For many people, autumn is an exciting time full of cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, horror flicks and stunning fall foliage. But for others, the fall season can also be a time of stress. The school year is starting up again, the busy holidays are looming over us and changes in daylight are wreaking havoc on our sleep schedules.
If you’re feeling more anxious than usual about the arrival of fall, rest assured that there are plenty of small things you can do to ease your anxiety and make the most of the season. From simplifying your daily schedule to wearing a weighted sleep mask to bed, here are eight excellent ways to get autumn started off on a less stressful note.
- Make It a Habit to Move Every Day
Research shows that exercise can be extremely helpful when dealing with stress and anxiety. Indeed, one study suggests that getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day can boost a person’s emotional resilience and help buffer the effects of stress.
With hot weather finally starting to subside, there’s no better time to take your fitness outdoors. Make the most of autumn’s stunning scenery and crisp, cool air by going for bike rides and hikes with the family. Get in the habit of walking home from work or taking a long walk after dinner while the weather is still enjoyable. Kickstart a fitness routine in the fall, and you’ll be more likely to stick to it when the weather turns iffy and forces you back to your home gym.
- Get a Better Night’s Rest
Like exercise, getting a good night’s rest can act as a shield against stress. Unfortunately, stress and sleep can be a bit of a catch-22 — stress contributes to insomnia and insomnia contributes to stress.
Thankfully, there are many natural solutions to help you beat stress and drift off to sleep. If your anxiety keeps you up at all hours of the night, try sleeping with a weighted blanket or a weighted sleep mask. These products use the power of deep touch pressure therapy, a technique that is thought to calm the parasympathetic nervous system and help reduce chronic stress.
Another potential sleep game-changer in the fall is a lightbox. Commonly used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), lightboxes mimic the effect of outdoor light, producing chemical changes in the brain that help boost mood and improve sleep.
- Download Apps to Help You Stay on Track
Between researching Halloween costume ideas, driving the kids to soccer practice and taking on a heavier workload, it can sometimes feel like our autumn to-do lists are never-ending. Rather than constantly stressing about things you might be forgetting, consider downloading a few time management apps to free up some much-needed space in your brain.
If you have a large family, have everyone download a free calendar app (you can’t go wrong with Google Calendar) that auto-syncs their events and schedules. In addition to your calendar, consider setting up alarms an hour or so ahead of super important tasks. That way, you’ll never have to deal with the stress of being late.
- Practice Saying No to People
If your fall schedule becomes too jam-packed, no time management app on the planet is going to help lower your stress levels. The solution? Stop saying yes to every invitation. Think about it — do you really need to participate in yet another school bake sale or go apple picking with friends for the fourth time this month? Remember, it’s okay to say no to things and take time to relax!
If you struggle saying no to people, try this instead: “Let me check my schedule and I’ll get back to you.” This will buy you more time to think about your priorities and formulate a polite response.
- Change Your Mindset
When we allow stressful thinking to dominate our headspace, it tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you’re stressed about not finishing a school assignment on time, your mind starts preparing for that event to happen, which increases the likelihood of it actually happening. To break this vicious cycle, learn how to challenge negative thinking patterns and counter your stressful thoughts. Instead of worrying non-stop about completing your project on time, think of ways to maximize your productivity and psych yourself up to help you meet your deadline.
- Refresh Your Space
You’ve heard of spring cleaning — but what about fall cleaning? As it turns out, decluttering and freshening up your living spaces can be beneficial to your mental health no matter what time of the year you do it. Clutter is a well-known contributor to stress, so by tidying up your living spaces, you can give yourself an instant boost of happiness. Start by organizing your wardrobe for the fall. Go through all of your old clothes and donate anything you haven’t worn in the past year.
- See an Allergist
Kicking off your fall season with an appointment to see an allergist is probably the last thing you feel like doing. But if you’re one of the 50 million Americans who experiences allergies each year, it could be a life-changing decision. According to a study published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, researchers found a link between seasonal allergies and individuals with generalized anxiety disorders. The bottom line? If you suffer from anxiety and allergies, seeing an allergist could help you tackle both.
- Start a Stress Journal
Obviously, there are many things that can trigger stress in the fall. But if you’re not sure what’s causing your anxiety levels to spike, you might want to consider keeping a stress diary. As the name suggests, a stress diary is simply a personal log that helps you keep track of when you feel stressed, the events leading up to the stress and how you felt emotionally and physically. Keeping track of your anxiety in this way makes it easier to identify patterns so you can take steps to reduce your stress or sidestep it altogether.
The fall season can be a stressful time for many of us. With these stress-busting ideas, you can find ways to manage your stress better and enjoy the season as it’s meant to be.