I noticed a pattern in several of my Instagram posts the last few weeks: a sense of being hard on myself, feeling like I haven’t been productive enough, lacking any sense of accomplishment, feeling as if there’s no time in the day to get through my task list, etc. Such a surge in self-criticism didn’t sit well with me, so I wanted to gain more insight and determine the trigger (as if I don’t psychoanalyze enough in my day to day life). It wasn’t until I started noticing the anxious tone in my voice each time I told some of my patients to schedule their next appointment in 3 months (which would be around January 2017) and went on to wish them an early “Happy Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas/Hannukah/Qwanzaa,” etc, that an a-ha moment occurred in my mind — Oh my goodness, it’s almost 2017!
So I started researching if there was such a phenomenon related to Autumn anxiety. And much to my relief, I discovered that several others have experienced it and written about it as well! I didn’t find much research on autumn anxiety in medical databases, however, my Google search engine churned out a few articles that validated my experience (isn’t validation of our own experiences/opinions ultimately what we look for anyway?):
- Wales therapist Ginny Scully named the phenomenon “Autumn Anxiety” after observing a pattern in her clients as the summer season ended where they experienced an increase in generalized anxiety and anticipation, without really knowing what they were supposed to be anticipating. She noted in the article that people who are more sensitive and aware of changes in their surroundings tend to experience these feelings.
- The transition into Fall triggers a sense of loss. Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a psychiatrist, believes the key element to consider is loss, particularly since many consider the summer season as a time for partying, relaxation, leaving work early on Fridays, and having longer summer nights to enjoy. Therefore, once summer ends, life quickly starts to feel more stressful.
- The days become shorter, which means less bright light exposure during the autumn season compared to summer. Bright light has been shown to have effects that decrease anxiety.
Have any of you also experienced an increase in anxiety during the transition from summer to autumn? Reading the information I discovered above at least validated my experience and helped me realize I wasn’t alone!