5 Ways To Beat La Rentrée Blues
Paris is probably the only city in the world where the vast majority of the people massively leave for the Summer. They all leave at the same time and they all come back at the same time. That is why they call it la rentrée !
The definition of la rentrée in my French dictionary is the action of penetrating once again a place that we have left.
It is great to be back home and back to work and back to one’s quotidien life, but unsurprisingly it is also one of the most stressful times of the year.
For the expat there are generally even more aggravating factors.
Unlike the 80% of French people who holiday in their own country in the Summer, an expat is more likely to go back home.
When September rolls around and French children are going back to school, the expat is also arriving back in France from elsewhere, and this is often wrought with mixed emotions.
For the expat, la rentrée is about leaving family and one’s country of birth behind. It is being reminded of the differences between one’s childhood home and home as it is now, home where our children are now. It is back to living and thinking in our adopted language after the ease of talking in our mother tongue for many weeks. It is the space between the easy comfort of belonging and feeling included to that odd discomfort of not quite being at home.
Too often, stress, anxiety, and feelings of sadness can blossom into depression. What is the difference between sadness and depression? Sadness is part of living a full life, it feels fluid and alive, whereas depression feels dead and stuck, and gets in the way of living. In fact, depression often results from trying to avoid sadness. We risk cutting ourselves off from the joy and excitement of picking up the threads of our life after a prolonged stay away from Paris.
One way to deal with stress is to identify the source and cut it out. But usually this does not work because most of the causes of stress and anxiety are out of our control.
Not surprisingly, mindfulness offers some successful antidotes for “la rentrée blues”.
Here are five simple strategies you can fit into your day right away:
1. Move your body
One of the best exit strategies from stress and anxiety is the most simple. Twenty minutes of moving your body will pump you with natural mood-enhancing chemicals. Tension in your body augments stress and mental distress. This in turn keeps you bounded and believing what those negative thoughts are telling you. All kinds of exercise, including low to medium intensity movement, reduces anxiety. There is no need to run a marathon. In fact, 20 minutes of exercise three times a week on a regular basis will be much better for your health and will effectively combat stress better than the monumental athletic feat. But be careful, as soon as you notice anxiety about the exercise entering the struggling zone, you may do well to back up, deep breathe, and do something that gives you pleasure. Just move that body! Enroll in a dance class, make a walking date with a friend (it helps to have a buddy), or walk or bike to work. Simple, regular, and do-able are the key words here.
Here are a few suggestion of things to help you move your body in Paris:
- Meghan O’Sullivan’s Optimystic Movement
- Try some YouTube Mom & Baby workout videos such Jessica Smith TV or Happy Baby Workout
- My friend Michelle is an American who is a Parisian fixture of good humour and sound yoga expertise. She teaches pre and post natale yoga at the Centre de Yoga du Marais.
- She also offers a Yoga for Kids class taught by Ulrika Dezé, the French-Swedish founder of Yogamini Paris.
- Download the app Walking Maps and join or create your own Paris walking routes like this.
Developing awareness is a resource that can be learned and practiced. You can’t make changes in your life until you see things as they are. In mindfulness practice, we learn to bring our attention to what is happening in the moment. We bring our attention to our experience in our body, our physical sensations, to what kinds of thoughts we are having, and to the things we are saying to ourselves. Awareness on its own won’t create change but without awareness you will remain stuck. Seek out a mindfulness teacher. There are books, CDs, and online courses in English and French (including mine!). It is never too late to arrive in the present moment where it is all happening, to find the elusive joy of being present.
A few suggestions to help you on the path to mindfulness:
- Read Eckhart Tolle’s Awakening to A New Earth
- Mindfulness coaching with Elaine Rudnicki for stress reduction and internal resources for your body and mind to create what you most desire in your life.
3. Beware of comparing yourself with others
If we all lived in a perfect world we would all be forever young, thin, beautiful, with perfectly behaved children and successful, adoring spouses, and we would of course be rich. And then we would feel good about ourselves. But as soon as we get that diploma, or get that outfit, or get that higher-paying job, we want something else, and we are begging for the next fix. Our entire world is based on competition so it is easy to jump on the bandwagon. There will always be someone who appears to be more successful, rich, and more stylish. As we become aware of how much we are driven by comparing ourselves with others and how much stress and anxiety is involved in this, we can begin to use mindfulness techniques to bring ourselves back to this present moment where joy and abundance is waiting.
Being present with loved ones is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and those who you love. How many times are you doing several things at once when you are with your child or your partner ? Put the screen down, turn off the phone, focus your attention on the here and now—offer your child the precious gift of your attention—and witness the change in their behaviour and the deep satisfaction it brings. Revisiting your core values and reminding yourself daily of what really matters to you, and making space for those values to be present in this moment will help you leave behind the miserable and impossible path of comparing yourself with someone else.
Read more about why boosting self-esteem in yourself and your children is being relegated, if not to Siberia, at least to the Urals.
4.Learn how to self-soothe
Any parent knows that holding a distressed child helps the child to feel soothed. This emotional regulation is an important part of secure attachment. Mindfulness practice can do something similar. In meditation, we take a familiar posture and begin to follow the breath, or we attend to another object of awareness. We feel held—there is a sense of comfort and safety as we return to the present moment. If you don’t feel ready to meditate or haven’t yet incorporated a meditative practice into your daily schedule, any activity that allows you to be fully in the present moment and where you are able to feel stable, held, and safe can create this experience of self-soothing. Get or give a massage, a foot rub, or a shampoo. Did you know that a cat’s purr is profoundly stress reducing for the brain? Get a cat! (I have five kittens to give away to good homes this month).
A few suggestions to help you soothe your soul:
- Download the app Headspace that guides you through 10 minutes a day of quiet time. This is perfect for meditation beginners and advanced but busy meditators.
- Download the Huffington Post’s app GPS for the Soul. The app connects you with breathing exercises, poetry, quotes, pictures and articles for when you need to take a few minutes out to feed your soul.
- Try a quick massage at Massage Cafe or Happy Families while your kids are look after by the onsite babysitters.
5.Give yourself a carrot
You just unpacked and you are taking care of all the piled-up laundry, papers, and the to-do list is longer than your arm, so what I am suggesting now may seem like a stretch. But it works. Plan your next trip. Not as far away as next Summer, but this Winter. Get on the internet and plan a weekend away in January or a trip to the sun in the dead of the grey Paris Winter, or a skiing holiday with the family during the Winter school holiday. You know how stressful it is trying to book at the last minute. Do it now and having something to look forward to this Winter and completely change how you are looking at your life right now. That is the carrot! A weekend or a week of togetherness in the first trimester of next year could be the best Christmas present for everyone.
Some suggestions to help you start planning a getaway:
These five simple and accessible strategies will allow you to ease into la rentrée with grace, optimism, and awareness.
Please comment below and share your strategies to deal with la rentrée blues.
Elaine Rudnicki is a mindfulness coach and body-mind therapist. She offers sessions via Skype or in person. When she is not coaching and helping French and expat women find peace she is writing on her Mindful Art of Life blog. Feel free to reach Elaine at firstname.lastname@example.org