Many people who struggle with anxiety have an especially hard time during the first few weeks of autumn with feelings of anticipation and nervousness. Autumn is a time of new beginnings: back to school, new routines, schedule changes, appointments and kids activities.
Ginny Scully, a therapist in Wales has named this Autumn Anxiety, after noticing that many of her patients were experiencing heightened anxiety symptoms between the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Autumn anxiety is very closely linked to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but it is more about anxiety and not so much depression.
Signs You May Have Autumn Anxiety
* Muscle Tension
* Panic Attacks
* Frequent colds
* Digestive issues
Fall Anxiety vs Seasonal Affective Disorder
While these two disorders aren’t the same thing, there are some similarities between SAD and autumn anxiety. The main difference between the two is that SAD is usually more about depression in the fall and winter seasons, as opposed to anxiety.
But there are similarities. While you can get SAD at any time of year during the changing of seasons, it is much more common in the fall and winter when weather gets colder and there are fewer sunny days. Likewise, many people experience autumn anxiety, as summer turns into fall.
Many symptoms between autumn anxiety and seasonal depression are also similar. This might include being lethargic and tired, isolating yourself, losing interest in your favorite activities, and possibly experiencing signs of panic attacks like a racing heartbeat, or changes in your mood like agitation or irritability.
Both autumn anxiety and SAD can impact your quality of life. Suddenly summer fun is over and it’s back to the real world. Perhaps you no longer want to see friends, you’re spending more time indoors and alone and you’re struggling with schedule changes. While this can be completely normal, you should still seek professional help if you feel out of control with your symptoms.
Highly Sensitive People and Autumn Anxiety
Another type of person who might be prone to autumn anxiety is someone on the “highly sensitive persons” spectrum, as detailed by Elaine Aron, PhD. She believes that people who are extremely sensitive may take the sudden changes of seasons, habits, and daily routines much harder than most, which is why may lead them to experience anxiety during this time of year.
If you’re a highly sensitive person who also has generalized anxiety disorder, it is really important that you are aware of this so that you can take time to prepare before fall begins.
How to Cope With Autumn Anxiety
Autumn anxiety may mean changes in your mental health status during the fall, but don’t let it define you. There’s positive things you can do to boost your mental health. If you live in a northern climate, you might want to try a light therapy box if it’s depressingly dark and gloomy where you are. Other activities such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, journaling and art activities can also be a big help in reducing anxiety symptoms.
Get as much light and natural sunshine as you can even during the cold, darker days of winter. If it’s sunny out, make getting outside a priority. If you live in colder climate where it rains a lot, you might want to consider a light therapy machine and a vitamin D supplement.
Use a Journal or Planner
Changes in schedules and stressful and can stir up anxiety. When life throws changes at you, work on changing your routine. Having a set routine will help you to be more productive and reduces anxiety because it reduces decision fatigue. A daily planner is great for reducing stress and anxiety related to missing important events and falling behind on daily tasks and self care. Journaling is great for writing your fears and anxious thoughts down and releasing them.
Do You Hygge?
The Danish tradition of Hygge is defined as “a quality of coziness that engenders a feeling of contentment or wellbeing.” It will help you to learn to embrace the quiet, peaceful environment you have in your home on cold fall days. There’s nothing better than getting cozy and comfortable snuggling in front of your fireplace, reading a new book, and burrowing under your favorite blanket. Practicing hygge is a great way to help with anxiety symptoms.
Breathing exercises are often recommended for many types of anxiety, and can help with fall anxiety as well. When you start noticing your anxiety getting worse, find a quiet place where you can sit in peace for a few minutes. Start slowly breathing in through your mouth and out through your nose. One of the most popular and easy to remember techniques is the 4-7-8 breathing technique where you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale for 8 seconds.
Disclaimer..I don’t practice what I’m preaching here! But it’s a fact, too much caffeine may make anxiety symptoms worse and possibly increase your risk for panic attacks. Try out some herbal tea blends when you need something warm but won’t make you hyper or jittery.
Essential oils are a great mood booster and also help to provide ambience to your home. For fall try scents such as Frankincense, cinnamon and orange. Cedarwood is very relaxing on the bottoms of your feet before bed.
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Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional or therapist. The contents of this website should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition. If you’re struggling with physical or mental health issues, please reach out to a qualified professional.
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