Autumn season has arrived and as the leaves begin to fall from the trees, my stress level is going up. Home from our summer holiday (staycation this year) and back at work. Looking back at the holiday photos it’s hard to say goodbye to summer, it’s even harder if summer is your favourite season. But why are our stress levels going up around this time of the year?
Read also ‘Spring of hope – What is the meaning of hope?‘
Why is our stress level getting higher at the end of the summer?
We all know that bright sunny days can positively impact our mood. As the days get shorter, it’s not only the seasons that change but also our body clock. We get more tired in winter as it gets darker earlier. After all, it’s at night when our body is used to being asleep. So yes, we may be more grumpy or irritable during the winter months.
Our mood is changing as the days are drawing in, and feelings of anxiety and stress may kick in. One of the reasons why our stress level may be higher as the summer, with its long days, comes to an end is that we may start to think of so many things that we didn’t manage to accomplish during these long days. I usually start to plan my summer holiday already in winter, at least there is something to look forward to. However, once the summer holiday is over, I think of all the things I could have done in that time. Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s that feeling that perhaps you haven’t made most of these long sunny days after all ‘summer is here, make the most of it’, seems to be the slogan of every summer.
And after the summer holiday is over it means back to work, children back to school, students back to university and generally stepping back into reality. You may start to feel the pressure of all those things and I’m not talking about the forthcoming festivities, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving. For some of us, those further contribute to our high stress level.
With the changes and transition, we may often be feeling overwhelmed and anxious. However, this isn’t only a feeling. This phenomenon, triggered by the change of seasons when summer comes to its end, is called Autumn Anxiety.
Is Autumn Anxiety actually real, and what are the symptoms?
The syndrome Autumn Anxiety was discovered by Welsh therapist Gillian Scully. The study showed that even people who don’t usually feel anxious get the feeling of anxiety and anticipation as the season changes and the summer ends. And you may not be even aware of what caused it although you are not alone. There are many people who may experience this when the seasons change. And not only when summer turns to autumn, but some do so when winter turns to spring.
Are you feeling more stressed or anxious as the days are getting shorter? It may not automatically mean that you are suffering from Autumn Anxiety. However, if you show those symptoms, you may want to seek help.
- feeling sleepy and fatigued even after a good night’s sleep
- high level of stress and anxiety
- low mood and interest in everyday activities
- easily irritable
It is most likely that you suffer from Autumn Anxiety if the symptoms repeat each year around the same time. According to Dr Clare Morrison, medical advisor at MedExpress, it may be caused by sunlight reduction. It isn’t only sunlight reduction that occurs at that time. With it also comes a reduction in our serotonin and vitamin D levels and whilst they are falling the level of melatonin goes up. This negatively impacts our mood, sleep, feelings and emotions.
The worse is when we had a great summer as we are sad it’s coming to an end. With the colder days coming, we may feel down and depressed, especially as we know what is coming – a long, cold winter. So we already expect something negative and such a mindset can make it even worse.
Could something else be behind your higher stress level?
Whist Autumn Anxiety is not officially diagnosable, in more extreme cases it may lead to a psychological condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is when you feel not only more sleepy and down but you may also put on weight and feel deeply depressed. SAD is a type of depression that occurs as the seasons change and days become darker and colder. There are treatments such as light therapy, talk or cognitive behavioural therapy or antidepressants. If you think you may have SAD, it is important that you seek professional help.
Embrace the change to lower your stress level
Although Autumn Anxiety is real, the colder days don’t have to be just about the negative. After all, after the busy long summer days, our body deserves to slow down and return to some healthy habits. Sometimes we could learn from the nature around us – observe it and embrace the change the same peaceful way. And perhaps then you will see that just as the leaves are falling out of the trees, your stress level may be decreasing slowly too.
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