Feeling Under the Weather
The season is changing as we are moving into Autumn. The weather is getting colder and wetter; the amount of light we are getting is decreasing. Beyond weather, students are starting to settle into their new academic year and workplaces are getting busier. Not to mention, harsher COVID restrictions are starting to be put into place.
These changes may be influencing our general mood and behaviour. We may be finding we are feeling less motivated than we were in the Summer, or we are feeling “under the weather”. Alongside a dip in motivation levels, you may also be finding that your self-care routine is dwindling, affecting your mood further. But why is it so common to feel this way at this time of the year? There could be several reasons that can contribute to a dip in mood levels:
Summer is over
As Autumn begins, we mourn the Summer that has passed and brace the winter that is coming. When September hits, we try to get back into the swing of the routines that may have been dropped over the summer, and this could be a source of anxiety. Some may still associate this time of the year with going back to school, which can bring about a sense of trepidation. Not to mention those who are heading back to school – either to learn or to teach.
In Autumn, it gets lighter later in the morning and darker earlier in the evening. This means we’re getting less sunlight, ultimately affecting how we feel. It only takes 5-15 minutes of sunlight to increase Vitamin D in the body, which helps reduce inflammation, modulate cell growth and keeps our bones healthy.
Getting your dose of daylight can also affect how well you sleep at night, as sunlight exposure produces a hormone called melatonin (responsible for helping you sleep). Another hormone the brain releases from sunlight exposure is serotonin, a hormone associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel regulated.
Weather to motivate
In the Summer, it is generally understood that individuals feel brighter and more motivated, in comparison to the colder, wetter months. However, there is some research to suggest that in rainier seasons, people work more, simply because there is less distractions (12% workers admitted to extending their lunch break during good weather).
These are some reasons, which suggest how the change in season can affect some people, and it is worth highlighting that it does not affect everyone the same way. Some people may thrive in Autumn and enjoy the warmth of a hot drink and staying indoors. Some may not be bothered by the change at all. However, roughly 1 in 15 people in the UK is significantly affected by the dull weather.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is thought to cause a biochemical imbalance of the brain, associated to the lack of bright light. SAD can be presented as having sleeping problems, lethargy, overeating, depression, social problems, physical and behavioural problems.
How to make the most of Autumn
- Get as much natural light as possible. Try to get that 15 minutes of daylight during your lunch break. If this is not possible, there are SAD lamps available to help produce serotonin and melatonin levels during the darker days.
- Keep to a routine. Because it can be difficult to motivate yourself during the colder seasons, if you make a schedule of what you need to get done, you’re holding yourself accountable. Schedule in your workouts, phone calls and time to yourself.
- Practice mindfulness. It can be difficult to highlight the positive things happening in the moment when you’re not in the mood, so it can be useful to notice what’s happening in your body. Are your shoulders tense, do your eyes need a rest from the screen, do you need to stretch your legs? Pausing to notice your body senses is a great first step to grounding yourself.
- Put your waterproofs on and go outside. It’s really easy to stay cooped up inside when there’s limitations to where you can go and with who. However, feeling the cool air on your face and in your lungs is a great way to feel fresh and reset yourself.
If you would like to find some more information about SAD, visit:
NHS for an overview and treatments:
Mind for causes, self-care and treatments:
The Mix for symptoms, causes and treatments:
If your mental health has been affected, contact your GP for an appointment, or call the Samaritans on 116 123 if you need to talk to someone immediately.
By Jessie Au
Education Mental Health Practitioner
Posted on: 23rd October 2020