It’s officially fall which means temperatures dropping and hours of sun dwindling. The change of season often times make you want to stay locked in your apartment until March when the sun is back and the coats are packed away. For those in school, midterms are approaching and with it, inevitable stress. This season also holds our most celebrated holidays of the year, which can bring a sense of joy and peace, but also stir up some anxiety. All of these factors combined can lead to major feelings of seasonal depression and anxiety. Whether you are someone struggling with the change of season or just trying to stay healthy try these tips to prevent or decrease the things dragging you down this season
1. Get Moving
When the temperatures drop our first instinct is too cozy up with a bread-bowl and a queue of Law & Order. Fight this urge to hibernate by staying active. Try and incorporate some kind of physical activity during your day to keep your energy up and your weight steady. Physical exercise has been proven to increase mood and aid both your mental and physical health. Try queuing up your favorite netflix show and watching it on the treadmill instead tonight.
2. Stick to a Solid Sleep Schedule
Fall brings our sunny days to an early close by getting dark before most of us get out of work. This may make you want to call it a day and crawl into bed when you get home. But it is important to resist the temptation to change your sleep schedule drastically this season. Of course a few extra hours of sleep is always helpful, but if you go to bed too early it may lead you to wake up in the middle of the night and toss and turn until your alarm goes off. Set a reminder on your phone alerting you that's it’s time for bed to keep your schedule straight.
3. Take Advantage of the Sun
Long summer days are gone and short, brisk fall ones have taken their place. This means a decreased level of Vitamin D in most people. Brave the chilly weather to soak up as much sun as you can. One easy way to get that much needed Vitamin D is to take your lunch break outside and sit in the sun for 10-15 minutes a day. This of course will keep you with a hint of that summer glow all winter long and help your mood and energy levels. If sitting in the sun isn’t feasible, open up your blinds and let all the light you can into your home.
4. Plan Events to Look Forward to
If feelings of depression are something you struggle with, especially this time of year, you may feel unmotivated to fill your schedule with out of work or school events. Going out in the cold starts to seem impossible in comparison to staying cozy at home. It may feel easier to cancel plans and obligations but in reality, isolation is one of the worst things for you during this time. This isn’t to say that time alone isn’t important, but try for that time to be spent outside of your apartment. Plan a weekend trip or even just a day trip to your favorite museum or movie you've been waiting for. Having something concrete to look forward to can help you get through weeks that seem to run together. Commit to doing something for yourself whether that’s with friends or alone. Having something you find fun or relaxing to anticipate will give you the extra push you may need.
5. Eliminate Clutter
Since our daylight hours are getting shorter, often work days can seem longer. This can lead to feelings of premature fatigue nearing the end of the day. Help reduce that lag by doing some seasonal cleaning. Determine what space you spend the most time, maybe it’s your car on your long commute, your home office or your out of home work space. Take a few minutes to sift through your belongings, old mugs and never ending paper receipts and clean up your space. Less clutter is proven to elevate mood and decrease feelings of anxiety. This new space will leave you feeling rejuvenated and help you breathe a little deeper.
6. Fact Check Yourself
Whether you are feeling depressed, anxious or both, the tendency to catastrophize is often present. It’s easy to let your anxiety take over and build something up in your head that in reality is a manageable scenario. We have all been in situations that lead us to panic and when they are resolved we can’t remember why we had panicked in the first place. This feeling is your body’s physical reaction to stress that can be managed by taking control of your thoughts. When you feel anxiety setting in, remind yourself of the facts and that your body reacting out of stress is tricking you into freaking out. Take a few minutes to ground yourself to your true reality and focus on your breathing. Remind yourself that this state of panic is temporary and that it will pass. This ability to rationalize during stress is something that can significantly reduce anxiety and help you lead a less stress filled life.
7. Stay Away from Sugar
This is a tough one with holiday parties and isles full of seasonal candy taunting you, but sugar is a real factor working against you in this time. Sugar is a stimulant that can lead to elevated heart rates and even panic attacks. If you're like me then you don’t need any help getting anxious, it’s easy enough on your own. Help your body help you and steer clear of the sugar, especially if you’re predisposed to stress during this season
8. Confide in a Friend
Whether your confidant is your mom, your therapist or your friends, human connection is paramount during seasons of stress and depression. Tell someone how you are feeling and ask them to keep you accountable when it comes to staying healthy this season. Voicing your feelings can be incredibly empowering and bringing your struggles into the light can lessen your burden and give you a sense of community. Sharing your feelings with someone you trust can help combat the tendency to isolate yourself. Plus, they might up the amount of funny memes they send you which is always helpful :)
Pay attention to those around you, if you notice friends, family, or co-workers seeming withdrawn or upset during this season go out of your way to make their day a little brighter. This can be as simple as picking up a coffee for them on your lunch break or including them in something you know they would like. These small acts of kindness can go a long way in making someone feel known and maybe even make a difficult season a little easier!