cupboards which were overflowing with “freedom”, or rather, mess.

I also find there is a wave of people signing up for therapy at this time, both online therapy and face to face, similar to the wave at New Year, which comes along with New Year’s Resolutions. Whereas New Year undoubtedly has a cultural significance, it occurs bang in the middle of the season — I think the beginning of autumn and spring are more natural times to focus and harness new energy. Those New Year’s Resolutions sometimes seem a little artificial to me, about changing yourself and becoming perfect, as defined by general consensus. Healthy, wealthy and wise. But the energy that people bring to tasks in autumn seems like natural energy which is just wandering around looking for an outlet.

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Maybe in summer we relax and generate — or simply allow — all kinds of ideas and desires, and in autumn we harness them into a framework and enjoy the creative tension of having a structure to work within and against? While in summer the outside world is endlessly distracting, pulling us outside, urging us to explore, or just enjoy the simple things — sun, water, earth — now the outside world pulls into itself, and so do we.

Maybe there’s something about the uneasiness that is present at times of transition, as one season turns into another, and the loss, regret, and sadness we might feel before we can throw ourselves into the next phase. Maybe this is another kind of energy which is just asking to be harnessed and put to work. Maybe in these transition times we also have a special access to our souls, our experience, or whatever we want to call it. As opposed to the “New Year New Me” phase I mentioned before, it’s maybe less about forcing ourselves to be someone else, someone better, and more about looking at who we are, accepting how we are, and then seeing what we can do.

Whatever, I find this a time which is saturated with both melancholy and hope, a time which is literally fruitful as the house fills up with overripe fruit and mushrooms, and a certain relish as I start to feel fully engaged again. Apart from anything else, with my children at school in the mornings, I have a little more time available for work and for cleaning out that sock drawer. Who knows, some say that cleaning out the sock drawer is also the way to abundance — maybe if enough of us did it at once it would lead to world peace?! I’ll keep you posted.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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