I struggle with anxiety pretty terribly in the fall. And it’s okay if you do too.
It’s strange though, right? Considering fall wins the favorite season poll by a mile? I mean, I’m straight up giddy at leaves changing color; I’ll pull my car over to look at a tree like your 60-year-old dad. I stock up on so many “Vanilla Pumpkin Fig” candles at Target you’d think I was preparing for a two-month-long power outage. I’m a clothes-layering champ and will click on any article titled anything remotely resembling “13 Fall Booties Your Closet Needs.”
And every year I think, “Maybe… not… this year?” but sure enough, it rolls in. It’s like someone turned up the volume on my worrying knob to max even though they know damn well that will blow my cheap speakers. I think part of it’s a holdover from school years. Newness. Change. Mean older girls. Other various cobwebs of autumns past, building in all the same hard-to-reach corners. The other half of it’s most likely my “present” brain warning me good ol’ Seasonal Affective Disorder is right around the corner! My good buddy SAD coming for a stay even though I never invite him!
I’ve been dealing with this for awhile (like my entire life) and I’ve found a few strategies and activities to calm the anxiety down that work for me. Obviously, I’m not a doctor. What works for me (therapy, writing and a combo of the below) may not work for you and I highly, highly encourage you to spend the time figuring out the right plan of action for your brain because your mental sanity and inner peace are worth it over anything else in this world. But first, know it’s okay to not be okay in the season where you feel like you should be your most okay. And also know that sometimes coping with anxiety won’t be as cute as practicing hygge. Sometimes it’ll be crying and just breathing. Sometimes it’ll just be trying.
Pause to acknowledge the fact that your anxiety is acting up without judging yourself for it. There’s power that comes with simply saying to yourself, “So things like, aren’t totally the greatest right now.” You have an unwelcome guest (anxiety) in your house (brain) but that’s okay because we’ll start doing all of their least favorite activities until they have no choice but to be like, “WOULD YOU LOOK AT THE TIME? GOTTA RUN!”
Take a social media fast. Yeah for real. The world will still remember you and your #content when you return. Kate wrote all about her time doing that here. If clicking into apps is compulsive (me) then I recommend using an app like Offtime which will literally block you from clicking that orangey-purpled-pink icon (*cough cough*).
Write down two columns in a notebook titled “In My Control” and “Out Of My Control” and separate everything out that you’re worried about. Every single thing. Take a look at the items in the “In My Control” column and make a plan for each of them. Write that down. Then read aloud everything you wrote in the “Out Of My Control” column and follow it up with “is out of my control.”
Sometimes when my anxiety is really bad, I’ll have days where I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. On those days at the very least, I set my phone timer for ten minutes and clean. Just for ten minutes, no more no less. (Bonus if you listen to an uplifting TED Talk while doing so.)
Recognize your boundaries and respect them. One of the most dangerous misconceptions in our society is when people try and convince you that you saying “I can’t” means “I won’t.” FUCK THAT NOISE. You are a human with limits.
Headspace. I am the World’s Most Skeptical Critic re: meditation, but holy hell has this helped me stop and just… breathe.
Put on some 30’s jazz and open an adult coloring book. There’s something very calming about listening to The Ink Spots while coloring an enchanted castle.
Work out regularly. THIS IS NON-NEGOTIABLE BECAUSE I AM YOUR MOM!!! Look, I literally don’t understand the concept of running and last about 32 seconds in yoga before I’m bored out of my freaking mind. Cool! I don’t have to do those things! I found a workout regiment that works for me (I rotate through barre, spin, and circuit training classes) and it helps me immensely! Does it take everything I have in me to get myself to class some days? Absolutely! Have I considered fake passing out at the beginning of Alchemy so I could go home? Definitely! Push through. Trust me.
Caffeine doesn’t help anxiety 🙁 so make sure you’re drinking water throughout the day. I try every half hour at least to take ten big chugs. No, it won’t cure anxiousness but being hydrated does wonders for your body and sometimes taking care of our physical health is all we can do.
Have patience with yourself. You’re doing the best you can and tomorrow might be better but it might be worse. That’s okay. It’s normal to fluctuate. If you need a pep talk on forgiving yourself daily for not being perfect, I wrote this for you.
A therapist isn’t for everyone but it helped me immensely. If you’ve never sought one out before, here’s a beginner’s guide.
So there we have it. A few things in my magic bag of anxiety tricks. These are meant to be helpful but don’t be discouraged if none of these work for you personally; I think it’s important we share with each other the ways in which we cope. I’d love to hear some of what works for you as well. You never know who else that’ll help. And if there’s one thing I leave you with: I don’t want you to ever feel like it’s not okay to not be okay. I think as women we very often get wrapped up in this concept of being “low maintenance” which like, you’re not a houseplant. You’re a human. Love you.
Liz Welle is a professional feelings feeler but gets paid to do social and digital stuff for brands in Minneapolis while occasionally food styling on the side. She lives in Uptown with her boyfriend and their thirteen plants. She is doing her best.
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
I don’t have anxiety, but I do get waaay sadder during fall. I just can’t stand the cold and it makes me so uneasy to know that winter is soon coming. I’ve had bad cases of SAD every year, and I dread what is to come. Some of your tips are actually great advice for me too.
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
“You’re not a houseplant.” Yes! Thank you!!
<3 <3 <3
Love this, thanks LiZ! I suffer from SAD during the winter and have found myself getting anxious as the days get shorter and colder. Need to dig out my light box and remind myself to practice self-care. Oh and I love Alchemy too!!
LIGHT BOX & SOME GOOD OL’ ALCHEMY
I think I have it in reverse – I suffer from anxiety more during summer months than I do fall, ha. This was a very interesting post to read, thank you for sharing!
☼ cabin twenty-four
Really! That is so interesting! Do you have any indication as to why that is?
I definitely second working out regularly NON-NEGOTIABLE!I would say for me personally it is hard to do the more meditation classes such as yoga when dealing with seasonal depression. I opt out for more cardio classes such as kick-boxing and defense which I have found also help with feelings of empowerment as a woman. Thanks for sharing your tips!
Mikayla I need to take a kick-boxing class!!!!! That sounds so fun.
Seasonal affective disorder generally impacts mood not anxiety state. That being said, anxiety can be caused by changes in environment or even the mentality we can take on during different seasons (a lot of us are more relaxed, procrastinate in the summer). Thank you for identifying helpful strategies for anxiety. I appreciate this as a therapist.
This is such a wonderful, helpful article!
I think I might be the only person in the world that actually likes the cold and shorter days. I enjoy staying home at night, cozy by the fire with a good book so I don’t mind the days getting darker sooner. Although, once it starts to get dark at 4pm, even THAT is a bit much for me. Thankfully I’ve never really struggled with SAD although my mom and sister definitely do. Fall and Winter are my favorite seasons so this is my happy time of year! I know, I’m strange lol.
I’m kind of the same way! I like all the activities that come with fall and winter (including staying in more) but once like, February rolls around I am strruuuuugggggliiiiinnnggg.
Thank you so much for sharing this, as I struggle with anxiety pretty badly as well. I love to journal, meditate and do yoga but will have to incorporate some of these new items into my routine!
Sending lots of hugs and healing thoughts your way <3
You’re the best, Caroline, thanks for this. I really should try journaling more, thanks for the inspiration to do so!
[…] It’s not just you — fall anxiety is definitely a thing. […]
[…] It’s not just you — fall anxiety is definitely a thing. […]
Thanks Liz for a great article. I have experienced anxiety throughout my life. It has been my experience too that it can increase during the changes of the seasons. I appreciated your article. Your suggestions are right on.
Thanks, Roland 🙂
Anxiety is an annoying little nitwit, isn’t it?
So great your post – And also know that sometimes coping with anxiety won’t be as cute as practicing hygge. Sometimes it’ll be crying and just breathing. Sometimes it’ll just be trying.
[…] If you’re still feeling sad this autumn, perhaps it’s “Fall Anxiety“? […]
[…] to Lyndsey Matthews of Country Living. … But don’t get too excited yet, because “sometimes coping with anxiety won’t be as cute as practicing hygge,” to quote Liz Welle, “professional feelings feeler” of Wit & […]
I too suffer from SAD and am considering getting a lamp. As I began researching options the aesthete in me lamented…they’re all so ugly and the options felt over-whelming, as to what would be most effective. I am curious do you have a SAD lamp and if so, do you mind sharing what kind? Have you found it effective? Thanks for sharing.
Hi! I have Nature Bright and I do feel like it helps a little bit. It is definitely not cute but sometimes happiness > aesthetic, you know? 🙂 Hope that helps!
When I’m feeling really anxious, I like to eat vegetables. Now I know that we should eat veggies no matter what, but usually when I’m feeling anxious I’ve stopped eating all together or I’m eating tons of cheese and carbs.
Snacking on some carrots and hummus always makes me feel better (In addition to this amazing list you’ve compiled that is literally my routine!)
[…] near or far, there are very few remedies I’ve found to be more helpful when seeking to cure a SAD case of wintertime blues than the idea of getting the heck out of […]