If you find yourself struggling to wake up in the morning, cancelling plans after work or just feeling a little more downbeat, then you might be caught in the autumn mood slump.
The phenomenon takes hold at the end of summer and coincides with shorter, colder days and a return to routine after the excitement of summer.
Speaking to FEMAIL, psychotherapist Charlotte Ferguson, explained feeling ‘down’ at this time of year isn’t uncommon, particularly after a ‘lacklustre’ summer like the one in the UK.
‘Even as adults, autumn brings a back to school vibe that can leave us feeling glum, with shorter days, a nip in the air and grey skies,’ she said. ‘There can be a sense of loss, another year nearly gone with hopes and ambitions set out in January becoming a distant memory.’
Charlotte notes this is different to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which affects roughly three in 100 people in the UK, and can have more serious, lasting effects.
Here, FEMAIL shares advice from 10 experts on what to do today to tackle the autumn mood slump…
The autumn mood slump takes hold at the end of summer and coincides with shorter, colder days and a return to routine after the excitement of summer. Stock image
Do NOT cancel plans (even when it’s cold and wet)
‘There is a link between the amount of activity that we engage in and how we feel,’ explained Dr Julia Dabrowski, psychologist at Companion (www.companionapproach.com).
‘In other words: the less we do, the worse we feel. We call this the “lethargy spiral”, where prolonged inactivity leads to lethargy, tiredness and low mood. This is important to bear in mind during the winter months, when colder weather and darker evenings can make it tempting to cancel plans in favour of a night spent on the sofa.
‘Whilst an evening in can be just what we need from time to time, regularly withdrawing from social situations and activities can leave you feeling noticeably lethargic and lower in mood.
‘Think about which activities you would like to maintain throughout the winter, and make a conscious effort to schedule these in ahead of time. Making plans with friends can help hold you accountable to them, and the social interaction can positively impact on your mood.’
Prioritise 10 daily tasks – and complete four
‘Get off to a good start,’ said psychologist Jan P. de Jonge, working with Feel Good Contacts. This involves common wellness tips, including getting up a bit earlier, drinking water and doing some exercise first thing.
But the morning is also a good time to set your priorities for the day.
‘Decide which eight to ten tasks you would like to do today and make sure you accomplish the four or five most important tasks on that list,’ said Jan. ‘After all, tomorrow is another day.’
Try medicinal mushrooms
Sasha Sabapathy, founder of Glow bar, said: ‘Backed by hundreds of studies and strong evidence, it has been discovered that mushrooms contain powerful compounds that are able to stimulate the growth of brain cells, as well as generate a neuroprotective effect that can protect the brain from potential damage.
‘Medicinal mushrooms, such as Reishi and Cordyceps are classified as restorative adaptogens. Adaptogens have been used to heal individuals for centuries, and have an overall strengthening effect on the body and mind.
‘They are able to counteract any neural inflammation, therefore improving memory, increasing focus, and even boosting energy levels.
‘Another medicinal mushroom, Chaga, also lowers the oxidative stress on our brains and also increases acetylcholine levels, which act as neurotransmitters and play an important role in attention and memory. In other words, Chaga consumption has been shown to improve the following brain functions: Improved learning and memory.’
It can be tempting to cancel plans when it is cold and wet but socialising is a sure-fire way to boost your mood, experts say. Stock image
Refresh your home to engage your senses
Dr Dabrowski said: ‘Our physical environment can have a big influence on our emotional wellbeing, and with many of us spending more time at home during the colder months, our home environment has become increasingly important.
‘Try refreshing your home with some seasonal flowers or autumnal decorations – it’s these little things that can spark unexpected joy in your day. You might wish to update your living space with additional cosy blankets, cushions and perhaps some scented candles to enhance those colder nights spent indoors.
If in doubt… check your hormone levels
Mood swings or feeling low could be down to your hormones, explained hormone expert Dr Martin Kinsella (www.re-enhance.com).
‘Mood swings can occur when serotonin levels change rapidly, either rising or falling. Oestrogen and progesterone control the levels of serotonin production. High levels of oestrogen can impact our mood.
‘This can result in what is known as the roller coaster of emotions that women can experience during both their menstruation cycle and when they reach menopause. However, our hormone levels can also change seasonally and studies suggest that thyroid function changes seasonally.
‘This could be the body’s way of trying to compensate for the cold by increasing hormone levels to generate more heat. At this time of year I see a surge in people who after suffering from a hormone imbalance and so I would advise anyone suffering from an autumn mood slump to get their hormone levels tested in order to rule out a hormone imbalance as this can play a huge impact on mood.
‘If a hormone imbalance is discovered then there are a number of treatments available that can re-balance hormones and improve mood and energy levels as a result.’
‘Adding elements that engage the senses; such as touch, smell and taste, can help to bring your attention to the present moment, helping you to disconnect from any negative thoughts or worries, and instead connect to, and enjoy, the environment that you’ve created.’
Force yourself to go outside
‘Get outside at least once a day every day,’ said fitness and nutrition expert Penny Weston (https://welcometomade.com).
‘Whether it’s a brisk walk around the garden or a trip to the shop or bike ride with the kids, being active in daylight will not only help to increase the metabolism and make you feel energised, it will also give oxygen levels a boost.
‘Doing it during daylight hours means that your brain will produce melatonin and serotonin which will result in a better night’s sleep and reduce the autumn mood slump.’
Bring in ‘fake sunlight’
Dr Alison McClymont, who has over 10 years of experience working at the forefront of mental health, said: ‘Research shows that receiving sunlight through closed eyelids actually helps to awaken the brain.
‘Get an alarm clock that mimics the sunrise and that allows your body to wake up “naturally”, this regulates circadian clocks and allows the body to gently arise- refreshed and awake.’
Set small goals to achieve before spring
‘Keeping on track is all about being present so I find it useful to set some achievable goals for yourself over the next few weeks and months,’ Charlotte said.
‘Perhaps it’s visiting the restaurant you’ve been eyeing up or booking a city break break. It doesn’t need to be extravagant but giving yourself small moments of joy can help you feel grounded and more optimistic.’
Find 10 minutes to meditate
Charlotte said: ‘Although you may feel like hiding away, take time to see friends for coffee or an autumnal walk, taking in all the colours and scents of the season.
‘For me, 20 mins meditation first thing in the morning really helps me to ease into the grey days of autumn.
‘Just find a comfy and cosy spot, close your eyes and count each breath up to 10, then start again. There are many free meditation timers in the App Store. Avoid using your phone alarm as this can jolt you out if meditation.’
Invest in ‘micro moments’
‘When we’re time-poor, creating micro-moments can help us to pause,’ said Dr Jan Smith, a chartered psychologist with over 15 years of experience.
‘We can set the alarm to go off each hour to remind us to pause, have a mindful moment (feel your feet on the floor, bum on the seat), listen to an uplifting song, breathe in for a count of 7 and out for 11.
‘These all activate our wonder nerve (the vagus) nerve helping us feel calmer. ‘
Avoid winter comfort food
‘The brain is a glucose-hungry organ and when we’re feeling down, it’s all too easy to find ourselves reaching for the biscuit tin,’ said Cheryl Lythgoe, Matron at not-for-profit healthcare provider, Benenden Health (https://www.benenden.co.uk/). ‘However, by eating lots of sugary carbohydrates, a slump will soon follow.
‘It is a good idea to consider what we are eating and drinking and look at adopting a balanced diet. Not only does this benefit our mental wellbeing but our physical health too, whilst also boosting our immune system for the winter.
‘Oily fish and extra vitamin D – the ‘sunshine vitamin’ – are great options for autumn and winter meal plans. Also, look out for fortified breads and cereals and remember to include a rainbow of colours on your plate.’
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