For some people, the period of late August through September can spark a heightened sense of anxiety. The carefree days of summer are over. It is time for the kids to back to school, and for many grown-ups, it's time to return to work. In most regions of the U.S., the days become shorter and cooler. Back to school shopping, parent-teacher conferences, evenings filled with homework — it's a new schedule for most everyone, even if it's a schedule that most of us are familiar with from previous years.
The term “autumn anxiety,” was coined by Ginny Scully, a therapist in Wales, after she noticed an increase in clients with heightened feelings of nervousness in late August and September. Some of her clients describe it as a “feeling of anticipation” but without having any sense of what they are anticipating. While these feelings might only last a few weeks, they can be quite disconcerting and uncomfortable.** The following are some tips on how to manage autumn anxiety:** Focus on your priorities**.** During the fall, your to-do list might suddenly grow. You might be asked to volunteer at your child’s school, help with local elections, take on projects at work. All of this is on top of your other responsibilities, and it can become overwhelming. Your first instinct might be to say yes to everything — but take a step back before committing yourself. It is a good idea to give yourself 24 hours before making a commitment. Use this time to determine if the commitment fits into your schedule and aligns with your priorities. If it does, then by all means, consider saying yes. If it doesn’t, decline without guilt.
Focus on the positive aspects of the season. In many parts of the U.S., the cooler days might have you dreading the cold weather. But the season has so much to offer. Make a list of what you enjoy doing in the cool weather, such as taking a trip to the pumpkin farm, picking apples, walking in the brisk cool air, or changing your menus to include more comfort foods, like stews.
Be mindful. When an overabundance of activities is causing you stress, bring your mind back to the present moment. Instead of worrying about picking the kids up from school or getting them to their activities, getting homework done, preparing for a work project, or a million other things, become mindful of the moment. Use your senses to take in the sights, sounds, and smell around you. Breathe deeply and know that at this very moment, you just need to be.
Take five minutes to ** breathe deeply**. Breathe in for five seconds, hold for five seconds and then slowly exhale. Make sure you are breathing from your abdomen; shallow breathing can make you feel more nervous.
Use a ** lightbox**. If the waning daylight is causing you to feel down or if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, a lightbox might help. These are flat screens that provide full spectrum fluorescent light. It is recommended that you use a lightbox for 30 to 60 minutes in the morning.
Add a ** vitamin D** supplement. There is evidence that low levels of vitamin D can contribute to anxiety and depression. During the fall months, as many of us spend less time outdoors, our vitamin D level can decrease. It’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor before taking supplements to make sure you are taking the correct dosage.
Don't be afraid to seek help. According to Ginny Scully, autumn anxiety usually only lasts through September. If your feelings of anxiety continue for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. There are effective treatments for anxiety disorders.
For more information on seasonal anxiety:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.