Labor Day Blues: The Meaning of a Key Yearly Transition
Most readers will readily understand the phrase “Labor Day blues”: it’s the range of feelings that often come with the end of summer.
For many, Labor Day embodies a significant life transition, and not always an easy one. There have not been many scientific studies of the occurrence of negative feelings at the end of the summer. Nevertheless, certainly the clinical experience of many therapists, coaches and relationship counselors suggests a definite surge in the numbers of those who seek help in the early fall.
The Experience of Summer
Prof. Jeroen Nawjin of Breda University has shown that vacations lift peoples’ moods, but not for all that long. Soon after, the vacationer’s mood returns to the old levels. Similarly, the individual’s experience of summer, taken as a whole, often suggests that the individual has had a certain taste of the possibility of life outside of the usual confining ruts, possibly giving real insight into the things that this person feels to be genuinely important about her or his life. Confronted with the prosaic reality of post Labor Day life, it can even feel like the individual is losing connection with some very important and central part of who they really are.
We can all tend to load up our summer with long lists of all the great activities we expect to undertake, and important experiences that we’ll have. It might be a bit ambitious to plan to hike the entire Bruce Trail, learn to paint, and take 10 strokes off my golf game this summer! It’s important to to be realistic and compassionate towards ourselves — and perhaps also to realize that our “lust for life” is bigger than just summer can hold (we’ll return to this point).
Could Labor Day Blues Actually be Depression?
It’s important for us to watch our moods, and to make sure that the labor day blues are not actually a more concerning form of depression. Here are some of the trends and symptoms that it would be important to watch for:
- Sleeping too much or too little;
- Disinterest in pleasurable activities;
- Unexplained weight loss/gain;
- Difficulties with concentration on tasks
- Substantial loss of energy;
- Persistence of a sense of worthlessness
- A depressed mood most days for at least two weeks running
If, in the midst of what appears to be “Labor Day Blues” you experience any of the above in a persistent way, it would be important to seek out help such as a good case studies, or your family physician.
What Is It That I Actually Long For?…
Yet perhaps one of the most important aspects of labor day blues is what they might tell me about what is actually important in my life — what it is that I actually long for? If I do find myself a little blue at the end of the summer — why is that? (This may be an important question for anyone — but perhaps none more so than those at midlife or in the second half of life.)
It may be that in my sadness, there’s a genuine clue about the things I need in my life. My summer experience may shows m that the time to be with myself, to listen to my own thoughts, is something that I value more than almost anything. Or, perhaps its the opportunity to connect with others in my life, in a deeper and more intimate way that calls to me. Or my desire to travel and see new things may reflect a desire for renewal, for new things in my life. There are clues in our summer longings, that show what we truly long for in the entirety of our lives.
…And How Can I Stay with It, Post Labor Day?
If we can identify that for which we truly, deeply long, then the possibility exists for us to bring more of those things into our life, long after labor day blues have ended. Following our deepest yearnings is part of the deep journey to who we really are, and it’s often a process that good work in /a-midlife-transition can consolidate, and make even deeper.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst