What is 'autumn anxiety?' Learn more about what experts call 'the anxious cousin of the winter blues.'

Experts say
Experts say "autumn anxiety" is real. Here's how to cope. (Photo: Getty Creative)

All good things must come to an end, as yes, that includes "hot girl summer." But, for many, a change of seasons, especially fall, can bring on feelings of uneasiness, anxiety and stress. Julie Lowe, a certified life and success coach and founder of Socially Aligned uses the term "autumn anxiety" to describe how the three-month stretch of fall feels for some people.

What is autumn anxiety?

The kids are back in school, the holidays are on the horizon and New Year's Day is just months away. Even while reading this, you may have started to experience sweaty palms and a faster heart rate. If that sounds familiar, it's likely you may be one of the many people who experience autumn anxiety.

"I think of autumn anxiety as the anxious cousin to the winter blues," Lowe tells Yahoo Life. "Fall is here, summer is over and we're crashing back to reality. We have shorter days but busier schedules."

"There are a lot of changes happening all at once this time of year," she adds,"and it can be a rough transition period that causes higher stress levels and low mood as the season changes."

Who experiences autumn anxiety?

The anxiety that coincides with the change of seasons can be experienced by anyone from young children to adults.

Courtney Leiva, a writer from the Tri-State Area, recalls feelings of anxiety in the fall starting as early as elementary school. "I hated school probably more than most people and going back to school always spurned a lot of these feelings," she says, explaining that the night before school started, she'd be overwhelmed by feelings of nervousness and a lack of sleep. "I have a late August birthday, and once it was behind me, it was always a dreaded countdown of days I had left of summer vacation when I was a kid."

Lowe says that a majority of her clients are entrepreneurs and high-level professionals who are also parents. In her practice, they seem to have a hard time adjusting to the new routines and busier schedules that come with this time of year, from school drop-off and pick-up to planning holiday gatherings.

Sara Whitman, an entertainment news writer, says this time of year brings up feelings of anxiety as she tries to tie up loose ends and plan for the upcoming year. "I get anxious during the fall because I use it as a time to get my life organized, so I give myself a ridiculously long to-do list and hustle to get it done by the end of the year so I can start the new year feeling organized and ready for whatever comes my way," she says. "I always like to feel productive and on top of things, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to get things done while also maintaining my social life."

For others, the end of the year can bring on feelings of loneliness and sadness as they're reminded how time is quickly passing them by. "Something that causes me constant anxiety and uneasiness during all seasons is the pressure to make the most out of my life," says Natalie Tucker. "So, after a long, warm and carefree summer, fall acts as an abrupt and cold reminder that time is passing."

"Maybe I'm pessimistic," she adds, "but realizing that time is passing immediately starts the worry that I have not been making the most out of that time."

How to cope with autumn anxiety

Lowe has some tips on how to cope with the uncomfortable feelings autumn anxiety may bring to the forefront.

Don't avoid stress

Whether you're stressed about back to school routines, end-of-year reviews or holiday festivities, the last thing you should do is avoid those feelings. "The biggest mistake people make when it comes to stress is they avoid it," says Lowe. "When we see stress as the enemy and something to avoid then anything stressful feels like a problem and makes us feel overwhelmed and like we’re failing."

Lowe suggests working to reframe your thoughts about the particular stressors in your life to decrease the amount of anxiety regarding them. "Acknowledge that daily tasks, like running errands, aren't impositions keeping us from our lives, but rather a normal part of life," she says. "We don't have to love sitting in traffic, but we also don't have to make ourselves miserable over it. Change your perspective and even errands can feel like less of a hassle."

Realize you're stressed because you care

Think back to grammar school when you were stressed about a test — you weren't stressed because you did't care, but actually because you wanted to do well. The same idea applies to end of year activities that can create feelings of anxiety.

"The next time you're losing sleep over your teenager or a business proposal, remember the reason for your stress is that you care so deeply," says Lowe. "When we remember the context and meaning behind our struggles, our stressors can feel less draining."

Get some exercise

While in some areas the weather might be a bit colder and less appealing, it's important to get your body moving. "Exercise is the most efficient and effective way to reduce stress levels," says Lowe. "Physical activity tells your brain you have successfully survived a threat and now your body is a safe place to live."

Even if you can't get outside, simply walking up and down the stairs in your house or apartment or doing an at-home workout can help take the edge off a little bit. However, Lowe says you'll get bonus points if you can get outside to exercise while the weather is still nice because just 20 minutes outdoors can significantly lower stress levels, even if you're just sitting calmly in a green space.

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