It seems that out of nowhere, we woke up to chilly mornings, football-packed Sundays, Halloween candy galore, and pumpkin-spiced everything. Although many of us long for the crisp weather, turning leaves, and excuse to curl up in sweats, some may not be feeling so warm and fuzzy about the seasons changing. This can be referred to as “Autumn Anxiety.”
What’s that you ask? We’ve all heard of the “Winter Blues” but many people find their moods and mindsets dip during this time of year, which is totally normal! Autumn Anxiety is an annual increase in worrisome feelings that begin to surface as summer comes to a close and is characterized by feelings of increased stress and uncertainty. Throw a lingering pandemic into the mix, kids being back to in-person classes, and an upcoming holiday season and it’s no surprise that we may feel a little off our game. Some may feel lasting regret from not having achieved desired goals over the summer, as well as other symptoms including low moods, depression, excessive worry, irritability, lethargy, and loss of interest in activities.
We tend to view the summer months as fun and carefree, whereas fall brings the “back to reality” feelings, which seem to come on overnight. When seasons and routines change, with it comes modifications with our diets, exercise regimens, and the amount of exposure to daylight, which can all affect our mental state. The reduction of sunlight, unfortunately, leads to falling levels of serotonin, which negatively impacts mood, appetite, and sleep patterns.
Science shows that the brain perceives unfamiliar changes as potential threats, making us hardwired to resist the new or unknown. This goes to show why getting up earlier, planning weekly meals again, and getting in a workout before the sun comes up can feel incredibly daunting, especially when you add in shorter days and the ongoing challenges and unique circumstances of the times.
This doesn’t, of course, mean you’re destined to seek hibernation until Memorial Day. There are certain things to focus on that can help provide relief from the blues.
Get more sunlight
Make the most of what sunlight there is by getting up early, taking a lunchtime walk, or playing with the kids before dinner. However, if your schedule doesn’t allow for getting natural vitamin D, a lightbox can be very beneficial, especially for those individuals who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Fall is the perfect time of year for enjoying the outdoors so make the most of the brisk temperatures by taking long walks or cycle rides. Even if the gym or inside exercise is more your thing, staying physically active is key to keep your mind happy and healthy. Aim for about 30 minutes of physical activity most days and find something you love to do!
Focus on your fork
What you put into your body can certainly affect your mood and mental health. Aim to incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into meals and snacks and work to moderate indulgences in the diet. Autumn is the perfect time to load up on seasonal ingredients and to make the warm and comforting soup and casserole recipes that you’ll crave all winter long.
Including daily mindfulness practices in your routine can help to train your brain to focus on the present and help to reduce stress and anxiety. Meditating, deep breathing, body scans, yoga, or journaling are all techniques that allow us to become self-aware. Research shows that integrating these practices daily can improve wellbeing and relieve stress. Find what works best for you and make this a part of your everyday schedule.
Change your perspective
Reframe your outlook on this time of year and instead of focusing on the loss of sunlight, freedom, warm weather, and vacations, focus on the joys that this time of year brings. Cold weather can mean cozy days at home in comfy pajamas with a delicious beverage surrounded by loved ones, or whatever you most look forward to as the temperatures drop. Notice when your mind jumps to the negative and choose to redirect thoughts to all the great things fall has to offer.
Know when to seek help
If you’re unable to shake your negative mood, it may be time to seek professional help. If these feelings are causing problems in your life and you’re feeling overwhelmed with symptoms such as fatigue, trouble concentrating, or loss of interest in activities that used to bring you joy, it’s time to seek out your doctor, a therapist or counselor, or look through the various online therapy platforms. There are lots of strategies, but it is important to remember, you don’t have to go at it alone!
At Merritt Clubs, our Nutrition & Wellness Department is here to help incorporate these and other techniques into your routines for optimal mental and physical wellness. Reach out to Merritt’s Christian Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule a complimentary Wellness Assessment with one of our Health Coaches.