With long summer days coming to an end, evenings drawing in, and the pressure of work and school life hitting us hard, it isn’t uncommon to feel a little low during autumn.
For many people, autumn is a hectic few months that demands a lot of expense in the run-up to Christmas, with little rest from work. It is the season of the longest school term and the greatest number of social stresses. Despite its cosy, warming exterior, autumn can make for a tough time.
Less autumn-winter blues, more SAD
For some, feeling down over autumn and winter is a more serious issue. According to the Mental Health Foundation, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is estimated to affect approximately one in 15 people in the UK, between the months of September and April.
It is a reoccurring mental health problem, with most individuals who experience SAD typically suffering year-after-year. Much more severe than general ‘winter blues’ SAD is a debilitating condition that can cause extreme lethargy, anxiety, low mood, and even induce suicidal tendencies.
What makes us SAD?
Mental health experts aren’t entirely sure what causes SAD. According to current NHS, the advice is likely due to a combination of factors including:
- increased melatonin production due to long, dark nights
- reduced serotonin production due to lack of sunlight, and;
- disruptions to our body’s internal clock caused by the amalgamation of these triggers.
It is also likely that financial and social pressures do to play a part.
Caring for yourself autumn-winter
You should always seek professional medical advice from your GP if you are suffering from symptoms of any form of depression.
That said, if you are feeling low and capable of making small changes to improve your mood, there are some little steps you can make to give your mindset a boost and keep the days ticking over. Here are eight things to try:
1. Get up, get washed, get dressed, and make your bed. Often the way we start the day dictates our mindset for the following 24 hours. Simply starting the day off right can make all the difference. What’s more, making your bed has been found to instill a sense of organisation and calm.
2. Watch your diet. Cut processed foods and try to eat a balanced, wholesome natural diet. This can be particularly difficult once Christmas hits, but will certainly help if you can stick to it.
3. The same can be said for alcohol, which has been directly linked to depression. Limit your consumption.
4. Reduce your intake of refined sugars. If you are eating natural foods and limiting your alcohol intake, this should happen naturally for you. But it is worth noting that sugar highs are always followed by lows, which do worsen low moods.
5. Rather than ploughing your body with supplements, try to incorporate mood-boosting foods such as oily fish, cherries, walnuts, tomatoes, and bananas.
6. Don’t become a recluse! It’s tempting to snuggle up inside when you’re feeling low. Make the effort to stay connected and see a friend or someone special each week.
7. Spend time stroking your pet, too. There is an ever-increasing amount of scientific research to evidence that spending quality, mindful time with our pets can be extremely beneficial to our mental health.
8. So many studies have shown that exercise is integral to good mental health. They go hand in hand. Regular exercise boosts serotonin production, which is just what you need during those autumn-winter months. Walk your dog, join a class, play football outside with the kids. Find something you enjoy – or can just about the bear – and run with it. Excuse the pun.