Autumn may be a favorite season for others, from the woodland walks to the tasty treats and rich colors. However, for some, the season may evoke different emotions of worry, fear of the impending winter, and disappointment with unachieved summer goals.
It may be hard to put the finger on your feelings since emotions can be all over the place. Most experts describe this phase as autumn anxiety.
Gillian Scully, a Welsch therapist, came up with this name after attending to several patients with similar feelings during the start of the fall. The emotions were not primarily connected to any life-daunting changes.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) vs Autumn Anxiety
SAD, commonly referred to as winter blues, is a type of depression that occurs and ends at the same time every year. This kind of depression mainly occurs during seasonal changes. For example, it starts in the fall and goes on until winter.
This condition occurs in 0.5% to 3% of individuals in the general population. Moreover, it has been noted that four out of five women go through this phase, with the most affected demographic being those between 20-30 years old.
Also, the further your location is from the equator, the higher the chances of suffering from this type of depression since you will be experiencing drastic weather changes and shorter days.
Although autumn anxiety may have similar symptoms as SAD, it can be intense and has a shorter period than SAD. It only happens in the last few weeks of summer and the first few weeks of fall.
Symptoms of Autumn Anxiety
Gillian Scully came up with the term autumn anxiety after noticing a trend in symptoms such as anticipation, fatigue, and depression in clients. These symptoms indicate autumn anxiety, but the caveat is that there is no apparent reason for depression.
Knowing your anxiety symptoms makes it much easier to put the finger on your feelings and emotions.
Causes of Autumn Anxiety
Anxiety occurs when your brain perceives that there is a threat around you. It might be a good thing since it helps us take flight or fight in case of danger. However, sometimes we may overthink some situations and get anxious for no reason.
For example, it can happen when seasons change since the brain feels a shift in so many events, from calendar changes to schedule and weather changes. It may be a lot to take in and adjust to, thus causing anxiety.
Also, everybody switches to a holiday mood during summer, and transitioning to your new academic year or a new job at the beginning of autumn may not be easy. But, on the other hand, you could be anxious about making new friends, attending new roles, or moving to a new location.
How to Cope With Autumn Anxiety
You can use several ways to contain this anxiety. Here are some workable ones.
Keeping your cortisol in check is essential; you can achieve this by working out. When you are depressed and anxious, it is best to participate in activities that help burn off the stress hormone cortisol. Any cardiovascular exercise is recommended. Some effective ones include:
- Jumping on the autumn leaves
- Walking your dog
People suffering from an anxiety disorder find it hard to keep their breathing in check, thus limiting brain performance. Meditation helps you appreciate and focus on your current surroundings and experiences instead of past regrets and future anticipations.
It also lets you control your thoughts since you can categorize your issues. When you control your thoughts, it becomes hard to go back to the dark places you find yourself in when depressed.
Including yoga in your meditation routine is vital as it helps slow down your brain to cultivate a deeper understanding of yourself. Moreover, through yoga and meditation, you learn how to tune your breathing and pay attention to all your emotions.
Sleep is among the best ways to slow down your brain activity to enable it to get the restoration needed to keep off negative thoughts. To ensure you get enough and comfortable sleep, enhance your sleep hygiene by:
- Having a consistent bedtime
- Ensuring your bedroom is quiet, clean, and dark
- Getting rid of distractive items such as phones and laptops during bedtime
- Taking light meals before bed
- Avoiding caffeine before going to bed
Have an Attitude of Gratitude
Having an attitude of gratitude helps you get rid of any feelings of regret. Your responsibilities and unaccomplished goals may weigh you down, but you must learn to be grateful for the small achievements.
Cognitive dissonance, which refers to being grateful and having regrets simultaneously, may cause self-loathe and anxiety. Therefore, it is best to focus only on the positive things in your life and learn from the negative ones.
To be more intentional, you can write a daily gratitude list of things you are grateful for. You can make this list every day to help you appreciate all the positive things that occur daily.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Caffeine and sugar can spiral your anxiety to greater levels. Therefore, you need to watch what you eat. Autumn comes with many treats, from S’more to Lamingtons, that may be hard to snub, but with discipline, you can stick to a diet.
Eating food rich in carbohydrates such as whole grains and oatmeal may help increase the serotonin in your brain, which enables you to relax. Dehydration can also put you in a foul mood, so ensure you hydrate more.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Go for Health Checkups
Sometimes our anxieties are fueled by health conditions, especially if we are prone to allergies during autumn. Allergies trigger the stress hormone cortisol, which interferes with the relaxing hormone serotonin.
During fall, people with seasonal allergies such as pollen allergy are usually the worst hit, especially since the wind blows lightweight pollens to longer distances.
For those who experience such allergies, autumn may be a dreadful season. To prevent such health anxieties, you need to check in with your doctor to help prevent the allergies from worsening.
Visit a Therapist
Therapists have vast experience in diagnosing and developing treatment plans for anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a highly effective form of psychotherapy that psychologists use to help patients identify their triggers.
Through such behavioral therapy, you can learn how to do away with behaviors associated with anxiety and face situations that trigger your anxiety. Therefore, visiting a therapist gives you a holistic view of your condition and solid solutions.
You should find a psychologist near you and make an appointment. You can also find a support group of friends going through the same problems.
The transition from summer to fall involves saying bye to swimming pool barbecues, beach parties, and other fun activities that may be hard to let go of.
As fall checks in, it’s time to reset and set new goals and conduct a self-assessment of past plans. This period can be depressing, especially since you have to adjust to new schedules and weather conditions.
However, you can also make the transition fun and less sad by developing new ways to spend your time and creating new healthy habits and achievable goals. Being positive ahead of the winter season will also help you deal with the anxieties that may come with autumn.