Autumn is coming and for many of us, it’s the best season of the year. It’s not too hot or too cold, we get to wear boots, leggings and sweaters, watch football, and of course, pumpkin everything! But for others, the numerous changes can cause “autumn anxiety”.
Autumn anxiety is a fairly new term coined in 2005 by Welsh therapist Gene Scully. Ms. Scully had so many patients with feelings of anticipation and nervousness approaching and during the first few weeks of fall, she coined the term. She also experienced the feelings. “For me, it was like an anticipation, but I wasn’t sure what I was meant to be anticipating. I also noticed a certain amount of anxiety.”
Fortunately, there are ways to manage these feelings:
1. Be mindful to not overcommit yourself. As summer turns into autumn and the holidays approach, give yourself permission to participate in fewer activities and maybe lessen your volunteer time. Do what feels comfortable and avoid the temptation to overcommit and overschedule yourself.
2. Pay attention to autumn allergies. Many of us have fall allergies. Studies have shown that changes in allergy symptoms during low- and high-pollen seasons have corresponded to increases in depression and anxiety. This most likely happens because allergies attack the immune system, and the body responds by pumping cytokines (proteins that signal inflammation to our cells) through the blood stream. According to a 2009 study in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the process when a person is fighting off an infection looks the same as when he or she is depressed or manic. Therefore, treating your allergies may be helpful in managing your feelings.
3. Exercise! Do we need to say anything else? It seems everywhere you turn, you read more and more about how exercising is the key to better health and well-being. As the temperature drops and there is less natural light, the tendency is to snuggle up on the couch, but sticking to a consistent exercise regimen is key to feeling better.
4. Light and vitamin D. Shorter days means less opportunity to be outside in the sunlight, and therefore less vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to anxiety and depression. Talk with your doctor to see if taking vitamin D supplements is right for you.
5. Light therapy. Some people are more sensitive than others to changes in their circadian rhythm (the body’s internal biological click that governs brain wave activity and hormone production). Bright light therapy has been proven to be an effective treatment for those who require more sunlight to be their perky selves. Lightboxes are typically the light system used. They are flat screens that produce full-spectrum fluorescent light, usually at an intensity of 10,000 lux.
We hope these tips help ease your way into the holiday season. However, if you or someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, it may be something more than autumn anxiety. Please reach out and seek help immediately.