Staying Grounded During a Season of Transition

September 19, 2022

Valerie Knopik

It might not invoke the same feelings of “Spring cleaning,” but the shift from Summer to Fall is also the ideal time to de-clutter, revisit our goals, and push the reset button. The Fall Equinox (September 22, 2022) marks the official shift from Summer to Fall. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, this time of year is coupled with longer nights, cooler weather, the hustle and bustle of returning to campus (as students or faculty members), managing the return of children to school (all of you parents out there!), the forthcoming holiday season, and the return to a generally more demanding schedule. Transitions can bring challenges, whether from season to season or just more laidback summer days to school structure. We can feel scattered, ungrounded, and overwhelmed. Our daily routine, and to a deeper extent, our goals, can be clouded by the anxiety that accompanies transitions, and we can quickly lose track of what’s important to us. I propose that we turn this around and treat this season, instead, as an opportunity to physically, psychologically, and mentally support ourselves – to boost resilience (Tabibnia, 2020). 

  1. De-clutter. Research suggests that physical clutter is associated with the release of cortisol (stress hormone; Daxbe & Repetti, 2010), procrastination (Ferrari & Roster, 2019), and affects your ability to focus and process information (McMains & Kastner, 2011). De-cluttering can be as extensive as cleaning out closets and storage spaces, or maybe just as simple as taking a few extra minutes to clean out one drawer, the glove compartment in your car, your medicine cabinet, one day’s worth of email, or one folder on your desktop. The process of clearing space, be it at home, the workplace, or your car, can have a profound effect on productivity, efficiency, and feelings of anxiety.
  2. Establish a routine. Evidence suggests that having a routine can help steady the mind and boost confidence. In Ayurveda (an alternative system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent), fall brings a predominance of the air element, which lends itself to Fall being windy, erratic, cool, and dry. Establishing a routine is one of the easiest ways to soothe the erratic and sometimes hectic feelings that come with this time of year. Even something as simple as waking and going to bed at the same time every day helps ensure you get enough rest. Extra tip: There are many habit tracking apps out there to help with establishing a routine, and one (that is also free!) that even allows you to share habits with friends for extra motivation and accountability.
  3. Quiet stillness. Spend 3-5 minutes in quiet silence every morning, set a daily intention, and stick with it. Each morning, sit up in bed, find a comfortable position, close your eyes, and sit quietly for 3-5 minutes. Use this time to reflect on how you want your day to unfold and get clear on your goals and purpose for the day. Research supports the positive effects of meditation on the brain, particularly in the areas involved in memory (Muehsam et al., 2017). Bonus – this also ties in with Tip #2 (Establishing a routine).
  4. Practice being present and authentic. This is a daily practice and can help you find some clarity in your day-to-day decisions and your goals, whether they are short-term or long-term goals. Being authentic doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect. Studies suggest that authenticity in the workplace can have a positive effect on life satisfaction (Boyraz et al. 2014), job satisfaction and work engagement (Metin et al., 2016; Wong et al., 2013), and being authentic in our relationships can have a similar outcome in how connected we feel to one another (Rivera et al., 2019). One accessible way to ensure authenticity in our relationships is to simply be present. Notice when, during conversations or meetings, your mind wanders off or if you mindlessly pick up your phone to check for messages. Work on being an active listener. Give people your full and genuine attention. Show interest and curiosity in what they are saying. Listen without motive (i.e., without thinking of what’s next). And share your own experiences….even the stories of the times when things didn’t go perfectly. Working on being present can ensure authenticity in the situations we encounter in our daily lives. Our ability to be authentic fosters true connection, which helps us feel safe, grounded, and steady.

Valerie Knopik, PhD

Dr. Valerie Knopik is Department Head and the Ben and Maxine Miller Professor of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Health and Human Sciences. Her research focuses on joint effects of genetic, epigenetic and environmental (specifically prenatal and early postnatal) risk factors on birth outcomes, externalizing behavior (ADHD, conduct disorder), associated learning and cognitive deficits, and subsequent substance use.

Key References:

  • Boyraz, G., Waits, J. B., & Felix, V. A. (2014). Authenticity, life satisfaction, and distress: A longitudinal analysis.  Journal of Counseling Psychology, 61 (3), 498–505.
  • Ferrari, J. R., & Roster, C. A. (2018). Delaying disposing: Examining the relationship between procrastination and clutter across generations.  Current Psychology: A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological Issues, 37 (2), 426–431.
  • McMains, S, Kastner, S. (2011). Interactions of top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in the human visual cortext. Journal of Neuroscience , 31(2): 587-597.
  • Metin, B., Taris, T., & Peeters, M.C.W., Beek, I., & Bosch, R. (2016). Authenticity at work – a job-demands resources perspective. Journal of Managerial Psychology . 31. 483-499. 10.1108/JMP-03-2014-0087.
  • Muehsam, D. Lutgendorf, S., Mills, P., Rickhi, B., Chevalier, G., Bat, N., Chopra, D., Gurfein, B. (2017). The embodied mind: A review on functional genomic and neurological correlates of mind-body therapies. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 73: 165-181.
  • Rivera, G. N., Christy, A. G., Kim, J., Vess, M., Hicks, J. A., & Schlegel, R. J. (2019). Understanding the Relationship Between Perceived Authenticity and Well-Being.  Review of General Psychology 23 (1), 113–126.
  • Saxbe, D., & Repetti, R. L. (2010). For better or worse? Coregulation of couples' cortisol levels and mood states.  Journal of personality and social psychology 98 (1), 92–103.
  • Tabibnia G. (2020). An affective neuroscience model of boosting resilience in adults.  Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews 115 , 321–350.
  • Wong, C.A. & Laschinger, H.K.S. (2013) Authentic leadership, performance, and job satisfaction: the mediating role of empowerment. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 69(4), 947–959. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2012.06089.x.

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