Autumn Anxiety: Why You May Feel More Stressed This Season
Autumn anxiety, while not a recognized clinical condition, is a term used to describe the increase in anxiety and low mood that some people experience during the autumn months. It's often associated with a combination of factors, and the symptoms can vary from person to person. Here are some key points and recommendations related to autumn anxiety:
Possible Causes of Autumn Anxiety:
- Beginning a new school year: Students may experience anxiety related to academic and social pressures associated with going back to school.
- Looming stress of the holiday season: The upcoming holidays can bring their own set of pressures and expectations.
- Regret over unachieved summer goals: Some individuals may feel anxious about not accomplishing what they had planned during the summer.
- Reduced exposure to daylight: Less daylight can lead to decreased levels of serotonin, which affects mood and sleep patterns, and an increase in melatonin, which can make one feel sleepier and more depressed.
- Reduced vitamin D intake: Less exposure to sunlight can result in lower vitamin D levels, which have been linked to depression.
- Behavioral changes: With worsening weather, people often spend less time outdoors and engage in less physical activity.
Autumn Anxiety or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):
- While the term "autumn anxiety" is used to describe these feelings, experts often discuss it in the context of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
- SAD is characterized by recurring depressive episodes that typically occur during the fall and winter months when there is less natural sunlight.
Transitions and Anniversary Reactions:
- Transitions, such as going back to school or work, can cause anxiety for some individuals.
- "Anniversary reactions" may also play a role, where memories of past difficult experiences associated with the autumn season trigger negative feelings.
The Importance of Seeking Help:
- If you find yourself overwhelmed by anxiety and depression during the autumn months, it's essential to seek professional help.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety and seasonal affective disorder.
- In some cases, doctors may prescribe antidepressants, such as SSRIs, to help manage symptoms.
- Increasing exposure to natural light: Spend time outdoors during daylight hours and consider using a light box, especially if mornings are dark.
- Regular exercise: Engaging in physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day can improve mood and reduce anxiety.
- Dietary changes: Focus on a healthy diet, and consider preparing warm, comforting meals during the autumn season.
- Embrace fresh starts: Use the autumn season as an opportunity to declutter, set new goals, and try new activities or hobbies.
- Reframe your outlook: Instead of dwelling on the loss of summer, find ways to enjoy the comforts of the autumn season.
- Seek professional help if needed: If symptoms are severe and impacting your daily life, consult a healthcare provider for guidance and treatment options.
It's important to recognize that individual experiences with autumn anxiety or SAD can vary, and what works as a coping strategy can also differ from person to person. If you or someone you know is struggling with seasonal mood changes, it's advisable to consult with a mental health professional for tailored guidance and support.