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What is Autumn Anxiety & How to Deal with It?

What is Autumn Anxiety?

As the longer days become shorter and the leaves start to fall off the trees, you know that autumn is slowly creeping in. While some love the riot of colors that autumn brings with it, some people, though, find themselves feeling anxious as autumn makes its way in. Autumn anxiety is a real condition that makes some people suffer from low mood and anxiety during the autumn months. However, unlike the other forms of anxiety, there is usually not any obvious external trigger, and autumn anxiety tends to recur annually.(1, 2, 3)

Many people don’t realize just how common anxiety in autumn is and might not even recognize it. However, if you find that you start feeling anxious around autumn every year, the pattern begins to become obvious, and there are certain steps that you can take to prevent it. It is essential to know the symptoms of autumn anxiety in order to identify it. Some of the common symptoms of autumn anxiety include:

  • Anxiety and excessive worry
  • Irritability
  • Low mood
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness/drowsiness
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities

One of the causes of autumn anxiety is believed to be the decrease in sunlight, which leads to a decrease in the levels of serotonin in the body.(4, 5, 6) Serotonin is an important hormone that impacts mood, appetite and sleep patterns. At the same time, there is an increase in the hormone melatonin, which tends to make you feel depressed and sleepy.(7, 8)

Since you are exposed to less sunlight, it also causes a reduction in the levels of vitamin D in the body. Lack of vitamin D has been associated with depression.(9, 10)

Some other factors behind autumn anxiety may include behavioral changes brought on as the weather deteriorates and we spend less time outdoors and also do less physical activity.(11, 12)

Determining if it is Autumn Anxiety or Something Else?

Changes in the season can often bring about changes in your mood and cause anxiety. However, at the same time, autumn anxiety is not a recognized condition even now. Doctors usually talk about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition that marks the onset of depression and anxiety with the change in season. This usually happens as the days get shorter, and the nights longer, and the weather starts getting colder. The same thing happens in autumn, especially with the looming anxiety of the holidays and going back to school, with the compounded pressure of being academically and socially successful. Due to this, many experts believe that autumn anxiety could be the anticipatory anxiety about actually getting seasonal affective disorder.(13, 14, 15)

At the same time, transitions also cause anxiety. For people who struggle with any kind of change in life circumstances or transitions, like a change in their schedule with going back to school, might get anxious because they now have to start getting up earlier and are likely to get less sleep. This can cause anxiety in many people, especially if the thought of less sleep triggers their anxiety.(16, 17)

Nevertheless, it has been found that many people with anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) actually start feeling better once they are back at school and have a routine again. This is because anxiety and OCD tend to get aggravated when there is no routine and not enough to do. If someone with anxiety or OCD remains idle during the summer, they are more than eager to get back to school since they will have something to focus on, and this helps them get relief from their worries, thoughts, and rumination.(18)

There is yet another explanation for why some people get the negative feeling during the autumn. This is usually referred to as an anniversary reaction. For example, as you get closer to the cooler months and start getting less sunlight, it is a general reminder that wintertime is tougher. This is a phenomenon that is observed typically around anniversaries of events. At times these can be traumatic events like an assault or death of a loved one, but sometimes it is just a memory of a feeling that you experience around the time of such an anniversary. And you might actually be unaware why you are suddenly feeling depressed or anxious.

There is unconscious awareness and body awareness that every person goes through. One usually associates winters with being a tough time and unconsciously believe that they will have a tough time again. This is especially even more pronounced if you have had a great summer, and now that it has come to an end, it can feel pretty depressing.

Of course, last but not the least, the impending holidays are also a source of stress for many, especially those who don’t have too many fond memories of the holidays. Holidays can be tough for many people, and if you anticipate in your mind that since the cooler months are setting in, the holidays are approaching, then anxiety and depression can set in from autumn itself.

How to Deal with Autumn Anxiety?

Regardless of what is causing you to feel anxious during the autumn months, there are some things you can try that will help provide relief.

  1. Expose Yourself To More Light

    One of the causes of autumn anxiety is believed to be a reduction in sunlight. You should try to spend more time outdoors and make the most of whatever sunlight is there. Start getting up early to enjoy the morning sun. If you feel tired at getting up early, you can consider going to bed earlier to fight off any daytime sleepiness.

    However, if it is dark in the early morning, you can try using a lightbox. A lightbox is a bright lamp that can be used for 30 to 40 minutes per day or more to expose your eyes to some extra light.(19, 20)

    There are many types of light therapy boxes that you can get. There are some types that gradually increase the intensity of the light as you wake up. This helps simulate the sun rising even when it is still dark outside. Light therapy has been found to be an effective treatment for many types of depression.(21, 22)

  2. Exercise Regularly

    Many studies have shown that regular exercise or any type of physical activity can bring about a dramatic improvement in your mental health and overall health. Exercise does not mean that you have to start taking a fitness class or join the gym. All it means is that you indulge in some type of physical activity, even if it means taking a walk around the block.(23, 24)

  3. Follow A Balanced Diet

    It might be easy to give in and have your comfort foods that include plenty of sugar, unhealthy fats, and refined carbs, along with excessive intake of caffeine and alcohol. However, all these are only going to adversely impact your mood. Instead of this, try to include more fresh and wholesome foods in your diet. Increase the consumption of mood-boosting nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids. You should also take a vitamin D supplement since reduced exposure to sunlight during the winter reduces the levels of this vitamin in the body. Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating your moods.(25, 26)


Ultimately it is important to remember that it is never a good idea to wait until things get really bad. If you start to feel depressed and anxious, don’t wait to take action. And if you have noticed a pattern that you start feeling depressed and anxious every year around the autumn months, it is a good idea to discuss this with a mental health professional. There are many therapies, medications, and behavioral modifications that can be used to successfully manage autumn anxiety, and it is best to seek help in time for calming your anxiety and boosting your mood.


  1. Wellness, H.B., 2020. What is autumn anxiety? Harmony Bay Wellness – Mental Heath Services New Jersey. Available at: https://www.harmonybaywellness.com/resources/mental-health-blog/what-is-autumn-anxiety/ [Accessed February 10, 2022].
  2. Enochs, E., 2016. “Autumn anxiety” is a real thing & here’s what causes it. Bustle. Available at: https://www.bustle.com/articles/189317-autumn-anxiety-is-a-real-thing-heres-what-causes-it [Accessed February 10, 2022].
  3. Locker, M., Autumn anxiety is real-and treatable. Southern Living. Available at: https://www.southernliving.com/holidays-occasions/fall/autumn-anxiety [Accessed February 10, 2022].
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  6. Kent, S.T., McClure, L.A., Crosson, W.L., Arnett, D.K., Wadley, V.G. and Sathiakumar, N., 2009. Effect of sunlight exposure on cognitive function among depressed and non-depressed participants: a REGARDS cross-sectional study. Environmental Health, 8(1), pp.1-14.
  7. Rao, M.L., Müller‐Oerlinghausen, B., Mackert, A., Strebel, B., Stieglitz, R.D. and Volz, H.P., 1992. Blood serotonin, serum melatonin and light therapy in healthy subjects and in patients with nonseasonal depression. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 86(2), pp.127-132.
  8. Rao, M.L., Müller-Oerlinghausen, B., Mackert, A., Stieglitz, R.D., Strebel, B. and Volz, H.P., 1990. The influence of phototherapy on serotonin and melatonin in non-seasonal depression. Pharmacopsychiatry, 23(03), pp.155-158.
  9. Parker, G.B., Brotchie, H. and Graham, R.K., 2017. Vitamin D and depression. Journal of affective disorders, 208, pp.56-61.
  10. Anglin, R.E., Samaan, Z., Walter, S.D. and McDonald, S.D., 2013. Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. The British journal of psychiatry, 202(2), pp.100-107.
  11. Craft, L.L. and Landers, D.M., 1998. The effect of exercise on clinical depression and depression resulting from mental illness: A meta-analysis. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 20(4), pp.339-357.
  12. De Moor, M.H., Beem, A.L., Stubbe, J.H., Boomsma, D.I. and De Geus, E.J., 2006. Regular exercise, anxiety, depression and personality: a population-based study. Preventive medicine, 42(4), pp.273-279.
  13. Partonen, T. and Lönnqvist, J., 1998. Seasonal affective disorder. CNS drugs, 9(3), pp.203-212.
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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 23, 2022

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