It has certainly got colder this week hasn’t it! It is nearly October and I struggle with this time of year. Summer is over, the days are getting shorter and I am starting to feel a bit low. I catch myself wondering if I have ‘made the most’ of the summer days, and start to feel anxious about the coming months, particularly with a long Covid winter looming over us all.
Yes, I know autumn is the season of the ‘Pumpkin Spiced Latte’ (and my personal favourite, the ‘Gingerbread Cream Latte’), and lots of people LOVE the cooler weather, stunning colours and scenic beauty… BUT I always feel that at this time of year, it’s easier to slip into feeling low, and my mental and physical health requires a little more care than it does in the summer months.
I start feeling more tired and everything takes a bit more effort. I think I probably suffer to a small degree from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which is thought to affect 1 in 15 people in the UK between the months of September and April, according to the NHS. SAD can take many forms; feeling unsettled, having trouble sleeping, experiencing mood swings and raised levels of stress, or even panic attacks.
It is common to associate Autumn with a ‘back to reality’ vibe. This can trigger new anxiety and a sense of wondering whether we can cope with what is around the corner. It can even bring back to the surface old anxieties around returning to school or college even though you may be in your forties! It can mean separation. It can certainly mean new challenges.
On top of all this of course, we are all having to deal with a second wave of coronavirus, new restrictions and months of uncertainty ahead. Many people are self isolating either through regional lockdowns or because they are choosing to and we are worried about friends and family that we may be cut off from. We are reliant on news and social media for updates, some of which are not always helpful and may actually increase our sense of powerlessness, panic and anxiety.
If you are feeling very depressed and are considering harming yourself, you MUST go and visit your GP who will be able to advise you. For me personally, it is time to shake myself, count my blessings and switch my thinking. I remind myself that autumn and winter is part of the natural cycle and that this is not a permanent state. Instead of feeling sad that summer has gone, I try and consider the possibilities and opportunities autumn and winter can bring. Yes, even a Covid winter!
Have a look at my tips below to help you cope with autumnal anxiety, and if you have any of your own, please do add them in the comments.
Ask your GP about taking extra Vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced by our bodies when we are exposed to sunlight so our stores understandably run low when the sunlight fades. As well as maintaining a healthy immune system and healthy bones, it is also thought to improve low mood.
Think about starting yoga. I am a new convert, but I cannot overstate how helpful it has been since I took it up at the beginning of this year. It really helped with mental positivity during those first horrible weeks in March and April. If yoga isn’t your thing, consider some other exercise at home. You don’t need special equipment or even DVD’s, there are literally millions of exercise videos on YouTube. Just 20 minutes can lift your mood as well as reducing feelings of tension.
Have a clear out of your clothes/ books/record collection. Reorganise and declutter. It will distract you and hopefully on completion, give you a sense of achievement. I was having a look at my bookshelves yesterday, and there are a stack of books that I have been meaning to read. If you don’t like reading, download Audible and have your favourite books read to you.
Don’t watch the news constantly. This is only likely to increase your anxiety. Limit yourself to an hour or so at the same time every day. Also, try and avoid spending all your time on social media. Anxious thoughts can be increased by the relentless barrage of people’s opinions, worry about numbers rising and general speculation.
If you are dreading the autumn and winter, close your eyes for a moment and think of all the positive images that the season conjures for you. There must be some! I’m thinking warm coats, new boots, walks in the park, log fires, hot chocolate and toffee apples!
Try something new. At this time of year, a lot of adult education courses are just starting. I bet it’s been a while since you looked at what was on offer at your local college, and a lot of them are offering online courses this season. Or check out The Open University. Perhaps its finally time to think about doing that degree. A friend of mine has just started a weekly online book club! Six of them all get together (virtually) on a Tuesday night (with the obligatory glass of wine of course!) to chat about ‘the book of the week’. If you are feeling still more ambitious, start that novel, or write a poem or a song.
If you have pets, spend time with them. Owning any pet is good for your health and wellbeing. All animals can lower your stress level, and cats are particularly helpful at reducing anxiety. Petting a cat has a positive calming effect. and their purring is thought to have therapeutic benefits. Dog walking has multiple benefits, getting you outside exercising as well as the possibility of seeing and interacting with others – even if its socially distanced!
Dust off some board games that you have in the attic and have a family games evening.
Have a spa day at home. Use hair masks and face packs. Do your nails and pamper yourself with whatever you have available. There are plenty of face masks and beauty treats you can make with household items.
Watch old films. I love black and white movies particularly, so I am going to catch up on those DVD’s I haven’t looked at for years. Listen to music rather than have the news on constantly.
Structure and plan your days. It is really important to get up and go to bed at the same time as you would normally. Laying in bed all day is not going to lessen any anxiety you may be feeling. Get up, get dressed and get going. Try and keep doing things you love, even if you have to be a bit more inventive in how you can currently do them.
Dance! I had a disco in my lounge all on my own this morning listening to some 80’s anthems! It released lots of endorphins and I felt fantastic!
Make the most of the light that is available. Get outside as much as you can, and do some mood lifting leaf kicking in parks and woodlands at weekends. The autumn scenery is beautiful – enjoy it! Just be sure to adjust your body clock: Get up earlier and go to bed earlier to make the most the light.
Think about boosting your immune system and staying healthy this winter. I was reading yesterday that the following can help boost immunity: Red peppers, garlic, spinach, ginger, yogurt, almonds, green tea and sunflower seeds.
Get ambitious with cooking. Often we don’t have time to create culinary extravaganzas in our busy lives. If you are stuck at home for a period, maybe it’s a good time to channel your inner Gordon Ramsey!
Reframe your thoughts/perspective if you can. Think of this autumn/ winter as a great opportunity to get a project done. I have already started to think about what we can do around the house during this winter in terms of redecoration. There are certainly a couple of rooms that could do with a lick of paint.
Try and relax. When stress throws your nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness can bring you back into a state of equilibrium. Regular practice delivers the greatest benefits, so see if you can set aside even a little time every day. Focusing your attention completely on something specific for a few moments, can draw your mind away from overwhelming anxious thoughts and offer keener sense of perspective. If you are feeling anxious, download helpful apps like Calm or Headspace.
If friends or loved ones are panicking, try to help them gain some perspective on the situation. Instead of scaremongering or sharing false rumours, refer them to reputable news and positive resources. Being a positive, uplifting influence can help you feel better about your own situation too.
Use online selling sites such as eBay to make some extra cash. I have been promising myself that I would have a big clear out of coats, boots and other items I no longer need, and I’m pretty sure I can make a few ponds doing it!
Remember that you are not alone in feeling like this, no matter what your age, location or gender! Taking extra care of yourself both mentally and physically will help. Stay connected with people, talk about your worries and try to stay on top of difficult feelings. Concern is absolutely normal, but if you are experiencing anxiety that is creating problems in your life, please do reach out for expert help.
Focus only on today. A lot of our collective worry is understandably around concerns for the next few months and all the bad things we anticipate may happen. These worries can leave us feeling powerless and hopeless. Instead, try to focus on the present moment, or certainly just the next hour or so. By being fully connected to “now”, it is possible to actually interrupt and disrupt those negative thoughts running through your mind.
Whatever you are struggling with at the moment, there are still many reasons to be positive as we head into this new season. Yes, being optimistic takes effort, but it can be done. Count all the many reasons you have to feel grateful, support someone who is coping less well than you and refuse to give in. Set yourself some goals for the next six months and smash them! If you think that there are too many negatives in your life and it’s impossible to stay positive in times like these, please think again. It’s never too late to live a positive and proactive life even in the most uncertain times.❤️