As soon as Labor Day ends and the kids head back to school, you may find yourself feeling a bit blue. It’s not just the end of Summer Fridays, summer nights on the back porch, and dinners outdoors in the evening sun, but so many of the activities that herald the arrival of fall—like putting away the summer clothes, starting to close up the garden, and slowly getting ready for winter—can be emotionally draining.
While autumn is a wonderful season full of pumpkin-spiced everything, leaf-peeping drives through the Shenandoah Valley, hay rides, and the advent of sweater weather, for some people, the arrival of autumn can make them feel downright sad. Or rather, SAD. For the estimated 10 million people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) the end of summer and the transition to fall can lead to "autumn anxiety" and that anxiety to the new schedules, shorter days, and new schools that go along with the arrival of fall and it can be a recipe for seasonal depression.
Autumn anxiety was first recognized by a Welsh therapist named Ginny Scully who had patient after patient walk through her door during the first few weeks of September all describing similar feelings. "They described feeling a bit anxious - these are not people who are generally anxious - but without knowing the cause of the anxiety,” Scully told WalesOnline. “They said it was almost a feeling of anticipation but, again, without knowing what they were supposed to be anticipating.” Eventually, she coined the term “autumn anxiety” to address their feelings of anticipation and nervousness and the term has caught on as people around the world grapple with the complex emotions that can arrive in September. While autumn anxiety isn’t as serious as it’s related condition, SAD, which is clinical depression with a seasonal onset (usually winter), it is very real.
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As for how to treat autumn anxiety, if it’s preventing you from working or sleeping or is interrupting your schedule, talk to your doctor. Otherwise, try exercising, which is proven to help alleviate anxiety for some people. Also consider taking a vitamin D supplement, as autumn weather means shorter days and decreased exposure to sunlight.
Decreased exposure to sunlight is one of the biggest reasons so many people suffer from both anxiety and depression in the fall and winter. As the days get shorter, the majority of us spend less time out and about in direct sunlight, and that can translate into a vitamin D deficiency. Fortunately, taking vitamin D supplements can be an effective way to combat this.
PsychCentral notes that remembering to take deep breaths and “staying in the moment” and not fixating about the future can help combat anxiety, too. EverydayHealth.com suggests removing stressors from your life, not overwhelming yourself with commitments, and being mindful of autumnal allergies which they say can contribute to anxiety and depression.
The silver lining to autumn anxiety is that it typically only lasts a few weeks, disappearing well before Halloween rolls around.