Written by Amy Beecham
What’s behind our seasonal slump, and how can we get out of it?
How does autumn make you feel? Cosy? Wholesome? Ready to hibernate? If you’re anything like me, it makes you feel a little deflated. Unmoored. Off-kilter.
While September has certainly brought with it greyer skies and a new chill in the air, it’s also ushered in something else with it too, a distinct change in the atmosphere. Every friend and colleague I’ve spoken to seems to be reporting the same affliction: grogginess, a lack of motivation, restlessness combined with the general feeling of ‘meh’. The diagnosis? A September Slump.
Looking at the world around us, it’s no wonder. In the past month alone, we’ve grappled with huge political and social changes against the backdrop of a worsening cost of living crisis. After finally feeling some distance from two years of pandemic chaos, the country is spiraling once again, and for the second time in recent history, we’re left without a roadmap to see us through.
Because while it’s usually associated with back-to-school resets and half-year resolutions, September is a month of two halves. While we cling on to the high of the summer, it ultimately fades and we’re left with the prospect of a long and hard winter to try and navigate.
The viral tweets and TikToks have termed it Sad Girl Autumn: the solemn cousin of the much more socially acceptable Hot Girl Summer. But what it really lays bare is just how drastically the shift in seasons can affect us. But beyond the memes about big coats, hot lattes, Twilight and Taylor Swift, there are very valid explanations for why so many of us feel distant and dejected right now.
Why are we experiencing Sad Girl Autumn?
“Feeling ‘down’ at this time of year isn’t uncommon,” psychologist Dr Lalitaa Suglani tells Stylist. “Fall is here and so is the usual drop of energy that follows. The days will get shorter and shorter and to-do lists that are never ending. This can emotionally and psychologically impact our internal systems which in turn has an impact on our mood.”
September and October also usher in the beginnings of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The condition – which is sometimes known as the “winter blues” – triggers depression-like symptoms in people who deal with it, and is often associated with the lack of sunlight exposure we receive at this time of year.
According to Dr Suglani, other signs we might be spiralling into a September slump include:
- Struggling to wake up in the morning
- Sleeping, but not feeling rested
- Tiredness and frustration
- Feeling more downbeat than usual
- Wanting to cancel plans after work and at the weekends
But while our instincts may be to curl up and hide away, this could actually be adding to the problem.
“Regularly withdrawing from social situations and activities can leave you feeling noticeably lethargic and lower in mood,” she explains. “Engaging in spaces of self care has clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimise frustration and anger, increase happiness and improve energy.” Therefore, in autumn more than ever, it’s important not to neglect our needs physically, mentally and socially.
How to manage a September Slump
As with any period of stress or anxiety, the key is recognising and acknowledging your feelings early, and making adjustments to your routine. Knowing when to say no, slow down or even make intentional plans can help you to ride out the difficult period.
“Autumn is a time the leaves leave the trees, so take time out in nature to see the changes in colours,” Dr Suglani suggests.“Research suggests the importance of being in nature on our mental health, so try to get out in daylight as this is when your brain will produce melatonin and serotonin which will result in a better night’s sleep and reduce the autumn mood slump.”
While the seasonal shift is one we cannot avoid, there are some simple things we can implement in our daily lives to help make the experience easier. Dr Suglani also recommends practices such as mood journaling, self care and creating soothing morning and evening routines, as well as keeping hydrated and eating well, to boost your overall physical and mental health during the gloomier months.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’s list of mental health helplines and services.
If you are struggling with your mental health, you can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.
For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email [email protected] In a crisis, call 999.
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