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Pandemic and Pumpkin Spice

What are some things that come to mind with the fall season? I think of pumpkin spice lattes, apple picking, cool crisp air, fun costumes, and cider donuts. This year, as summer turns to fall, we’re greeted with the turning leaves—as well as the awareness that COVID-19 will continue to impact our day-to-day lives. Chunky sweaters will be paired with non-medical grade masks, and trick-or-treating and holiday meals will be adjusted to accommodate social distancing. In the throes of embracing seasonal changes, how can one re-frame the adversity of a pandemic and see the goodness of a new season?

  • Embrace: Passing the autumnal equinox, make time to appreciate the things you like about fall. Find that puffy vest or order that warm apple cider. Just because times are tough doesn’t mean you can’t access sentiments and mile-markers that celebrate meaningful things of the season.

  • Discretion: As we step into fall, consider your circumstances and contexts in relation to others. Even though we can value good things, be aware that other people might be struggling with the season’s change due to pre-COVID events or because of COVID-19. It’s important to check the temperature of the room, so to speak. If the mood is somber, adjust your conversation accordingly.

  • Gratitude: I’m a big proponent of gratitude. Whether you write down something you appreciate every day or send a text message to someone expressing how much they mean to you, make time to pause, take a breath, and express thanks. Appreciative reflections can make any circumstance manageable and surmountable.

  • Empathy: Sometimes it’s important to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Understanding someone else’s feelings may mean pausing what you’re doing, noticing the other’s emotions, relating that experience to something you’re feeling, and stepping back or pressing into the relationship. This may lead you to be vulnerable, authentic, and relatable in showing genuine care and concern in this unprecedented period.

The change of season is familiar, but the world ahead is uncharted. Know that you are not alone. Share these ideas with those you trust or your therapist and see which ones resonate with you. You might be surprised at what applies to you in the here and now.


Lou Lim is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.

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