Changing moods for the changing season
Less sunlight, coughs, colds and flu, frost and colder days- it can feel like a sharp contrast and a shock when we’ve had such nice weather this summer.
For some, Autumn is a really enjoyable time with lots of colours, leaves on the floor, scarves and hats and keeping wrapped-up.
For others the changes can feel too much especially when we’ve had a year of constant changes and instability. It’s common to feel more tired than usual because vitamin D levels begin to drop, dark mornings and longer evenings can feel draining too. If you feel tired then you generally feel unmotivated to do things that you really enjoy, you can start to feel anxious because your usual routine has gone out the window or you feel a little unsettled without fully knowing why.
As the weather gets colder our diets start to change to more filling and stodgy food to keep us full for longer so you might be picking out more potato sides, slow cooker dishes, casseroles and curries for comfort and warmth against the nip in the air. Eating more carb-rich foods can slow us down and make us feel lethargic.
There may be some symptoms that you are already experiencing:
Lower energy levels
A lack of motivation
A change in appetite
A shift in sleeping pattern- over sleeping or less sleep than usual
Inability to focus/ concentrate
Less passion for activities you normally would enjoy
Hopelessness or feeling sad more often than not
Wanting to isolate/ hibernate
If that is the case, then you may be experiencing SAD or Season Affective Disorder. It has become well-documented in recent years and mirrors depression symptoms. However, it is caused by the seasonal changes, not life events, making it different to depression and can happen with any season, not just Autumn. Unsurprisingly, if you already have a mental health concern then you are more likely to experience SAD too.
The difference between ‘Winter Blues’ and Seasonal Affective Disorder is that it is really common to have a dip in mood during these darker months so don’t be quick to diagnose yourself but do start to take an active interest in your reactions to the changes occurring around you and monitor your lifestyle. If your symptoms stick around for a long time then you can feel better with some minor changes.
The following tips help enhance mental health through the changing seasons; everything you find you won’t have the energy for is exactly what can combat the low unmotivated feelings, so it will be a challenge to push yourself but you’ll reap the benefits if you can do so on a regular basis:
- Keep a routine despite the dark evenings, make sure you have room for fun, hobbies and some relaxation time.
- Keep moving! Do your best to have brief walks for a change of scenery to keep you motivated, interested and improve concentration levels.
- Keep an eye on what you eat; diet will change but you can still make healthy choice that are hearty and nutritious.
- Keep present and positive– consider what is nice about the season rather than focusing on what you don’t like about it, such as: big woolly jumpers, hot chocolate, a warm fire and the colours! Wishing time away and pining for the spring and summer doesn’t allow you time for contemplation and for appreciation of what you do have. Even on your low days they will be something that you can find that you appreciate. Positivity can have a huge impact on mental health whatever the weather.