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Written By: Ashlee Cantrell

At times it feels like the fall-time is everyone’s favorite season. Everyone is raving about pumpkin spice, sweater weather, cinnamon donuts, and the upcoming holidays. But, if you often find yourself not feeling the hype, you’ve come to the right place. The truth is that for many people, the fall is a tough time, and the winter can be even tougher, physically, and mentally. You’re not alone. Let’s discuss why these seasons are so difficult and find some ways to make them easier for you.

Leaves Are Changing and So Am I

Throughout the fall season, the air gets colder, and the leaves change color—from deep greens and browns to bright oranges, yellows, and reds. It is quite a transitional time during the year. It can also be a significant time for a change in your mental health. Let’s discuss a few.

  • Daylight Savings Time. During the fall season, we find ourselves “falling back” in daylight savings time. This means that we are getting an extra hour in the darkness and losing an hour of sunlight. Sunlight is super important for helping the body gain access to Vitamin D throughout the day. Vitamin D is a key resource for allowing the body to process effectively and an insufficient amount of Vitamin D is known to be linked to a depressive mood.
  • Cold Weather. On top of the inadequate access to light, cold weather can increase the risk of a depressed mood, specifically by increasing a person’s risk of feeling more tired and altering their food intake.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder. Each year, about five percent of people are significantly affected by the changing of the seasons due to a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD, or seasonal depression, is often thought to be exactly that, depression during certain seasons. For example, some people experience SAD during the fall months and the winter months. However, it can improve during the spring and summer months. Rarely does it cause depression during the spring and summer, but each person with SAD has a different experience. During this time, symptoms of depression may include a lack of motivation, lack of focus, negative thought patterns, and avoidance of social and personal relationships and experiences.

Holiday Stress

With pumpkins in the past, we are moving towards the wintertime. Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, and you know what that means! Food, family, and stress. Although this can be a positive time for some, it may also be a time of family feuds, and grief. This can be difficult to manage on your own. Let’s talk about it.

  • Family Feuds. Happy Thanksgiving! You’re getting ready to go home to the big family get-together as you do every year, except there is one thing you can’t get off your mind. “I really hope _________ isn’t going to be there!” In reality, most people have disagreements with their family members. However, the holiday season is the time that people go home to see their abusive parents, or un-friendly in-laws. This is not something that we look forward to.
  • If a family member has passed away, family traditions can bring up memories of past holiday seasons, triggering many emotions including grief, guilt, and other painful emotions or memories. For some, this may cause the person to not want to celebrate the holiday season in the same way or to rid the family of the same traditions. For others, it may cause personal isolation during the holiday time. Overall, experiencing grief causes stress in many ways.

So, What Can I Do?

There are so many reasons why the changing of the seasons may affect a person negatively. Managing the physical and mental effects of the seasonal changes and managing holiday stress is a lot to handle. So, how do we do it all without falling apart? First, you must be able to recognize when the seasonal change begins to affect your mental health. For example, is it right after the leaves begin to change, as soon as the air gets colder, or when daylight savings time occurs? This will be able to tell you when to start implementing these skills effectively. Here are a few tips and tricks to help manage stress as the seasons change:

  • Get access to as much natural light as possible by spending extra time outside
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week
  • Eat a regular, healthy diet (save some room for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner!)
  • Start your own family traditions
  • Do the things you really enjoy and forget about the rest (hayrides, pumpkin carving, apple picking, Halloween parties, baking cookies, putting up the Christmas tree, elf on the shelf, and SO MUCH MORE!)

We Are Here to Help

For those who feel overwhelmed by the seasons changing and the holiday time, you are not alone. Being faced with seasonal affective disorder, grief, stress, or family conflict is no small task. Therapy can be a powerful tool and we are here to help. If you find yourself feeling down this season and need help picking yourself back up, reach out to URC at 864-664-2710. You can contact Ashlee today.