Autumn Anxiety

There’s something about September that makes me itch. It’s like a niggling neurosis that I can’t figure out, a build up of potential energy like water behind a dam. 

Summertime is all about enjoyment, marinating, soaking, the gluttony of pleasure. Something about the anticipation of autumn causes me to tighten up, to pace. I thought that I was the only one with this condition but a little research goes to show that this anxiety is a common condition. 

Why do we feel this way? Maybe it starts as a child with the end of summer blues and the return to school in September. Maybe it has to do with trying to savor those last drops of syrupy summer sweetness, a feeling of loss. 

Bupa describes anxiety as “a feeling of unease, worry or fear which everyone might experience at some point in their life, but for some it’s more prominent as we wave goodbye to summertime. Symptoms vary from person to person and depending how severe they are, it can have a huge impact on our daily life.

“Triggers of anxiety are different for everyone but can be sparked by anything from a work deadline, medical appointment, a big life event such as moving house or for some, it can be brought on by a certain time of the year.”

Ginny Scully, a therapist in Wales, sees so many clients with feelings of anticipation and nervousness during the last week of August through the first weeks of September that she coined the term “Autumn Anxiety.”

For those living in colder climates I can understand the dread of the impending change of the seasons. Vitamin D deficiency is a real thing. For those of us living in the land of eternal sunshine however- Santa Barbara typically gets over 300 days of sunshine a year- really it’s just a label, a shift in perspective. 

Personally, I dedicated this summer to being present and enjoying the simple things (The Art Of Boredom: Embracing Summertime). I joke that the overambitious part of myself had been bound, gagged and locked in a closet for the summer. She’s crafty and will find a way to break out soon enough, it’s not my natural tendency to go with the flow. Earlier I had written about navigating my professional realm and the challenges I encountered with merging that realm with raising young children (Walking The Line: Parent Resources). I intentionally put my career planning on a shelf for the summer and now as I revisit the topic find that I still don’t have any more answers than I did a few months ago. I do, however, have a treasure chest overflowing with incredible memories of time well spent. 

For many of us, September means the return to routine. Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, Medical Director at Bupa Health Clinics says, “It’s not uncommon for us to suspend our usual routine and habits during the summer months, which can make it harder to adjust back to normality. Because of this, September can be unsettling for some.”

I feel ill prepared because my routine is changing to something unknown. I had set an internal timeline that when my children began preschool this fall, as they have, I would embark upon the next steps of my professional journey. The problem is, the ah-ha moment has yet to arrive and my next steps remain vague. Anyone ever have that dream of going to the first day of school and sitting in class only to realize you’ve forgotten to don clothing and surely don’t have any back-to-school supplies? So. Fun.

I recently connected with wonderful a professional consultant who passed along valuable advice she had received from a mentor of her own: “Don’t feel as if you have to have it all figured out right now. Just keep moving.” How often do we forget this and feel defeated when we haven’t woken with a stroke of genius that perfectly solves all of our problems?

Here is what I know:

  • Trust the process. Letting go and having faith may not feel like my natural self however new habits take time to cement and my old ways were no longer working. Hold steady and keep putting in the work of mindfulness, gratitude, visualization and laying a brick towards your goal day by day. 
  • I am exactly where I need to be at this exact moment. Worrying about the future or the past is a waste of energy and sanity (and let’s be honest, with my twin toddlers that is already in short supply). 
  • Trust your gut. Keep exploring and cultivating. Keep mining for inspiration. Keep making connections and building relationships. When you find it, you’ll know it. 
  • Take advantage of the “Fresh Start Effect”: Sure, maybe you did not make progress on much of anything practical over the summer but that was summer you. This is September you! A whole new you. Check out September Is Your Second Chance January

As summer comes to an end, I find that I am fat and satiated with pleasure and play. I have a desire to lean into the yoke and works towards something and I crave to identify my next endeavor. I look forward to finding joy in mental exertion. I may not have finite answers, but I definitely have next steps that I am prepared to take. I am ready to go deeper down a few paths and maybe even dig in. I am prepared and excited for the unknown of what the future may hold. It’s like a mystery and I have clues waiting to be followed. Perspective is everything. 

As summer comes to an end I feel prepared to level up, to not slide back into old habits and repeat the lessons learned before. Maybe I haven’t yet graduated, but do we really ever?

Need help on how to deal with Autumn Anxiety?

Dr Thiyagarajan suggests these five methods of managing your symptoms.

1. Know what you’re dealing with

“A common cause for anxiety is the feeling of being overwhelmed, without a reason behind it. Talking to a friend or medical professional about your symptoms can help you understand why you’re feeling this way.”

2. Keep busy

“Keeping busy is a great way to distract your body and keep anxiety symptoms at bay. If you’re feeling down, meet some friends for a coffee or watch your favourite programme. This is bound to lift your spirits and focus your mind on happy thoughts rather than those of dread and worry.”

3. Vitamin D

“Make good use of (the last of) the sunshine. Going for a lunchtime walk is a good way of getting some well needed oxygen to the brain and can help relieve feelings of anxiety. Getting this additional few minutes of sunlight a day can keep melatonin and serotonin levels high resulting in improved mood and energy.”

4. Don’t knock mindfulness until you’ve tried it

“Mindfulness is an excellent tool used by many people to manage the symptoms of stress and anxiety. While it may seem like a mundane task of sitting still and focusing on your breathing, mindfulness and meditation has proven to have a positive impact on mental wellbeing. There are free apps out there that can talk you through a stressful time – take a look and see how it can help!”

5. Know when to get help

“As anxiety is something faced by a lot of people, sometimes it’s hard to know when to seek help from a medical professional. If symptoms persist and regular tools aren’t helping to relieve symptoms, it is best to book an appointment to discuss the issue further.”

Bupa Health Clinics provides a range of Health Checks and Private GP appointments in its clinics across the UK, offering a range of trusted health services close to where people live and work.  

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