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How the transition into autumn can leave you feeling out of sorts in body, mind and spirit.

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Written by Amanda Savory.

Shorter days, darker evenings and the changing weather are all firm reminders that Autumn is well on its way.

For those of you who struggle with the heat of summer, or just love autumn then this change is obviously a welcome one. But for some people, this transition between the seasons can be unsettling. Let’s face it, if you had a fabulous summer and it’s over, it can be a bit depressing!

For people who hate colder weather or struggle with SAD (seasonal effective disorder), the seasonal transition can be real. At this time of year, some of my clients mention feelings of dread and symptoms such as: low mood, depression, anxiety, irritability, lethargy, sleepiness, fatigue and general loss of interest in everyday activities.

So, why does heading into Autumn have the power to make us feel so out of sorts? According to research, it’s down to a number of different factors:

1. Physical changes in the body - One of the biggest causes of these negative feelings at this time of year can be the progressive reduction in sunlight and daylight hours. This can not only impact our mood and make us feel sad, but less UV rays leads to falling levels of serotonin in the body. Serotonin is the hormone that affects mood, appetite, and sleep patterns. There is also an increase in the hormone melatonin, which tends to make one feel sleepy and depressed. Less Vitamin D is another effect of being exposed to less sunlight and lack of this vitamin has also been linked with depression.

2. Environmental changes - Changes in your social or physical environment brought on by autumn can cause “anticipatory anxiety”. When we know there is the potential for stress, we tend to anticipate the problems, feeling anxious before they even happen. It’s very common for people to feel this during autumn because they are anticipating the variety of stressors that come with colder weather. This year there could also be other factors increasing these feelings too. From the cost of living crisis and rising energy bills, to fears that coronavirus could be on the rise again, all leading to increasing feelings of anxiety.

3. Lack of Energy – Shorter days and less sunlight throws off our circadian rhythm and can disrupt our sleep cycles. You may find yourself sleeping longer than you were in summer. This need for more sleep is called hypersomnia - it’s exactly the opposite of insomnia. Because we take in less ultraviolet rays during the day in autumn, our bodies become confused and need more sleep to recover. However, with less ultraviolet rays the quality of our sleep suffers. So, we may get more sleep but we still wake up feeling foggy.

4. Health - changes in temperature and light also affect the immune system. Colds and flu, and other typical "seasonal illnesses", can produce prolonged fatigue and a feeling of apathy. Even with shortening days and cooler temperatures it’s important to your health to stay active. Make sure to drink plenty of room temperature water. Dehydration can be more common in cooler months as the lack of hot weather can mean we don’t feel thirsty.

What can you do?

Whatever may be causing your anxious feelings during the autumn season, these things may help provide some relief:

1. Get more light if you can. Spend more time outdoors to make the most of what sunlight there is, make sure you try and take in whatever morning sunshine there is. Because it can be so dark in the early morning, you may even consider using a light therapy box, to simulate the sun rising even if it’s pitch black outside, exposing your eyes to extra light.

2. Exercise every day – Autumn can be a great time for enjoying the outdoors, so try to make the most of it by taking long walks or cycle rides. Alternatively, you could start a new sport or join a gym.

3. Diet - Autumn can be an excellent time to think about what you eat and it’s a time to make your favourite soups and hot meals using all that different seasonal fruit and veg that you didn’t get to eat over the summer.

4. Reframe your outlook - Rather than associating Autumn with negative experiences, try to look at it differently by reframing. This is something that I teach clients when we work using Neuro Linguistic Programming. With the loss of sunlight and being outside, try to think about what you can do about being inside. Focusing not only on the things that you’re feeling apprehensive about but also the benefits of the coming months, can help to put things into perspective. It may be true that the days are getting shorter, but focusing on how you make the most of the longer nights – using the extra time at home to catch up with long-distance friends by phone or warm soup and a glass of red wine by the fire – can help.

5. Reach out for help - If you’ve recognised that you’re dreading the change in seasons and noticed that your thoughts have run away with don’t wait till things get really bad. It may be helpful to take prompt action and look for support to help you to improve your mood. We can’t always control what’s happening around us, but we can control how we support ourselves through the more challenging times.

With the transition from summer to autumn, our body can make some very clear demands on us, but as a holistic therapist I believe it is so important to remember that true wellbeing is achieved when body and mind are both healthy and in balance and, for this reason, the best approach to the change of season involves taking care of the entire body, physical, emotional and biochemical.

If you find the arrival of autumn a daunting prospect, you’re not alone. If you’re feeling worried about the coming weeks, get in touch for a total body balance and reset, physically, emotionally and bio chemically, so that your body can support itself and perform at its optimum level during the coming months.

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