Psychologists have found that the thought of change - the ending of one thing, the beginning of another and, yes, perhaps our own mortality, underlies a deal of anxiety.

Some of us struggle with ''intolerance of uncertainty'' as experts call it, more than others.

The upside of the prelude to winter : Autumn is often cast as a time of aging and decay. It needn't be.

Whether we like it or not, fall is here. Soon the weather will get colder, the leaves will die and the nights will stretch longer than the days.

At least, that's the way autumn often is cast - as a time of aging and decay. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley compared autumn's falling leaves to corpses in the grave. William Shakespeare called it ''Death's second self,'' when youth burns to ashes.

For many of those who struggle with seasonal depression in the winter months, the fall brings the beginning of their symptoms. A few smaller studies even suggest that if you are ''ruminative,'' or deeply preoccupied with your thoughts, in the autumn, you may be more at risk for depression in the winter.

Changing the clocks in the fall is associated with depressive episodes [changing them back in the spring is not]. It's no wonder the season has so many celebrations to attempt to keep spirits up.

Psychologists say that the feelings that crop up in autumn stem from discomfort with change, that we are anxious and uncertain about what that change will bring. The melancholy is a form of grief, mourning the last sunlight, the ease of summertime and the greenery that abounds in the warm weather.

But it's not all bad. Fall also brings with it bright, brisky days, pumpkin patches and cozy sweaters. Somewhere in the crunching leaves, crackling fires and chilly air, you might locate a feeling of possibility, even electricity.

And all of these things - the anxiety, the promise and even the rumination - make it the ideal season to build resilience and practice mindfulness.

A Season of Resilience : For Jelena Kecmanovic, the founder of Arlington/DC Behavior Therapy Institute, the fall is reminiscent of exploring the mountains near her home in Sarajevo, when the country it was in was still Yugoslavia, where she spent the first 20 years of her life.

But in the 1990s, she fled during a bloody four year-siege of her city after the country broke apart.

TODAY, she is an expert in resilience, a concept centering on the concept to adapt to challenging life experiences. Dr. Kecmanovic described autumn as the season when we can work on our acceptance of uncertainty - embracing the unsettled feeling we may have as we move out of our warm weather routines.

This tendency was first named in the 1990s by a team of Canadian psychologists and has since been identified as a risk factor for poor mental health.

''A massive amount of research has been showing that intolerance for distress, for discomfort, for impertinence, for uncertainty, predicts bad outcomes in the long run,'' Dr. Kecmanovic said.

But intolerance of uncertainty is a part of being human; everyone feels it on some level. And it's changeable. One way to build tolerance is to lean into it- to cultivate uncertainty rather than run away from it.

''The avoidance of suffering produces suffering,'' said Kelly Wilson, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Mississippi and a co-developer of an approach known as acceptance and commitment therapy, which encourages people to stop denying or wrestling with unpleasant emotions, and instead to accept them.

A feeling of exhilaration can also come from experiencing something new or uncertain, which in turn builds resilience, Dr. Kecmanovic said.

Leaning into uncertainty means putting aside your routines and planning, which Dr. Kecmanovic calls '' cushions that make us feel like we have control.'' Cycle through a neighborhood you've never been to without a map. Set out during one of these lengthening autumn nights to find somewhere dark enough to do some stargazing. Go for a walk on a day when it just might rain.

You might get lost, or get soaked, or be unable to see any stars. You might feel uncomfortable or as if you're wasting your time. But those small moments of uncertainty, Dr.Kecmanovic said, will build exposure to, a tolerance toward and perhaps even an appreciation of times when you don't know ahead and feel out of control.

''It's the opposite of I have assurance of how it's going to be in the next half an hour or next day or next year,'' she said.

''It's like, in this moment I'm alive. And that's enough.''

Autumn will probably always hold some whisper of decay and mortality for humans. But embracing that sadness is important.

If you're always trying to avoid difficult feelings, you might end up also cutting yourself off ''from love and richness and sweetness,'' Dr. Wilson said. ''This is how life is : sweet and sad, poured from the same vessel in equal measure.''

The World Students Society thanks Erik Vance.


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