Cultural Moments

The September Scaries

Back to school. 

No matter how old we get, we still feel a wave of anxiety when we hear this phrase. Though we’re no longer headed back to pencils and books, that crushing feeling at the onset of September somehow remains the same. It’s an overwhelming mixture of emotional extremes that we like to call—the September Scaries.

We’ve all heard the term, “Sunday Scaries,” and if you haven’t, consider yourself lucky! It starts in the pit of your stomach on Sunday afternoon when you realize Monday morning is just around the corner. In no time it spreads to your arms and legs until it reaches the back of your neck. Then it sort of hovers there for the rest of the day—just a nagging feeling that your time is about to be up. 

At that point, you lose all hope of completing your weekend home projects. And as you run through all the workouts that just didn’t happen, you realize you didn’t kick ass in either errands or self-care. You didn’t go crazy and have tons of fun, and yet you don’t feel you truly rested either. You’re in that irritable, in-between place and tomorrow you’ll have to be “on.” Once Monday morning hits, you may be stressed out or tired, but at least you’re no longer anxious in anticipation. It’s that uncomfortable Sunday dread that can really consume you.

While this happens on some level each week, once a year it arrives in another form, creeping in toward the end of August as the lazy summer days are drawing to a close. The sun starts going down earlier, the shadows grow longer, the summer fruit vanishes from the market, and we start looking at fall fashions and hearing slogans for “back to school.” Whether you are headed back to school, back to the grind, or simply back to sweaters and boots, September usually marks the end of a vacation mindset and the beginning of “Ugh, time to get back to it.” 

At the first hint of crispness in the air, we often spiral into an evaluation of the past few months. “Did I achieve that bikini body I thought I needed to be happy? Did I spend enough time with friends and family? Did I ‘Marie Kondo’ my home to perfection? Read that book? Start a meditation practice?” The list goes on and on. Negative self-talk is on high volume when the September Scaries pay you a visit. 

Like any visitor, however, you don’t have to welcome the September Scaries to stay. You can say hello, entertain them for a bit, then send them on their way until next year. How do you do this? Well, our end-of-season anxiety usually makes its exit strategy when we begin to practice self-compassion. Give yourself a break, and know that you spent the summer the best you could. Maybe you didn’t accomplish everything on your list, but isn’t summer supposed to be carefree anyway?

The next thing to do is stop doing. When we’re anxious we’re at our least effective. Take a pause and dedicate some time to your own well-being. Just make sure it doesn’t have anything to do with your summer self-care checklist. Do what feels good, not what you think you should, and those September Scaries will give way to wonderful fall feelings in no time.

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