Many of us have enjoyed the longer days and warmer temperatures over the last couple of months. As autumn and winter near, we may experience a sense of loss for the brighter days bygone and apprehension for the colder, darker months ahead. People living with seasonal affective disorder experience depression in patterns according to the seasons, most commonly in the winter months. It’s worth considering that living with seasonal affective disorder – a mental health condition – is different to simply favouring certain times of the year.
Ways to manage your mental health this autumn
- Pick out the best bits. Although there may be parts about the upcoming months that you don’t enjoy, there may also be things you’re excited for, such as bonfire night or Halloween or simply being able to wear cosy socks and wooly jumpers. Identifying what you are looking forward to and focusing on those activities can help us to feel more positive about the change in season.
- Back to basics. The summer months can be a hectic time with travelling, increased responsibilities (like childcare), and a packed calendar of social events. The autumn time can be a perfect opportunity to wind down and focus on the basics that embody good health and wellbeing including sleep, food and exercise. You may have more time on your hands which you can use whichever way benefits you. Whether it’s cooking a new nutritious recipe or getting back into a book series you like, or simply taking more time to be in the present and relax.
- Introduce new hobbies or activities. We might not be able to do all of the same things that we enjoyed in the summer, but why not use the autumn as an opportunity to source new interests. This could be something that’s indoor based, such as knitting, jigsaw puzzles, arts and crafts or writing. Or you could research local clubs or classes that take place in the evenings, which could be a great way to get of the house and make use of the longer and dark evenings, whilst connecting with other people.
- Exercise. We may feel less inclined to want to get out and be active when it’s colder outside, but exercise in any form can help boost our mood and give us more energy. It’s easy to feel lethargic when we spend excess time inside, so whether it’s a brisk lunchtime walk or joining your local gym, there are ways to keep us moving and energised, whatever the weather.
- Set up a routine. If you find you’re spending more time indoors or at home, it’s possible that we can fall out of routine and feel unproductive. Try to stick to a routine to continue the rituals or activities you may have enjoyed in the summer that are still possible, such as morning walks or seeing friends or family on a set day. This helps us to maintain a sense of familiarity, keeping us active and improving focus too. If you’re someone who works from home, you might also find that your routine needs to be amended as we enter darker mornings and darker afternoons. Perhaps you might want to start work later or amend your hours to ensure you have a chance to get out in the daylight and go for a walk around lunchtime.
- Stay connected to others. We may feel that we’re seeing less of our friends and family when the days are shorter. That’s why keeping in touch with loved ones is important, to increase social connectedness and combat loneliness. If you’re not sure you have anyone that you feel able to reach out to, remember our free peer-to-peer support platform, Clic, is here for you. You don’t have to just stay indoors to socialise either – there are a whole host of outdoors events to attend during autumn time, such as local craft fairs and fireworks displays. Plus, with the landscape becoming colourful with beautiful shades of orange and yellow, there are plenty of opportunities for walking and hiking.
- Watch your sleep. When the clocks change, which will be on the 29 October in 2023, we may find that our sleeping pattern alters slightly and feel more tired. Learn more about how sleep impacts our mental health and how you can monitor it ahead of the clock change.
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