by Mary Holtrop
When asked most people will tell you that Autumn is their favorite time of year. It’s hard to dispute this because the colors are so vibrant, the sky seems bluer and most of the colors in our flowers are at their brightest. Some people will tell you they love fall because the hot days of summer are over and the cooler temperatures are what they enjoy.
I absolutely cannot dispute any of these things. I love walking and biking in the fall. The bike trails by me are just stunning. I love the sound of the leaves under the tires of my bicycle. On my early morning walks that take me past ponds, the browns, golds and dark greens are so beautiful. I love the tall ornamental grasses in the fall. Their tall stems blowing gold in the breeze. And mums, one of my favorite flowers are so colorful.
But for me anxiety starts to sink in. I read an article recently called Autumn Anxiety. It talks about mood changes as the days get shorter, the dread of winter blues and the affects of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I never realized that I could possibly have SAD. I honestly never took things like this very seriously. They say this Autumn Anxiety can stem from spending less time outside, shorter days, cooler weather or even the possible stress of the upcoming holidays.
I supposed as you get older and life slows down you come to realize things about yourself that maybe were there all along. But life is so busy with work, family, kids, activities that often we plug along and don’t even realize some things like Autumn Anxiety is real for us. I think my first realization was in February of 2012. It was 4:30 a.m. and I was walking my dog. There had been a lot of ice that year and I had fallen several times in our early morning walks. One morning it was almost 5:00 and I noticed that the sun was just beginning to wake up. I remember saying to my dog that soon our early morning walks will have sunlight. I was so excited about this. It was the following June on the longest day of the year that I started to get a little depressed. It was because I knew that the days were going to get shorter. It seems silly to worry about this in June but I thought about this and I also realized that on the shortest day of the year I feel so hopeful because I know the days are starting to get longer. As early as December 22, we start to move forward to more daylight.
I know now I do experience Autumn Anxiety. I love so many things about fall but I dread the shorter days, how darkness comes so early, and those winter blues. I crave sunlight. I love to be outside doing anything. Sitting inside for me just brings on depression. I was discussing this with my walk buddy and she was suggesting some ways for me rise above this dread. She did remind me that the past 10 years I have held part time jobs on top of my full-time job that kept me busy in the evenings. And right now, due to COVID most of these jobs have dried up. In addition, we talked about volunteerism or finding ways to help others. But unfortunately, for now these opportunities are not available. My walk buddy gave me some good suggestions. But being a nay-sayer, I just found fault in all of them.
It doesn’t help that living in the Midwest, winters can go on forever. It feels like we turn our heat and drag out those winter coats and they are with us for up to 6 months. My neighbor said to me the other day “I am changing my attitude this year. I am going to find some joy in winter.” I thought maybe I should do that too. That sitting around thinking about how long, dark and cold winter won’t help me. My first step will be my monthly goal setting journal. I will write down ways to do and stay positive during the upcoming months. I will do and say kinder things and little things each day that make me feel better about myself. I will check back and give you an update. Until then, stay well.