The “winter blues” are the most commonly diagnosed type of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but some researchers suggest that each season is associated with different mental health issues related to transitions that occur during that time. Spring is often associated with physical health issues and allergies, summer with impulsivity, and autumn with anxiety, often in anticipation of the winter blues. As autumn anxiety emerges when the leaves start to change, making the association with seasonal changes can give young adults a sense of clarity and purpose in managing symptoms.
What is Autumn Anxiety?
Autumn is a stressful period for many young adults as they struggle with transitioning between the freedom of summer and the responsibilities they take on again. Changes in their schedule can lead to a transition period of adjusting to a new routine, getting up earlier, or getting less sleep. Colder temperatures contribute to spending less time outside, which can be a great coping skill for people who struggle with anxiety as it helps them regulate physical symptoms of anxiety.
Researchers suggest that anniversary reactions may contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorders. Anniversary reactions refers to remembering feelings around the time of anniversaries of life transitions and traumatic events that can invoke feelings in the present. You might be not be aware of why you are feeling anxious or depressed. There is a body awareness and unconscious awareness that, ‘oh, this is generally a tough time, so I’m going to have a tough time again.’
Symptoms of autumn anxiety may include:
- low mood and depression
- anxiety and excessive worry
- lethargy, sleepiness, and fatigue
- loss of interest in everyday activities
Factors Contributing to Autumn Anxiety
- Regret over missed summer opportunities
- Going back to school for some young adults
- Change in routine
- Anticipating winter holidays and family gatherings
- Cold weather and decreased sunlight
- Increase in the hormone melatonin, which leads to sleepiness
Ways to Cope with Autumn Anxiety:
- Get More Light
Even when daylight hours seem to be cut in half, it is important to make the most of what sunlight there is by spending more time outdoors. This may mean waking up earlier and going to sleep earlier. Light boxes or lamps can be useful for people who spend more time indoors.
- Exercise More
Especially as it gets colder outside, it can be difficult to maintain regular physical activity. During the summer, people tend to be more active, whether they are intentionally exercising or not. Autumn is the perfect time to go hiking and watch the leaves change or to join a gym in anticipation of winter weather.
- Change Your Diet
Many nutritionists recommend eating along with the seasons and paying attention to when certain foods are in season. They suggest that food available around this time usually has the nutrients and vitamins one needs to cope with seasonal changes and stay regulated.
- Start Something New
Transitional periods can be the perfect time to try something new. New Year’s is not the only time of year to make resolutions. Whenever someone’s schedule changes, it becomes easier to pick up new habits, hobbies, or projects.
- Talk About It
Many people with Seasonal Affective Disorder struggle to feel like their experiences are valid, as their symptoms only last a few months. However, when symptoms pop up again young adults worry that whatever they were doing to help wasn’t enough and can lead to feelings of hopelessness.
Identifying seasonal triggers for depression and anxiety can help young adults come up with solutions to help them cope with these feelings. Reaching out for professional support can help young adults understand what to do when their emotions change from season to season.
Journey Home Can Help
Journey Home is a small residential treatment program for girls and assigned female at birth 16 – 21 years old. This is a program enforces a community-based treatment option for young girls and assigned female at birth. It is specifically designed for residents who have successfully completed a therapeutic treatment program but may need more help in transitioning back home. Journey Home West focuses on healthy living, education, responsibilities, and social integration as key components of the program. Young people leave this program feeling empowered, happy, and healthy.
Contact us at (801) 444-0794 to learn more about seasonal affective disorders. We can help your family today!