Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love everything this time of the year brings, especially the return of football, cooler weather, pumpkin spice, and the brilliant colors we see as the leaves turn around our area. However, many people, including myself, can experience an increase in anxiousness and sometimes a general low, tired, and emotionally off feeling as the seasons shift.
In today’s suburban culture, the months of August and September rather than January are known as the start of the new year. New activities, new jobs, new schools, new assignments. The fall also reminds us the holidays are coming, full of family gatherings, spending, and colder, shorter days. It makes sense that many of us during this time begin to experience physical symptoms of anxiety (e.g., feeling keyed up or tense, consistently elevated heartrate, difficulty concentrating, more headaches, and shortness of breath). Some of us may also experience symptoms associated with depression (e.g., fatigue or loss of energy, difficulty sleeping or wanting to sleep more than usual, and less interest or pleasure in all or almost all of the activities of the season).
In order to enjoy this fall, here are four things that can help us all keep a check on our mood.
Say “NO.” In her article in Psychology Today, Dr. Judith Sills states how “No recognizes that we are the agents of our own limits.” She also says that while saying no costs us something, our “payoff in integrity and autonomy is huge.” With the newness fall can bring, something about the cooler temperatures leads us to say “yes” to too many things. We end up feeling overwhelmed, resentful, and experience some of the mental and physical symptoms stated above. As an experiment, from September through November, choose to say no to as many big, new requests as you can (i.e., new project, new team, new sport, new TV show, etc.). If it was not on the calendar before September 1, be an agent for your own health and say no.
Get A Check-Up With the leaves falling, the hay riding, and the pumpkins spicing, Autumn is filled with as many allergens in the air as Spring. Allergies can attack our immune system which in turn can contribute to an intensification of symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. According to a 2008 study in the International Journal of Child Health and Human Development allergens can increase the severity of a mood disorder. Sometimes our bodies cannot distinguish between fighting off an infection and experiencing a depressive or manic episode. Combine this with an increased amount of time indoors and a rise in cases of influenza, our bodies may experience a heightened level of stress that requires some medical care. September and October are great times to make an appointment and get a check-up with your primary care physician to stay on top of any medical and physical needs that contribute to mental and emotional health.
Breathe and Breathe and Breathe, Again This last idea may seem the simplest, and yet it can be the hardest (and most effective). Most of us spend our fall running between games on Friday or Saturday, meetings Monday through Thursday, and the latest festival every other weekend. While we are on the go, we rarely notice that our quick shallow breathing robs our body of the calming and cleansing power that comes with several, deep breaths. The more we rely on shallow breathing, the more our body sends signals to our nervous saying something is not right. Even a few, periodic moments where you breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four, breathe out for five seconds can signal to your body that you are in control and choosing to calm down. Try this now and notice how you feel before and after three or four times. You can also download an app, such as the Calm app to guide you.
If you notice yourself having some trouble regulating your mind and mood this fall, schedule a session and check-in with us at Summit Counseling. Either I or any one of our skilled clinicians can help you develop a plan to enjoy everything this season has to offer. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call the front office at 678-893-5300 or visit us at www.summitcounseling.org.
Sills, J. (2013) The power of no. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201311/the-power-no
Postolache, T. T., Langenberg, P., Zimmerman, S. A., Lapidus, M., Komarow, H., McDonald, J. S., … Tonelli, L. H. (2008). Changes in Severity of Allergy and Anxiety Symptoms Are Positively Correlated in Patients with Recurrent Mood Disorders Who Are Exposed to Seasonal Peaks of Aeroallergens. International journal of child health and human development: IJCHD, 1(3), 313–322.