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10 Ways To Avoid And Release Autumn Anxiety
Published September 24, 2019 by Jc Drobac
Feeling especially anxious these days? Autumn Anxiety is a relatively newly coined term for that nervous feeling in the gut that begins the last week of August and continues through much of September, and it's very real.
Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) can be especially prone to anxiety because they're neurologically more sensitive to change. The seasonal changes that happen in autumn are the most dramatic of the year. Autumn is full of new things: new schedules, new jobs, new schools, new assignments, not to mention it's a transition into winter, which can bring its own bundle of anxieties. All of this can lead to Autumn Anxiety.
It’s no wonder why some folks experience heart palpitations trying to process it all. Here are a few techniques that can help keep Autumn Anxiety in check during the season, allowing us to get the most from debatably the most beautiful season Minnesota has to offer.
1. Stick with what’s familiar, unless it’s exercise
Our anxiety can trip us up and create a nervous reaction that prompts us to involve ourselves in new things impulsively, especially during this time of year. While trying new things is good, it might also add to our stress, disguised as anxiety. If you really want to try something new, then choosing something exercise-related may have the most benefit. Sign up for a class at the yoga studio down the street or join a meet-up group that focuses on exercise. Head out your front door and give speed walking a try, or dust off the bike in the garage and hit of many Minnesota bike-friendly paths.
Embrace low or no-stress activities at this time, especially if you know you’re prone to Autumn Anxiety. Or, if you're gung-ho to take on a new project, make it a light one.
3. Be mindful of fall allergies
Like spring allergies, fall allergies can contribute to anxiety and depression as well as the over-the-counter abuse… read the label! When the body is fighting off an infection, feeling depressed or highly anxious is pretty common.
As overused as the word is, if done correctly, breathing can affect our autonomic (flight-or-fight) nervous system, making life feel less anxious simply by practicing deep, slow, belly breathing. Through effective breathing, our bodies can release 70 percent of toxins through, including releasing carbon dioxide that has passed through your bloodstream into your lungs. Here's one of many easy methods to try:
Count to five while inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose, breathing air into the belly. The belly should raise with the inhale. Hold the air in your belly (no breathing) for five seconds. Exhale out slowing, counting to five through the mouth. Pursed lips will make it even more challenging.
If dizziness occurs, do a shorter or less intense version to start, working up to deeper breaths. Deep breathing exercises can be done anywhere, with little effort: at a stoplight, in a meeting, in a classroom, etc., all day long.
5. Get enough vitamin D
By late September, most of us are probably already relatively vitamin-D-deficient. It's so critical to our well-being that every tissue in our bodies has vitamin D receptors: the muscles, the heart, brain, and immune system. It’s vital in healthy functioning. Noticing feeling more panicky or depressed? Try increasing your vitamin D intake.
6. Consider magnesium-rich foods
Magnesium supports the central nervous system in a calming way, which helps to reduce anxiety and nervousness. A deficiency in magnesium can actually interfere with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). This can have a negative effect on our ability to regulate stress and moodiness. Foods that provide rich sources of magnesium are dark leafy greens like chard, kale, and spinach.
7. Get “light happy”
The days getting shorter can throw our circadian rhythms—our internal biological clocks—off, causing sensitive types to feel more easily depressed. Light therapy, sometimes called "happy lights,” can sometimes help this. Light therapy involves being exposed to a lightbox that fools our system into feeling like the days are brighter and longer. Ideally, lightboxes produce 10,000 lumen of full-spectrum fluorescent light, and are typically used for 30 to 60 minutes per day, with the best results occurring if used in the morning. It can cause insomnia if it’s used too late in the day.
While it can be difficult to find 10,000-lumen lightboxes, a good ol' shop light like you dad or grandfather had in the workshop with multiple fluorescent tube lights is a cheap and efficient alternative to building one yourself, and actually provides more lumens than most store-bought happy lights.
8. Know your amygdala
Do you ever feel so anxious, paranoid, or catastrophic that you think you're losing it? If you're feeling truly panicky, it's probably your amygdala talking. The amygdala is an almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain's temporal lobe, and it's responsible for almost all the panicky moments we have. An "untrained" amygdala can be our worst enemy if we aren't aware of its power to alert us when we really are in danger. But when that's not the case — and we don't know why we're feeling so panicky— it can be extremely unsettling!
When we’re aware it's just our amygdala making us think the world is ending, we can then choose the way we respond. We can fall for its tricks and go to immediate panic mode, or we can breathe and ask ourselves if this might be our mind playing tricks on us. And then breathe some more…
9. Grab, wear, and hold whatever brings you comfort
If anxiety feels overwhelming sometimes, there's nothing wrong with holding, using, wearing, or focusing on something that brings comfort. This might be a medal, a coin, a cozy sweater or a heavy blanket — anything that can lessen anxiety or make us feel better and breathe easier is a completely worthwhile choice.
10. Be good to yourself and know this, too, shall pass
Whether it's Autumn Anxiety, Winter Blues, or anxiety and depression that’s causing you to feel stressed and overwhelmed, treating yourself gently can be the kindest and most therapeutic way to handle it. Remember, it really is okay to feel anxious and to tell others about it — even to "lean in" to the anxiety and give it a voice. Sharing with those who support us can help evoke a sense of calm. And just as we've weathered decades of various stressors, we'll get through this one, too.
Do you know someone struggling with Autumn Anxiety? Share this article with a friend or family member, or print it out as a reminder to breathe, relax, and take care of yourself.
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