How do you feel towards the end of August?  Are you wistful, sad and mourning the end of the carefree days of the summer season?  Are you eager to start a new Fall season??  Do you experience the September Scaries, which could relate to a fear, hesitancy or discomfort about the upcoming school year???

Interestingly, many non-student adults experience an inner tension, anxiety or hesitancy at the end of the summer.  This could be parents who are sad to send their kids back to school.  Conversely, it could be a sense of relief for sending kids back to school or an excitement for what’s to come in the new academic year.

Depending on our early experiences with our time in school, non-student adults who experienced discomfort or anxiety related to school can experience tension or dread related to a phantom new school year approaching.  We hold a deeply-embedded body memory of the significant discomfort and early traumas.  I was certainly one of those people.  For many years after school, I still associated September with the beginning of the new year (not just a new academic year – that’s how significant it felt in my activated nervous system).  While there were some aspects of school that I enjoyed, there were some experiences and dynamics that I really wanted to avoid.  Social dynamics and the difficulties that they could present were some of my biggest fears.

When I noticed myself experiencing tension in late August many years ago, I was relieved to learn about this social phenomenon.  I wasn’t the only adult feeling this way!  Consciously or unconsciously, many adults may experience an underlying discomfort that relates our experiences in this way.  Many of us store deeply imbedded, unprocessed trauma that elicit strong emotions, cognitions and physical sensations.  These responses can become activated unconsciously at this time of year and we may have no idea why.  It’s important to raise our awareness around this so that we’re not projecting it onto others (eg. children) and to be taking care of our inner needs.

Ways to manage and soothe the discomfort involve labelling and understanding it.  Next, we need to have compassion and empathy for the scared, uncomfortable inner child who was not looking forward to the upcoming school year.  We want to care for the fact that we may have suppressed the anxiety and held it in so that we wouldn’t frustrate, concern or inconvenience others.  We could have seen other kids excited to go back, or to be getting their supplies together for the new year, while we were putting on fake smiles and wishing that summer would never end.

Try meeting yourself in the way you needed to be comforted and understood in your discomfort.  Allow yourself to experience, process and soothe any painful emotions that may arise.  Notice their impermanence, but also their intensity.  Provide your inner child with reassurance and strengthen your adult self’s understanding of capacity and capability of managing through inner discomfort.  Create routines and experiences where you get to identify aspects of the Fall that you enjoy (as Canadians, we’re lucky to experience transitional seasons and, hey, pumpkin season is just around the corner????), as well as the aspects of academia (learning, sharing knowledge, the good friends we had, the laughs, favourite afterschool activities, your interests at the time, the relief you felt after the school day was done, the people or pets you were able to see when you got home, favourite songs, television shows, etc.) that we were able to enjoy, or that kept you going.

May you enter this interesting period experiencing the September Steadies, as opposed to the September Scaries!

To recognize the commonality with challenging back-to-school year feelings, our team members, Ben and Olivia, have bravely shared their experiences:

Ben Nunes:

“The last 20 years of my life have been one long, winding road through various schools. But one very consistent theme has been my dread associated with summer winding down. You know the drill: the air gets a little crisper, the sky loses daylight sooner, and those CNE ads start popping up everywhere (Toronto native). Every time these signs show up, it sends chills down my spine.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I liked school quite a bit. But no matter how much I enjoyed it, the shift from summer to fall always felt like a bucket of ice water thrown in my face.

Fast forward to now—I’ve officially graduated from university. No more scanning through those dreaded syllabi, no more worrying about which friends I’ll be sharing classes with, and best of all, no need for those brutal 6 AM wake-up calls. But guess what? As September peeks around the corner, here I am feeling just like I always have. The same fall fear and the resistance to change.

And as I start to think about it, I’m realizing that this conditioning, this whole pattern, isn’t just going to pack up and leave now that I’m done with school. It’s a reminder that some things run deep, and that’s okay. We’re a product of our experiences, through and through. Like the leaves turning, life shifts and changes, and we react. But you know what? It’s through realizing that we’re wired this way, that instead of fighting it, maybe we can learn to roll with the punches a bit better. So, here’s to August, to CNE ads, and to accepting change.”

A bucket of ice water in the face – such powerful imagery that many of us can relate to!

Olivia Battista:

“Change. It’s a scary word that’s filled with anxiety and dread. It’s also what happens every September from the time we are 3, when summer ends and school begins. We must change our routines, change our goals, and shift our focus onto school. I’m sure that not everyone agrees, but I personally, love this feeling.

Summer is always filled with so much adventure and fun memories, always unexpected plans and hot weather. Although I enjoy most aspects of summer, the older I get the more I realize that I look forward to getting back to school with a set routine for the year. The structure that school provides helps me to focus on being productive and maintaining a balance, in all areas of life.

I have so many fond memories of the last weeks of August being so positive and exciting for what’s to come throughout the school year. My favourite thing to do was pick out all new school supplies and a new backpack. This idea of starting fresh. I learned that every September was an opportunity to try new things and meet new people.

Although we all have different lived experiences of what September entails, I think almost everyone, regardless of age, feels that September is a time to begin fresh and with a sense of productivity. There are uncertainties that the new school year has, but I believe that we are all connected through the feeling that September is the beginning of a new year with new experiences.”

© Sunnyside Healing Arts, Inc. 2023

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