We are seasonal beings whether we like it or not. Many of us find the transition into fall to be a surprisingly stressful time of year—things feel unstable, in flux, in retreat. Who can blame us? Our moods tend to mirror the season. People who are normally cool and collected may experience anxiety and/or stress. Those who struggle with stress may find that they get easily overwhelmed in autumn and may even start to feel the effects of depression. For a lot of us, the transition from summer to fall is actually one of the most challenging transitions of the year.
But autumn doesn’t have to be a time of stressful change. That only happens when you are fighting the change of the seasons (because no one ever wants summer to end). By adjusting your outlook and lifestyle, autumn can become one of your happiest and most productive times of year. Here are some tips for staying balanced, happy and productive during this stark seasonal change:
For goodness sake, buy some vitamin D
If you want to avoid seasonal stress and anxiety, vitamin D is your best bet. Every single tissue in your body has vitamin D receptors (did you know that it is technically a hormone?), so being deficient could result in underperformance (and potential disease) anywhere throughout your body. If you are feeling anxious, panicky or depressed, low vitamin D levels may be the culprit.
It’s important to know that you can’t get your vitamin D fix from the sun anymore once September rolls around (especially for those living north of the 37th parallel, a line extending from just below San Fransisco, CA to just below Richmond, VA). Even Hawaiians experienced reduced vitamin D availability from the sun during winter. So, be smart and stock up on this incredibly undervalued hormone through supplementation.
Back-to-school season is usually the time when self-care goes by the wayside. So many things to do, who even has time for a bubblebath anyways?! Listen up, if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re going to become overridden with stress, anxiety, depression and more. Become your own priority. Rub yourself with aromatic body oils, take a yoga class, enjoy a healthy lunch, set aside time for practicing your hobby or getting together with loved friends. Practice self-care all the time, but most especially now.
Autumn is a time for recuperation after an active summer. Try shifting your focus towards yoga and mindful movement rather than high-intensity cardio activities to keep internal stress levels low. But, that being said, don’t be afraid to get a little sweaty now and then! Sweating is very cleansing, both physically and emotionally, so that biweekly mountain bike excursion is a great idea!
Change your diet
Eat with the seasons. It will make you feel good. Need I say more? Okay, let’s say autumn isn’t the time for cold smoothies. The season abounds with warming foods, like cooked apples and root veggies and Brussels sprouts and acorn squash, oh my! And don’t forget those infamous pumpkin spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove! Indulge in the natural foods of the season and you will feel wonderful.
Stop doing everything all the time. Put all of your focus into one or two projects rather than tackling a half dozen of them head-on. While it is tempting to hit the grindstone hard once September hits, autumn is actually a time for slowing down and introspection. No need to rush. Take care of yourself and put grounded energy into your work. You don’t need to do everything at once. And remember, it is perfectly okay to ask for help if you’re stretched, and it is even more okay to accept it.
While breathing is important every season of the year, you probably don’t do enough of it. Develop a breathwork practice in the morning or evening to ease stress, improve sleep and boost mental clarity. Whether it is a simple ‘breathe in for 5, out for 5’ or elaborate pranayama techniques, deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system to ease anxiety and stress.
Focus on journaling
It is especially important to journal as one season shifts into another. When you find yourself anxious and stressed for no specific reason, it is time to pull out the notebook and pen. Write longhand for 3 whole pages about whatever you want. Practice this daily. You’ll be shocked at the negative thoughts you’ve been harboring. You know, the ones that have been ceaselessly chewing away at your energy. Get ‘em out on the page and ditch ‘em. It’s cheaper than therapy.
Celebrate autumn and celebrate yourself! Pumpkin-spiced everything is back, the air is crisp, and the leaves are gorgeous! Let’s be grateful for this change in seasons and ditch the stress on the curb.